Hey, a big “first” for this blog today: We have a guest writer filling in!
Let me introduce you to Kevin Rogers, an experienced, savvy, successful copywriter (who has earned a spot on my “Inside Team”) who brings a unique perspective on writing sales copy.
See, his first line of work was stand-up comedy.
I’ve been pushing him to dig into the lessons he learned as a stand-up… which I intuitively know also apply to writing copy… and share.
For over four years, I’ve been the sole person to post on this blog… and I’ve always wanted to bring in other ink-stained wretches to guest-post. Kevin won the lead-off job by having the best story to tell.
So I’m outa here, on a brief and rare day off. I’ll post again next week.
You, however, need to read Kevin’s take on writing copy, below. It’s excellent stuff.
Let’s have a warm round of applause for…
Kevin Rogers. Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Rogers… (here ya go, Kevin… don’t blow it…)
I’m honored to have scored this gig writing the first guest post on John’s “Big Damn Blog.”
As a kid I dreamed of filling in for Johnny Carson as guest host on “The Tonight Show”… and while I did spend a wild decade performing stand-up in comedy clubs and college bars all over the U.S., I never got near Johnny’s shoes.
However, for a copywriter… this is the equivalent.
Carlton is to the blogosphere what Carson was to late-night TV: the hip, gracious, straight-shooting host who always leaves you better off than before you tuned in.
I’ll do my best to fill up “Johnny’s desk” here the way a raw and relevant Jay Leno once did… and not just read from cue cards, like Ed McMahon.
You may have noticed a lot of copywriters are also recovering entertainers. It makes perfect sense actually, for a few reasons:
First, the work pattern is very similar.
You wake up whenever you want, perform at your optimum level for a few hours, and then avoid going crazy until it’s time to perform again.
Second, writers and comics are all twisted in the same way. Someone once asked W.C. Fields what makes a comedian laugh.
He said: If you want to make an audience laugh, you dress a guy up like an old lady and push him down a flight of stairs. If you want to make a comedian laugh… you have to use a real old lady.
I’d say that’s accurate. But it works even better if the old lady was Ruth Madoff.
(Bonus similarity between writers and comics: Neither can resist one-upping someone else’s tag line.)
Anyway, the parallels in psychology between writing killer sales copy and slaying an audience with stand-up are endless… mostly because copywriters and comics come from the same school…
…the one where class clowns get to outshine the class president.
Whether you’re after the sale — or the laugh — the same ass-saving strategy used by smart runts on the playground to keep bullies at bay will take you a long way toward closing the deal.
The kids with comic blood found safe ground as court jesters, while the kids with salesman’s blood kept their lunch money by playing the role of “trusted adviser.”
The approaches may differ slightly in detail, but underneath it’s all about persuasion.
So, here now, for your useful enjoyment, are 3 important copy lessons on persuasion I learned from the comedy stage:
1. You’ve Got About 6 Seconds To Win Your Audience.
People are stingier than ever with their attention these days. There’s no room for error in that critical first impression.
Performing in a comedy club gives you the slight advantage of facing an audience that actually wants you to succeed. They stood in line, they paid a cover, and they want their date in a good mood later.
Still, that opening is crucial.
The first joke must be 3 things: Relevant… pithy… and quick to establish your character. It also needs to be an applause line. For sales copy, as Carlton says, money is applause.
When your ad lands in front of a reader, he’s begging you to screw up, lose his interest and let him off the hook so he can jump off your greased slide and go do something else.
And you can triple that risk online, where every visitor enters your page with an index finger poised on a hair-trigger mouse click… just praying for any excuse to zap you into oblivion.
If your message fails to spark interest and resonate with your reader in those first few seconds, you’re dead.
So, the key to a powerful first impression is: Know your audience.
A seasoned comic can take one look at a crowd and know the best joke to open with, how often to curse, and how to close the show.
As marketers, we do our peeking from behind the curtain by stalking available data on potential buyers.
