Is it someones birthday?
Do you need to get them a card?
Do you want it dripping with Craig Fay’s particular brand of snark and irreverence?
Well good news! The card I wrote for Frank And Funny is now available on their website.
You should probably buy 365 of them so you’ll have one for every possible birthday.
I wrote a guest blog for Scientific American about the frustrations of being scientifically literate.
Follow the link to check it out:
By no means am I the funniest comedian or the best joke writer. But quite regularly, either through conversation or by being asked, I’ve found myself explaining my thoughts on comedy writing. This has happened frequently enough that I thought it might be useful to write my thoughts down for anyone who may be interested. For those who are interested my thoughts on the matter can pretty much be summarized as follows: If you’re a stand up comedian, and you aren’t sitting down to write jokes you are wasting your time.
I understand that some comedians will take offence to that. After all the ultimate goal of stand up comedy is to stand up in front of lots of people and speak in a way that makes them laugh. That’s very different from writing, where you sit silently, by yourself, putting words on a page without any immediate feedback. So why would any comedian spend the time writing when it is so different from their actual goal? Because It’s a numbers game. Plain and simple.
It takes a long time to get good at something, and comedy is no exception. The more time you spend working at it the faster you’ll get better. If you’re an open-mic comedian who only works at being funny while on stage, you can do that for maybe 15 minutes a night. And that’s only if you’re running from show to show, hustling producers for stage time. If you were somehow able to do that 7 nights in a row you’d be racking up less than 2 hours a week where you were working on being funny. Someone writing jokes for 4 hours on a Sunday morning just spent twice that time getting better. Of course nothing is funny until it is funny on stage and if you never perform you’re not a comedian, but from this example it should be clear that there are vast amounts of time available where you are not performing. The comedian who uses that off-stage time writing will get better sooner.
Of course that whole number game only works if writing is actually producing something valuable, and that’s where some comedians have an issue with writing. Some people will say that they can’t write, or that when they tried to it wasn’t funny or sounded too formal and written. Some will say that when they sit down they can’t think of anything that is funny. To which I say: Of course. Of course you didn’t write wonderfully polished, perfectly formed jokes. Of course you weren’t struck with pure comedic inspiration the moment you sat down. Luckily that’s not the point. At least not at first. The goal is to learn how to mimic your stage voice on paper. By doing this you’re creating yourself a test environment, a place where you can try out a joke without an audience or a microphone. Learning to write in your stage voice is like the Karate Kid learning “wax-on and wax-off”, it’s the basic skill you’re going to need to effectively test new jokes later on.
The first skill you’ll need to build your test environment may seem completely unrelated to writing, or performing, but is vitally important. You need to learn to listen. Being a comedian you should be able to watch other comedians critically. You should be able to sit in the audience, actively listen to the jokes and say “that set-up is too long”; “they should have used a different word there” or even “I don’t know why but that doesn’t sound right.” If you’re not doing that, you should. Why? Because you need to learn to look for the same flaws in your own set.
We’ve all met a comedian who will get off stage and excitedly claim that they “killed” when they definitely did not. Everyone in the audience saw them babble aimlessly for 5 minutes and then get one small laugh right at the end. That happens because it’s incredibly difficult to be self-aware when you are on stage. There are dozens of things that you are trying to keep your mind on when performing: what joke is coming next, the wording of that new tag, whether you’re in the light, how you’re holding the microphone, how much time you’ve done, and so on. There is just no way you can juggle all that and critically analyse your performance in real time. That’s why you should record your sets so you can sit down later and listen to yourself as if you were an audience member. You’ll be surprised how long you go between laughter, how wordy things are or how poorly a joke went that you thought went well.
Thinking you don’t need to listen to other comedians, or review your own set because you are some sort of comedic genius who knows they “kill” is arrogant, delusional and counter-productive. Listen critically to others and listen critically to yourself.
Now that you’re recording your sets and learning to listen critically to other comics you’re ready to start learning to write in your own stage voice. Doing that is an iterative process and one that never really ends. You write something down how you think it should be said, then you perform it. When you sit down to write again listen to the recording and compare it to what you wrote. At certain times you will say things exactly how you wrote them and it will sound awkward, forced and wordy. At other times you will say things differently than how you wrote them and it will sound fluid, natural and funny. In both these cases rewrite the joke to try and get closer to your natural stage voice. Then try it all over again. Keep what’s funny, get rid of what’s not.
Do this enough times and you’ll start having a good sense of how things you write translate to how they will sound on stage. The writing will become a performance for the critical audience you’ve developed in your brain.
