A cliché is a crutch, especially in comedy. It’s the equivalent of copy-catting. Ironically, most jokes that are considered clichés now, when they were first written, were hysterical. Unfortunately, other writers have tried to capitalize on the success of the jokes’ originators, ripping them off for decades by working variations of the original gags into their writing. The result is that these once-funny bits have been watered down to nothing more than annoyances to an audience. If you’re a writer – whether of books, movies, TV shows, or anything else – avoid these ten comedic crutches:
1. “Check please.” A guy is on a date with a girl, and she hints that she’s interested in going home with him. The guy stops whatever he’s doing – even if he has a full plate of food in front of him – turns to the waiter, and says, “Check please.”
2. Rubber-glove snap. A guy, who is usually guilty of nothing, winds up at the mercy of an angry cop needing to search him. When the guy asks what sort of a search to expect, the cop pulls a rubber glove out and snaps it on.
3. The contradictory intro. Character 1 is singing the praises of Character 2 to someone. In the middle of the gushing, Character 2 bursts into the room, and surprisingly, is nothing like what he’s been described as. For instance, a father is telling the headmaster of a fancy boarding school how intelligent and enterprising his son is, and then his son stumbles into the headmaster’s office drunk, with a beer can in each hand.
4. The fall-apart whack. A character either finds or builds something he’s really proud of. When he shows it to his friends, to demonstrate how quality it is, he gives it a whack with his hand. To his shock, the whole thing falls apart.
5. The old/young lingo mishap. An older character – usually a grandparent – grossly mispronounces or misuses the name of a product that’s popular with a younger generation. For instance, Facebook is thought to be a physical book filled with photographs of people’s faces.
6. The magical kid fix. A responsible adult character is spending hours trying to set something up, typically an electronics product. The person’s child – under ten years old – waltzes into the room and does something extremely simple to solve the problem, like plugging in the power cord.
7. Lustful loss of speech. Transfixed by an attractive female, an adult male character temporarily loses his ability to speak.
8. Lustful loss of motor skills. Transfixed by an attractive female, an adult male character temporarily loses his ability to walk, usually slamming into a wall or sign.
9. The taste lie. A character cooks for others. Trying to be nice, the people eating nod and say the food tastes great, while holding back expressions of repulse.
10. Mother-in-law doomsday. A wife mentions to her husband that her mom, or his mother-in-law, will be spending a few days with them. He acts as if he’s about to be ushered down death row.
If you have other clichés I missed, feel free to add them to the comments. The longer we can make this list, the better; hopefully it can bring awareness to stale jokes and motivate writers to come up with fresh replacements.
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Copyright 2021 Ted Galdi