That means: Engage your niche in forums… survey existing customers… attend seminars… and do everything else you can to mind-meld with your target audience. People love to tell you what they want to buy and why they want to buy it.
Listen close enough and the copy practically writes itself.
2. Create A Penetrating Hook And “Pay It Off” Big.
In both stand-up and copywriting, ensuring your audience will hang with you requires a strong hook.
Like John teaches, it’s all about shaking your audience out their zombie state and getting them to lean in closer, wide awake and receptive.
And the best hooks will buy you undivided attention. (No one is going anywhere until they find out how a “one-legged golfer” drives the ball further than they do.)
But never forget the golden rule: You must pay off your hooks!
I’m amazed at how many marketers miss this. They craft a compelling hook, announce it in the headline, then fail to ever mention it again in the letter.
What the hell is that all about?
Some even do it on purpose under the false assumption it will create curiosity.
It does not.
It creates frustration and destroys trust.
(I don’t have space for tips on creating hooks here, but the best lesson I’ve ever seen is in the “Simple Writing System.” If John ever releases it again — and begging can’t hurt — that section on hooks alone is worth whatever price he decides to charge for it.)
3. Use Segues To Switch Topics Smoothly.
A typical comedy audience is not quite as demographically targeted as a typical direct marketing list.
In the club, you’ve got about equal parts dude and chick… and then a wide range of age, interest, intelligence, and alcohol consumption to deal with.
So, comics tend to write material with general themes that anyone can relate to, like dating and pop culture. The goal is to cover a variety of subjects so everyone feels involved in the show.
However, getting the audience to follow you from a joke about “your awkward first kiss” to one about those whacky “ShamWow” commercials can be tricky.
So comics use clever segues that quickly tie the subjects together and smooth any bumps in transition.
For instance, in the example above you might transition the topics by saying something like…
“That first kiss is a sloppy affair, too… drool everywhere. You need a ShamWow bib just to keep your shirt dry.
You’ve seen those commercials for ShamWow, haven’t you…”
See. Nothing special, just enough to take their minds where you need them to go.
In sales letters you can use the “bucket brigade” list of short phrases that make the page flow smoothly through transitions and keep a reader’s attention.
Right there where I said, “for instance…” is a bucket brigade term.
And not only that, but…
There are hundreds of these phrases, and you can easily go back and drop them in after you’ve written your copy.
But first, a word of caution:
Using too many bucket brigade terms together like this can backfire by giving your reader “Eyeball Whiplash”. Moderation, and timing, are key.
So, there you have it.
Next time you’re stuck on a piece of copy, flip on Comedy Central for a few minutes. You might find the answer you’re looking for, and if not, at least you can laugh about it.
Thanks for having me. You’ve been great…
Try the veal!
P.S. For more inspired musings and off-color anecdotes, please visit my blog www.rogerscopy.com/blog. Or follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kevinrogers
P.P.S. You weren’t going to let me get away with not paying off the title of this post, were you?
Let’s have some fun: The title is, “Two Copywriters Walk Into A Bar…”
Let’s finish the joke. I’ll go first…
Two copywriters walk into a bar… a rookie and an A-Lister.
The rookie copywriter says, “I’ll have a Scotch… whatever you have in the well is fine.”
The A-List copywriter says, “I’ll have Scotch, too, but make mine the 25 year old Macallan.”
The bartender hands them their drinks.
The rookie takes a sip of his cheap Scotch and winces, “Aacchhh…” he says. “That tastes horrible!”
After a short pause, he grabs the A-list copywriter’s glass of Macallan and takes a giant swig.
The A-lister says, “Hey… what the hell are you doing!?”
The rookie says, “Split testing.”
OK, now give me your punch lines in the comment section. It doesn’t have to be brilliant (as I‘ve skillfully demonstrated), just have fun. It’s good brain exercise.
"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."
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Great first guest post!