Once you’re good at mimicking your stage voice you can spend those 4 hours on a Sunday morning telling the same joke to yourself over and over again. Each time you can evaluate how it sounds to that artificial critical audience in your head. You can switch up the order, you can change words, try different references. You’ll get a sense of what seems funny and what doesn’t and choose the things that are mostly likely to succeed. Inevitably you’ll come across choices that a real audience will have to decide, like whether it’s funnier to reference a pig or a dog in a joke. That’s an added benefit. You now know how to best use those precious minutes of stage time. You’ll know to try it once referencing a pig, once referencing a dog and see which one works better. What you won’t have to do is hum and haw trying to think of the name of that one movie, or get to the end of the joke and realize you don’t have an ending. All that finicky stuff can be sorted out when you have time to think about it, and you won’t have to waste stage time fumbling through it.
There will also be times you will get it 100% wrong. You will have written something you thought was funny and it will crash and burn when you take it on stage. Record it, listen to it, and learn from it. Writing doesn’t guarantee anything, it just increases your odds.
A note on what I mean by “writing”
In the above article I used the term “writing” fairly literally to mean sitting down and putting a pen to paper. This is what I do but by no means is it the only way to “write.” It’s a creative process and every artist is going to approach it differently. I would also consider standing in front of your bathroom mirror trying out bits a form of writing as long as you’re making some record of what you’re doing (notes in a book or computer about what you’ve tried and what you’re going to change, or even an audio or visual recording). The most important thing about any writing process is that its something that you do formally.
Many times I’ve tricked myself into believing that if I’m walking down the street thinking of a new joke I want to try out that I’ve been writing. Then when it comes time to perform that joke it becomes clear I haven’t thought it out at all. I have no idea how to get from one idea to another, there is no ending, I didn’t think about how I was going to phrase something and the one part I had thought about suffers. I didn’t write the joke. Having a formal process where you go through and catch all the loose ends is what makes it “writing.” Making notes is how you guarantee that your brain isn’t skipping over something important like a punchline.
CBC Radio’s Laugh Out Loud recorded my performance on the No Foul Language Comedy Tour at the Showplace Theater in Peterborough.
If you missed it when it originally aired you can listen here
Also on this episode is the very funny Denis Grignon, the man who organized the show!
The debate over public transportation, what form it should take, who should pay for it and where it should go seems to be a perennial issue. Because of this I have leveraged my considerable expertise to devise a remarkable new system which solves many of the problems with current public transportation strategies.
The system is based on an interconnected network of transportation infrastructure that provide passages to almost every conceivable location. Construction would require large tracts of land to be appropriated and fully dedicated to their use, but the entire system could be built and maintained at a cost of mere billions of dollars annually. This is a cost that would be shared by all levels of government.
Access to the transportation network would be provided by a specialized device. This device requires no development and is built on tried and tested technology which is widely available today. This would allow the devices to be manufactured and then sold to commuters for a price of $20 to $100 thousand dollars. Eventually used devices may be available at a cheaper price. Once the commuter is in possession of the device they can access the transportation network at any time from anywhere and only pay for the distance travelled. Though the cost would depend on a number of factors I estimate the cost at about 12 cents per kilometer.
With current public transportation systems there are those who seek to cheat the system. They will not pay the appropriate fare or will jump turnstiles, robbing the system of revenue and passing those costs on to other commuters. With the new proposed system this will not be a problem as anyone who tries to access the network without the specialized device would move at a severely reduced speed and would be at risk of serious injury or death.
To make sure everything ran smoothly some government oversight would be required. In order to cover the costs of this oversight, additional fees would be paid by commuters to ensure their devices were in safe operating condition and that they are capable of using it correctly. An additional fee would also be paid monthly to a private company who would then protect the commuter financially in the event that their device is damaged, stolen or kills someone who is trying to access the network incorrectly. A certain portion of the law enforcement community would have to divert their efforts to make sure that the above rules were being followed.
Unlike other transportation systems the one being proposed would not suffer from capacity issues. Because the system is so widespread geographically even if certain high-density areas become congested there is always excessive capacity elsewhere in the system. In fact by their very design the networks in lower density areas will always be able to carry more commuters than will ever use it. In this way the system as a whole is much more efficient.