I dedicate this joke to Harlan Kilstein.
Two copywriters walk into a bar.
A Carlton trained copywriter and an AWAI trained copywriter.
The Carlton copywriter walks up to the bar, orders a scotch and walks back to his seat.
He sits down and waits for the AWAI copywriter…and waits… and waits…and waits.
Finally after an hour, the AWAI copywriter shuffles back empty handed.
The Carlton copywriter asks, “Hey, where’s your drink?”
The AWAI copywriter replies, “I couldn’t get anyone’s attention.”
John Carlton replies:
Had to drop in here — Ian, that was FUNNY.
I think I’ll try a post-modern ironic twist on this “joke challenge” in the next comment…
David Deutsch and David Garfinkel are sitting at a bar, guzzling scotch.
Suddenly, the door opens, and in walk a priest, a rabbi, a nun and four ducks.
“What is this,” asks Deutsch. “Some kind of joke?”
HA! Great stuff guys.
The best shows always involve an open mic.
Who’s next to the stage?
The rookie says: ” I thought you just told me swiping your stuff was OK.”
PS Nice post Kevin. Being invited onstage to second chair John Carlton – bet that got a bit of juice flowing!
Nice one Craig!
Ah shit… let me try…
Three A-listers and a rookie walk into a bar.
Each A-listers orders a glass of 25 year old Macallan Scotch.
“Why the Macallan?” asks the rookie.
“It’s what works for us. In fact, alot of A-listers seem to prefer it. You really can’t go wrong if you order it.”
The rookie nods, turns to the bartender and orders their cheap Scotch.
Then he orders a shot of their well tequila.
Then a Pabst tall boy.
And in rapid fire orders a Jack and Coke, a dirty martini, a cranberry vodka, a long island iced tea and three Jager bombs.
Sloshed, he slides off the bar stool and slumps into a nearby booth.
One of the A-listers walks by and asks, “Why didn’t you just order the Macallan?”
“Becawseh,” the rookie slurs, “I’ve got to study more products first.”
Two budding copywriters walk into a bar and see John Carlton sipping a cold one.
The first says “Hello” to John and… after pleasant niceties… the second asks “John, what does it take to become a world-class copywriter?”
At this point, it doesn’t matter what Carlton says. Just know the terms “grizzled veteran,” “raw rookie” and “the Go-Go 80’s” are worked into his reply.
Hey Kevin, great job.
3 clients and a copywriter walk into a bar.
The first client says, “Bartender, give me your best scotch all night. I’m going to go over to the poker table and drink it. I always win when I drink scotch so after I take all their money, I’ll pay you for the scotch.”
The second client says, “Bartender, I’ll only buy a scotch if you guarantee it will give me a 0.15% blood alcohol level. And if it doesn’t, you have to keep giving it to me until it does.”
The last client just orders scotch but then he takes it and asks for some sugar, lemon and Tobasco sauce. He adds a teaspoon of sugar and says, “I heard some experts say scotch is better sweet”.
He squeezes the lemon all over the rim of the glass and says, “That’ll highlight the taste of the scotch.”
Then he puts 6 drops of Tobasco sauce in it and says, “That’s just to make sure the scotch gets my attention.”
Finally, its the copywriter’s turn to order. In a haggard voice, eye’s half closed he says, “Just a large black coffee to go for me. I’ve got to get back to the hotel room and finish their letters.”
Excellent replies all.
Bruce, I was cracking up right from your set up.
Nice twist, Tim.
Hillery, you’re that hip chick who plays for the back of the room.
And yeah, Craig, working with John definitely brings your game to another level. He’s a master motivator and ultra-generous with the insider stuff.
If you ever feel too confident in your writing, get it front of John and let the games begin!
…and the rookie says, “Boosting my response.”
Great post, Kevin!
Dammit Kevin, you’ve got me hooked…
The next night, the 3 clients and the copywriter walk back in to the bar.
The copywriter says, “Bartender! 4 scotches… I’m celebrating finishing my client’s letters. And give each one of them a straw to drink it with.”
Bartender says, “Who drinks scotch through a straw?”
Copywriter smiles and says, “Clients do. Haven’t you heard? Clients suck!”
Great first post, Kev.
Aaah… I remember the old days when Kev was a doe eyed open miker. And I was a grizzled, chain smoking headliner. Good times… good times.
I get a little teary-eyed when I look at ya now, kid. I’m very proud.
Yeah Vin. You’ve been blazing trails for me a long time now. Much love.
I was really looking forward to your joke, though. C’mon… headliners can play, too.
Everyone has a joke but Vin? That’s not right.
Kev… I think split testing was the joke to go for (which you did)…
But okay… let me see…
Two copywriters walk into a bar. Of course they did. You ever meet a copywriter that would PASS UP ALCOHOL?
A copywriter walks into a bar. He orders a beer. The bartender says “that’ll be $5,000.” The CW replies, “Five grand for a beer?” The bartender says, “You’re right, that is high. For a limited time, I’ll let you have the beer for $2… and I’ll throw in $25,000 worth of empty Scotch bottles!
And… if this beer makes you pee at any time in the next 24 hours, prove it and I’ll give you your 2 bucks back!”
On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men walked into a bar. They were very much alike, these two young men… (I think you get where this one’s going)
Bluma Zeigarnik walks into a bar. I’ll tell you all about it later.
Wait a minute. Since this is Carlton’s blog shouldn’t the joke template be “Two one-legged copywriters, crippled by writer’s block walk into a bar…”
Oh, I just remembered something. Bluma Zeigarnik walked into that bar to buy a drink for his friend Cliff. Cliff Hanger.
OKay, it was quick and that’s all I gots people. Like I said, the way to go is with the split testing joke. It’s what I woulda wrote if Kev didn’t.
John Carlton replies:
How about: Two copywriters walk into a bar. The A-Lister orders a 25-year-old Macallan single malt. The rookie says “Nothing for me. I’ll just steal his when it arrives.”
A man and a woman meet at a bar…
The woman says – “And so what do you do for a living?”
The man says – “Why I’m a copywriter.”
The woman replies – “Ah, so you write sales letters, advertisements and other marketing materials for a living.”
– – – – – – – – – – – –
[IF like everyone you didn’t get it, the joke is this – someone actually knows what a copywriter is – bam! I’m a regular Richard Pryor me]
John Carlton replies:
Or, to be even more obscure:
“I’m a copyrighter.”
“Oh, so you write ads and stuff?”
“God no. I’m an attorney handling intellectual property.”
Two copywriters walk into a bar.
“Hey, wait a minute,” says the first one.
“This is my office.”
2 copywriters walk into a bar
Only to find out it’s a Gay bar
Looking at the John Carlton trained copywriter the rookie is shocked.
Both copywriters being manly men the rookie becomes frozen with nervousness.
While the pro instantly gets several men to rapidly buy him the most expensive drinks!
With a 100% guarantee they won’t have to put out on the first date.
John Carlton replies:
You’ve actually done this before, haven’t you, Star.
A copywriter with a severe case of writers block walks into a bar during happy hour.
The bartender announces: “Who else wants an amazing 3 legged monkey cocktail, with a secret mix of canadian whisky, amaretto almond liqueur and pineapple juice. And for the next 30 minutes only…if you buy one, you get another drink of your choice…absolutely FREE. Guaranteed to make your partner look better…or your money cheerfully refunded”
The copywriter takes out a pen and starts feverishly scribbling on a napkin, but doesn’t order.