While I have been intentionally vague on the technical details of the device and the network as a whole I trust that you all agree that this is the optimal solution that is in the best interest of every person and business. Please write to your local politician, tell them about this plan and that you support fair, accessible, and affordable transportation!
hears the problem with grammer and spelling “nazi’s”. Its not that your wrong, its not that people shouldn’t know how to spell, reed and right or just generally communicate good. The prolbem is that What you are doing is a symptom of a much larger and more sinister problem: that is we are choosing style over substance. we pay more attention to how things are said rather than what is being said. We here but do not listen.
When you criticize someone for using your instead of you’re or their instead of there what you are doing is completly glossing over the intent or message of that communication. your basicaly saying that tThe opinion of this person need not be considered because they have violated some simple rule that is a prerequisite for you’re attnetion and understanding.
It matters not that the person was attempting to express some thought, opinion or experience different them you or That they were reaching out to others to attempt mutual understanding.
Communication is hard. Understanding is harder.Often people do not or can not express what they mean by what they say. But you can tell what they mean of you listen, if you pay attention to what they are trying to say rather than how they are saying, if you pay attention to what they want rather than what they are asking for. believe me the signs are all their for you to read if you just lookj for them.
There are a lot of people in the world who dont feel like they have a voice. many who are struggling to be heard. The Internet has given so many a voice but it’s a voice we quickly dismiss over a typo or misplaced comma.
Look past that. Look at what the person is trying to say. Understand their perspective.
That is the point of all communication to connect and understand. So stop criticizing and start listening
I am very excited and honoured to be named Toronto.com’s Funniest Torontoian!
Thanks to Toronto.com, everyone who voted for me during the online portion of the contest, the audiences who came out to laugh and the judges. And of course a very special thanks to my fellow contestants: Jordan Cohen, Aaron Stern, Katharine Ferns, and Jeff Faulkner. They are some very funny people and put on a great show.
For the full write up on Toronto.com see the link below.
I’ve been nominated as a finalist for Toronto.com’s Funniest Torontonian!
The winner gets to perform on Just For Laughs Toronto, so head on over to the contest page and vote for my video. You don’t even have to watch it, just vote. Plus you are allowed to vote EVERY DAY!
Thanks for your support! Oh and here is what one fan made to encourage you to vote!
As a science fiction movie Prometheus is certainly flawed but not terrible. Unfortunately Prometheus isn’t just a science fiction movie, it’s a prequel to the Alien franchise and in that regard it’s an utter disaster. In attempting to explain the origins of the title Aliens the movie succeeds only in making one of the most terrifying creatures in movie history a lot less terrifying. To understand how it managed to do this you have to understand what made the Aliens so disturbing in the first place and that is: Evolution.
Looking back at Alien and Aliens all the major plot points revolved around the life cycle of the Aliens. Whether it’s the egg, facehugger and chestburster in Alien or the Queen and hive society that were revealed in Aliens. Basically every time things get worse for the human protagonists it’s because the Aliens have entered a new phase of their life.
The Aliens are incredibly powerful, fast, vicious, and adaptable animals. They erupt from their egg, latch onto your face, implant their larvae inside you and incorporates your DNA into its own before killing you by bursting out of your chest. It then grows up quickly and runs around either eating your crewmates or dragging them back to the nest to be used as an incubator for more Aliens.
No doubt all that was enough to keep Ripley and the other characters gripped in fear. But all of those things were simply the reason why they were scary. What made them so disturbing was that they did all those things because they evolved to be that way. All their behaviours, that we find so horrifying, are mere adaptations needed to survive on whatever God forsaken planet they’re from.
Lets not forget that every time humans have encountered the Aliens they’ve essentially been an invasive species, a shark in a koi pond. With no natural predators and ample food they dominate the environment. But for the first two phases of their life they are little more than a parasite. Like a mosquito or a tapeworm. Chances are that on their world they are not even the top of the food chain. There is something bigger and scarier out there that hunts the Aliens.
In that light you realize that they’re powerful because something out there is more powerful. They are fast because something is faster. They are vicious because they have to compete for food. The larvae develop inside a host because it’s harder to be preyed upon that way. They incorporate the DNA of the host because they need to adapt quickly to ever changing conditions. They grow quickly because predators kill them when they’re small. They have acid blood to put a bad taste in the mouth of anything trying to eat them. They hunt in packs because they are too weak individually. The Queen Alien lays hundreds of eggs because so many of them die and “they mostly come at night” because they are afraid of something in the day.
What is truly and deeply terrifying aren’t the Aliens themselves, but the incredible force of nature that created them. It’s that very thing that is implied when one of the characters in Alien states: “Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility… I admire its purity. A survivor…”
Now let’s jump to Prometheus where early on they ditch the subtly and have a character explicitly state that the plot of the movie defies hundreds of years of Darwinian evolution. Great. Off to a good start.