It’s getting close to the end of happy hour and the bartender reminds the drinkers “If you’re down on your luck and just want to drown your sorrows, then this will be the most important message you hear all night”
The bartender notices the copywriter isn’t ordering, just writing away. So he decides to take a friendly approach “Hey buddy, you know, if you leave your business card card in the jar you get a FREE drink, no strings attached. And since you look kinda busy, why don’t you just put $50 on the tab and I’ll bring you your drinks until you say stop”
The copywriters face breaks out in a smile and he starts scribbling again, without saying a word. The bartender gives up on him and walks away.
He watches an old drunk sit next to the copywriter and then begin telling him his life story, “You know 25 years ago I went to college with my best friend. He went on to finish his degree and now he works for a fancy computer company, while I sleep on park benches warmed by a used copy of the wall street journal”
The old drunk can’t seem to get any conversation out of the copywriter, who is now on his 5th napkin, so he wanders off to the pool table.
It’s getting near closing time and the bartender calls last drinks “ok guys, this is your last chance to get a drink before I close up and disappear for the night. I won’t repeat this message
The bartender decides to go over to the copywriter and ask him about his weird behavior. “Hey buddy, I noticed you’ve been writing away all night without a drink. What gives?”
The copywriter says “Oh nothin much, I’m just swiping. I’ve got my headline, opening sentence, a great offer with continuity, a compelling life story and even an OTO”
The bartender gives him a confused look. The copywriter puts his pen down and takes out his wallet…
“Actually, I was kinda hoping you’d come over right about now and ask me if I’d like a drink…I’m still not sure what to put on the order button”
A new bar called “The Copywriters’ Den” opens and a rookie copywriter drops in hoping he’ll get the chance to meet one of the greats.
He walks up to the bar and says, “Give me a scotch!”
The bartender doesn’t move.
“Er . . . a scotch.”
The bartender still doesn’t move.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yep. I’m just waiting for the P.S.”
Yeha very useful information, this is both good reading for starters and experts, have quite a few good key points, and i learnt some new stuff form it too, thanks for sharing your informations
If copywriters didn’t drink so much, maybe they wouldn’t need to P.S. all the time…
Is this a great show or what? (big applause)
I love how everyone is playing with the format. Creative minds are inventive minds.
So… rookie copywriter walks into a bar with 5 different marketing books under his arm.
Bartender says: “Hey, you’re still in time for happy hour… two for one.”
CW says: Two for one, eh? Not a bad USP, but kind of common. Nothing really unique about it.
Bartender says: What the hell’s a USP?
CW says: Unique Selling Proposition. Hello!
It’s what makes you stand out from every other bar on the boardwalk. The reason people will want to drink here instead of anywhere else.
All the books say, a strong USP is the FOUNDATION of a successful marketing campaign!
And “two for one” has been done to death. You need a twist on it to show the EXCLUSIVE benefit of YOUR happy hour. Get it?
Bartender says: Yeah, I think I do. Starting tomorrow I’ll change it to: “Really Happy Hour: 2-4-1 Drinks, and NO f**king copywriters!”
It’s that time of year again… and the The Bad-Ass Copywriter’s Convention is in full swing at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Around 4:30 in the afternoon, the thirsty herd starts to make its way into “Networks”, the infamous hotel bar that’s conveniently located directly in between the convention center and the Hyatt it’s connected to. There’s no escaping it’s siren song.
By 6 o’clock, the scotch is flowing… beers appear and disappear at a record pace. The “Michelob Ultra” girl has been pawed, patted, stroked, and chased after so much that she’s stopped holding her tray and is now brandishing a cattle prod.
About this time, Nick the bartender looks up and notices one of the light bulbs in the track above the bar has burned out. “Aw hell… any of you guys know how to change this light bulb?”, he asks the copywriters lucky or desperate enough to grab a seat before the crush.
“I don’t change light bulbs.. I outsource that…” says the guy with the Presidential on his wrist sitting on the far left. “Ask one of these rookies to do it… I can’t believe you’d expect me to change a light bulb…”
The guy sitting next to him who’s been staring at his wrist the whole time says, “Yeah… REAL copywriters don’t do that kind of thing…. Right, Spike?”. Then, head nodding, he grins widely at the guy to his left, waiting for his approval. The guy looks at him, gets up and walks away.