We then go on to learn that humans were created by an alien race of big-humans called Engineers, who were going to destroy humans with this weird black goo stuff, which a robot finds and poisons one of the crew members with so when he has sex with main character she gets pregnant with an octopus, that she removes with a surgery machine but which then grows up and attacks the big-human alien. When it’s all over and the credits are about to roll the first Alien erupts from the chest of the big-human. Huh? Exactly.
And just like that the terror is gone. Instead of the Alien’s impressive physical attributes, complex social structure and intricate breeding cycle being a product of some awesome natural force, we’ve learned that they just popped up by accident. The Alien is nothing but the genetic lovechild of some interstellar gang bang between the universe’s most incompetent scientists. *
The Aliens were created by a one time fluke, rather than a process that’s playing itself out billions and billions of times. Instead of being left with the ominous feeling of “what else is out there?” we’re handed a “Ah, don’t worry about it! Nowhere out in space is there a whole planet swimming with these things, it’s just one ship, on one planet.” What a relief.
When it comes right down to it though, the biggest failing of Prometheus is that the Aliens never needed an origin story. They’re not like Darth Vader or Hannibal Lecter where you wonder what happened to them to make them so evil. They’re not like that because the Aliens aren’t characters they’re forces of nature. They don’t need to be explained anymore than we need to explain that Jaws was created by an evil wizard. It was always enough for them to just exist.
If an Alien prequel had to be made though, I would have stuck with what made it scary in the first place: nature. Go to the Aliens home planet and have David Attenborough narrate a documentary about them.
“And after a brief struggle with the Facehugger…it’s all over. In a few short hours new life will burst forth from the chest and the cycle will begin anew.”
Watching Prometheus, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would have welcomed that intriguing British accent telling me “It’s all over.”
*I categorize both the Engineers and Humans as incompetent scientists. The depth of their stupidity and professional shortcomings could be the subject of its own article. One, unfortunately, I do not have the time or patience to write.
Earlier today I was Googling my own name because I was bored and curious as to where this website would appear on the listings. There were the predictable sites associated with my name, YouTube videos I’d uploaded, contests I had entered, clubs I’d performed in, when much to my surprise I came across this:
Yup, someone has made a website entitled “I Hate Craig Fay: The Website”
I’ll admit this bothers me a little. Not in the “Oh my God, how could anyone do that to me!” way but in the “This is a puzzle I can’t figure out” sort of way.
First of all, I’m not even sure if it’s something created by someone who actually hates me, or if it’s a joke.
If someone actually hates me, I don’t know why. The website seems to suggest that I’m boring and not funny. And hey, everyone is entitled to their opinions but I can’t imagine putting all that effort into creating a website just because you found someone boring and unfunny. Boredom isn’t typically an emotion you feel so intensely that you need to put it out there on the internet.
If it’s a joke, I guess it’s funny. But how do you ensure that I even see the site? Again seems like a lot of effort to put into something in the hopes I’ll just randomly come across it on the internet.
It’s a perplexing mystery but here is what I know so far:
- Someone accessed this website by using the search term “I hate Craig Faye” on February 20. So not only do I have someone who hates me, but they can’t even bother spelling my name right.
- The first post on “I Hate Craig Fay” is dated February 10.
- Whoever created the site has obviously been to craigfay.com because they took my picture and bio off the site to incorporate into their own.
- There are a few references to the content of my act on the site. This could be because the person has seen me perform live, or they have watched my videos on YouTube.
- THEY ARE UPDATING THE SITE! When I went to go visit it to write this article they have added my tweet about discovering the website…and even more as I write this.
What can we deduce from these clues? That the perpetrator is someone on the internet!
Maybe it’s the hackers from Anonymous. That’ll mean I’ve hit the big time!
I’ll keep you posted.
After I’d been doing comedy in Toronto for about a year there were comics who called me “the dirtiest mind in comedy.” A moniker I acquired because just as Robin Hood’s “Little John” was big, I was clean. Squeaky clean. I didn’t talk about drugs, alcohol or sex and I didn’t swear at all. Not even the fairly innocuous “shit” or “crap”. “Hell” would even be given some serious thought before being inserted into my act. The obvious question is: why? Why would a comedian, who is just starting out and has no idea what is funny, put restrictions on himself like that? It wasn’t out of some moral obligation, or because I was some sort of holier-than-thou prude. It was a choice and one that I need to go back to the beginning to explain.