The copywriter sitting directly in front of Nick says, “Did you know that there are exactly 2,763 different varieties of light bulb on the market… and that only ONE of them is guaranteed to NEVER burn out — especially when an entire herd of drunken copywriters is sitting at the bar?”
The bald guy next to him says, “Nick… you’re about the discover the ASTONISHING story about two thai hookers, an overworked bartender, and what a night rollerblading nude down Michigan Avenue taught him about fluorescent lighting…”
The guy next to him breaks out his iPhone and starts playing a video for Nick about his surfboards.
About this time, a man walks up to bar and say, “Hi Nick… I’m John Carlton. This is a light bulb. When you replace the burned out bulb with this one, you’ll get light on the bar again. Just unscrew the old one, screw this one in its place, and you’re good to go. You can have this lightbulb in exchange for a nice glass of Glenlivet…”
Nick breaks out the bottle of scotch and pours him a double immediately. John takes his scotch, nods to the guys and walks away.
The moral of the story? Copywriters are friggin’ drunks.
17 March 2009!
Two Irish copywriters walk into a bar – One of them finds a mirror on the floor, looks into it and says to his friend. “I recognise him from somewhere”. His friends takes the mirror out of his hands and says, “That’s me you idiot.”
I know, I know, not exactly ‘on topic’ but some of us are just (huge) fans of the rhetoric, not copywriters!
Happy St Patricks Day!
Nice work, Kevin. Carlton obviously had time to write his own post cuz he’s playing in the comment area like mad!
So Harlan and Mike Morgan walk into a bar but are too busy twittering on their phones to order proper drinks. They get stuck with Cosmos….
Lorrie– It’s funny cuz it’s true!
Actually they probably wouldn’t get drinks at all unless the bartender was on Twitter.
And let’s not pretend Morgan doesn’t enjoy a Cosmo when the “boys” aren’t around.
Hey… the universe told me to come here and what do I see?
New rumors flying in cyberspace.
Let me set the record straight. I DON’T DO COSMOS!
Now… as far as that Kilstein guy goes, he may. But you should know by now… the tweetin’ doesn’t start for me until the drink ARRIVES.
So let it be written…
PS: You still have that “Birthday Balloon” I suffered to get you Kev?
A copywriter walks out of a bar. It COULD HAPPEN!
Lorrie Morgan Ferraro walks into a bar.
She gets on the Internet with Mike Morgan.
Together they order a “real doll”.
Carlton drinks his Sierra Pale Ale.
Kilstein checks his paypal account.
Yep. All’s right with the world.
It was great hanging with you guys.
Mike, I can’t believe you posted that picture!
Highest bidder gets to see it?
A copywriter walks into a bar….
“PS: You still have that “Birthday Balloon” I suffered to get you Kev?”
Sadly Mike, sober judgment won out and only the maid was left with proof of our escapades.
But, suffer you did, and I love you for it. One to remember.
John Carlton replies:
No, no, no, man. We figured you’d lame-out and try to leave the balloon behind, so we rescued it.
It’s on the way!
Gee, I hope you get to the mailbox first…
Oh the shame Kev.
Funny how the good stuff always comes back around… kinda like fashion.
A well placed bribe to the housekeeping staff keeps the memory alive.
Just remember, a good balloon is ready to be re-blown. But lets try your lips this time. Still scrubbing mine.
So… a one-legged golfer walks into a bar.
He grumbles to the bartender, “Where’s a good copywriter when you need one?”
The bartender says, “What, those rookies who drank themselves under the table aren’t good enough for you?”
The one-legged golfer says, “Nah, I was looking for that A-lister John Carlton.”
So the bartender says: “Well after he drank up all my Macallan scotch I saw him headed out the door to play some golf.”