The first few times I did stand up it was in Hamilton, Ontario: A blue collar city with two steel plants that did little other than serve as a source of unemployment and a barrier to any meaningful revitalization. The best description I’ve heard of Hamilton is “Downtown Hamilton looks like downtown Toronto if everything went out of business.”
Much like the rest of the city, the amateur stand up scene was far from thriving. There was a club that had a monthly amateur night and that was about it. And month after month, show after show I’d find the same ten guys on stage.One particular night I was watching the show, anxiously waiting for my five minutes to be unfunny, and I realized all the other comics were telling the same type of joke. But these weren’t knock-knock jokes, or mother-in-law jokes, or even hacky airplane food jokes these were what I call “So I was Fisting this Hooker” jokes. Don’t know how one of those jokes goes? Well, the basic structure of which was as follows: The comedian would, very casually, state something shocking and offensive like “So I was fisting this hooker…” as if they were telling the audience about reading the newspaper or taking a nap. They would then proceed to outline some story that got even more raunchy and vile, and would likely result in multiple prison sentences if it hadn’t been entirely made up.
It was shock humour, but the problem was that EVERYONE was doing it! It’s hard to stay shocking (or funny) when half a dozen people get on stage and try to “out-gross” the other person. I remember sitting there thinking “Jesus Christ! This is terrible! I wish someone would get up there and do something different.” And that’s when it occurred to me that I could be that something different. I could be that breath of fresh air.
So I started writing clean material, and I can honestly say it made me a better writer and a better comedian. As soon as I had to throw out topics like sex and drinking -which, lets face it, are major preoccupations for young men, myself included- I was forced to come up with new topics. If I felt strongly enough about something that I wanted to swear? Too bad, I had to write it a different way. I had to master subtly and suggestion, which weren’t easy so I ended up writing and rewriting. I had to perform and perform again. I didn’t realize it at the time but I wasn’t getting good at being clean, I was getting good at the process of comedy.
Now at this point some of you might be thinking that I don’t like comedians who swear, or that I look down on dark material and dirty comedians. Let me assure you that isn’t true.
In my mind, swearing is a tool. If used properly it can quickly convey emotion or drive home a point. It’s a tool that comedians like George Carlin, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. have used their fine mastery of to create truly amazing social comentary. Then by contrast there are those who are using the tool like they’re bashing open a walnut with the handle of a screwdriver.
In my opinion you need to be smart about when you swear: F-bombs should be used as exclamation marks, not commas. If you don’t know what that means, you’re not smart enough to swear.
As for not liking dirty material let me say that what I don’t like is BAD material. When dirty jokes are done well they’re great but when they’re done badly they are terrible! They’re a bit like a reverse horror movie: the good ones make you laugh, the bad ones make you uncomfortable.
I’ve seen comedians proudly state how they “refuse to be censored” or are “challenging social norms” but all too often they are just being edgey for the sake of being edgey. There’s no substance behind it. You can be shocking to make your point, but being shocking shouldn’t be your point. There is a reason certain things are taboo, and it’s because they make most people uncomfortable. So if you’re going to take an audience there you need to make it worth their while. To put it simply: If you’re going to take me to a sewer, there had better be ninja turtles.
So as I was starting off in comedy these were the choices I was making and the things I was observing and learning. Everything was going along fine as a clean comedian, until one day I suddenly found myself with a strong desire to tell jokes about science which, I think you will all agree, does not lend itself to humour as easily as a failed date.
Trying to find a way to get an audience on board with such a difficult topic was near impossible, and I failed repeatedly to make it funny. Then, one night I was at a random open mic and had a little extra stage time after I had run through my prepared clean material. To fill the time I just started talking about how frustrating it was to have every biology story on the internet riddled with comments like “Evolution is bullshit.” Much to my surprise it got a huge laugh.
I’d found a way in. A way to make a difficult topic accessible. It was that emotional short cut that allowed me to instantly convey my opinions on a subject. It suddenly made sense to swear. It was suddenly a tool I had found a use for. I no longer had to set myself apart by being clean because the topics I was talking about set me apart.
It’s a new choice that I’ve made and hopefully audiences feel that even though I’m swearing, I’ve made a good and intelligent points. Or maybe they’ll think there was a better way to make those points and I’m just swearing for the sake of swearing. In that case they can go join gravity. That’s right, I can say that now. I’m not that guy anymore.
Check out this clip from my performance at Absolute Comedy Ottawa.
Some of you might be saying “Hey, this joke is already in another video you’ve posted”
To which I say yes, but this version is all short and consumable by the internet masses.
Let’s go viral people,