“It figures,” says the one-legged golfer. “That’s the last time I give him my golf clubs to hold and let him know what my tee time is… You never can trust those guys, they’re always swiping something.”
A copywriter walks into a bar and sees a beautiful girl. He walks up to her, introduces himself, chats her up and buys her a drink.
“So, what do you do for a living?” he asks her.
“I am a programmer” she replies. “And you?”
“I am a copywriter.”
The girl looks shocked.
“Geez, man,” she says “Doesn’t your company have a xerox?”
A copywriter walks into a bar. He stops in the doorway to let his eyes adjust and surveys the room. Satisfied with what he sees, the copywriter craps in his pants and heads to an empty stool.
‘What can I get you?’ the bartender asks.
‘Just a beer please’ the copywriter replies.
Nathan wins the Andy Kaufman award.
A newbie Carlton student walks into a newly opened John Carlton’s Copywriters Tiki themed bar with a friend and orders a couple of drinks… She brings the drinks over to the table and the friend says, “but I wanted a Jack and Coke, you drink wine, and these are beers.” “I know,” says the newbie, “but I just signed us up for their beer of the month club. Every month, we’ll get a new brew to try, isn’t it great?” “But,” the friend says, “you don’t even drink beer!” “Oh, but they also threw in a set of Ginsu knives and George Foreman grill, and we get to keep these fancy beer steins!”
“B-b-but,” the friend stammers, “you won’t use any of those either!” The newbie looks up, annoyed… “don’t you understand anything about retail therapy?”
I’m dubiously honoured. I assume that’s for the joke that only I think is funny?
Two copywriters walk into a bar. They sit down at the bar, order two Scotches and get into a major pissin’ contest over which one has the biggest Johnson Box…
And hey Mike Morgan, it was great to meet you last week!
great stuff! Enjoyed it just as much as reading JC the Carlton himself!
“The Perils of Learning Copywriting Without Having a Mentor”
The years of anguish.
The stress and strain on family life.
One old school copywriter said he’d had SIX wives… But later admitted that only one of them was his.
Hey thanks, Kid!
(that’s because John shook me upside down and showed me the change.)
I’m studying stand-up with a passion now… it’s even harder than learning copywriting. Sounds like some fun experience, Kevin. Great point re the payoff/setup.
Bought all the books on comedy, have been a longtime fan of George Carlin, and Def Comedy Jam and others. It’s a great stretch, to try and combine being a stand-up with dry technical stuff, but it’ll work great for internet video and seminars, when done well. As with copywriting, I anticipate at least a 4-5 year learning curve. It’ll be fun I think…
Ok two copywriters walk into a bar. They bet on who’ll be the first to get a girl out the front door first….
The first one sidles up to a hot blonde and says…”
(er um that’s all I got sorry lol)…
p.s. talk about ziergernik loops, well it’ll come to me sooner or later..
Glad to hear you’re studying stand-up. I’ve never seen a “definitive” book on the craft. (let me know if any impress you.) Sounds like you’ve got some great source material with Carlin, et al.
I couldn’t resist finishing your joke. And since you’re studying stand-up, I’ll show you the devices I used to round it out afterward.
(Dedicated to Gary Halbert…)
Two copywriters – a rookie and a grizzled veteran – walk into a bar. They bet on who’ll be the first to get a girl out the front door first.
The rookie sidles up to a hot blonde and says…
“Can I have the honor of buying you a drink?”
The blonde rolls her eyes and spins her stool the other direction.
The rookie return to the table, sheepish and defeated.
The veteran walks over and sits down next to the blonde.
The rookie sees him chat with the bartender a moment. Next thing he knows the blonde turns her stool towards the veteran copywriter, and they begin talking enthusiastically.
Two minutes later the veteran hands the bartender a note and walks out the front door with the blonde on his arm.
The Rookie is stunned. He approaches the bartender (who looks like Richie Cunningham) and asks what the veteran copywriter said to make the beautiful blonde respond that way.
“It was really strange,” replies the young bartender “All he said was: ‘Hey Kid, call me a cab, will ya… it just started snowing in my friend’s apartment and he needs volunteers to help him shovel it.’”
The rookie smirks.
“Then he said to give you this note,” adds the bartender.
The Rookie opens the note. It says: “Lesson 1: Research! Know your buyer’s TRUE desire before you make the offer.”
You were making it harder on yourself by not establishing characters first.
Once you have a character dynamic (rookie and veteran copywriter), then you just need an appropriate premise (research before offer in copy) and then it sort of writes itself (although, I needed the bartender to be naïve to prolong the payoff).
The joke could have gone a lot of different ways, but I decided to swipe Gary’s classic story lesson about the sexy coke fiend getting hit on at the bar. Seemed appropriate.
(However, in real stand-up there is NO swiping.)
Good “seeing” you again,
Hey Kevin, great ‘seeing’ you again too… brilliant way to finish the joke, thanks for the save. Great work in setting up the characters and the premise, that makes a lot of sense…. thanks. Nice to see a pro in action, good job!
Someday we’ll have to have a “Copywriters’ Open Mic Night” at a club somewhere, like in Vegas, that oughta be fun.
To study comedy, I bought all the best books I could find on Amazon (the ‘how to be an expert in a weekend approach’…) — so far the two best are, in order:
Judy Carter “The Comedy Bible” (covers premises, setups, a truly great book), and
Franklyn Ajaya “Comic Insights” (interviews with everyone from Leno to Carlin about their approach to comedy, nice case study approach)
For movies, there’s great comedic premises for example in “Groundhog Day”, and “Scrooged”, takes on familiar themes, or in “Coming to America”, re mis-matched frames of reference.
For standup, the new ventriloquist Jeff Dunham stuff’s ok.
I just bought the George Carlin “All My Stuff” 14 DVDs and will be re-watching all those for inspiration. Robin Williams is great for timing/improv, and Seinfeld for ‘what’s strange’ about everyday situations (I prefer George Carlin and Def Comedy Jams though).
So “Open Mic Night At Copywriters’ Central” … coming soon to a nightclub near you…
John, thanks for the starring role in that joke earlier. Always nice to be in one of your jokes rather than the butt of one.
Q: How many copywriters does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Change? NO CHANGES!
Copywriter walks into a bar. What’ll it be, quips the bartender…a draft? Copywriter walks out because, having read David Ogilvy, he knows people don’t buy from clowns.
John Carlton replies:
Nor do copywriters drink first drafts.
We’re all about the final stuff.
Really funny, Scott. Thanks for stopping by.
And thanks to everyone who contributed jokes and comments. Very impressive. It felt like a virtual late night after-party at a Hot Seat Seminar. Good times!
A deep genuflect to John for giving me the shot to be his first guest. As an ardent fan of this blog it was a sacred honor – thanks for making sure I didn’t blow it!
See you guys in the comments section.
Bartender! Guinness please.
Great post. I got to this late… but here’s my contribution:
Copywriter walks into a bar. Bartender asks, “What’ll you have?” Copywriter replies, “Just the check.”
One copywriter walks into a bar, the other goes home…
I don’t drink, I’m Muslim.
That is funny Rezbi.
It just triggered a joke…
A copywriter walks into a bar and his hands are shaking.
The bar tender says “Do you drink much?”
The copywriter says “Na, I spill most of it!”
Kevin Rogers Steps Up to the Microphone…
Next on my hit list of “DR copywriters to interview” is Kevin Rogers, direct response wordsmith, consummate funny man, and “head honcho” of John Carlton’s stable of copywriters.
In this interview, Kevin opens up about the …
[…] If you are interested in learning copywriting skills, I suggest you check out these two guys, John Carlton and David Garfinkle. These guys have written some of the best ad copy in the […]