First, the notes. I want to get these out of the way first because there were so few. Mostly it was about him giving notes on sketches. I got the feeling that while he thought he could teach structure and how to build an interesting premise, he knew up front that he couldn't teach funny. I think everyone who teaches improv or comedy knows that there are some people who want to be funny and just aren't. So, here are his notes about things that he knew he could teach people.
He defined sketch in opposition to improv. A sketch is different from improv in that you have control, there is a record of the scene, the scene has a predetermined structure and that the funniness is reproducible. Some things are the same. Who, what, where, when all still need to be answered. CROW (Character, relationship, objective and where) for those improv minded folks out there.
Something interesting should happen to interesting characters with interesting behaviors that are "going someplace."
Mental illness is funny. Joe's favorite mental illness to write is borderline personality. Read a book on psychotherapy and give your characters those problems.
Someone in denial about an obvious truth is always funny. Give example of Dead Parrot sketch.
Control freaks are funny. Personality defects of all kinds can be funny.
To Joe, concepts are not as funny. The premise of he sketch should be grounded in characters and be clashes of personality types. Gives Odd Couple as example.
He said, his not liking concepts and starting to like characters relating is either a product of him "getting older or turning gay."
He then had us improvise a scene around the characters in Death of a Salesman. Just a slight twist and their relationships are funny instead of tragic. Then, has us improvise a scene around Remains of the Day. with funny twist.
(David interjection)I have to say, that both scenes were funny, but taking another work and making it funny is more of a concept than a real personality conflict. That's satire. Still, his point is made that personality types in conflict is interesting. Although I'm still a little fuzzy on his distinction between the two. He divided all sketch ideas in to either premises, which is the character sketches he preferred and concepts, which he didn't like. I think the two go hand in hand and that sketch needs both. But, he said he used to like concepts more then he turned old or gay.
Then he introduced us to his dislike of the "old fliparoo" as an ending for a sketch. This is the idea where the whole reality of the sketch is upended and twisted by the ending. In other words, "He's not a doctor, he's an escaped mental patient. Catch him!" Cue Benny Hill music.
He then told us his best sketch premise ever was the idea of going to a funeral of someone who had died in a funny way and everyone trying not to laugh. (Again, premise or concept?) Del Close came up with the method of death which was getting his head caught in a can of Van DeCamps beans. Then, he made a grouchy, bitter face and shook his fist. "Someone on the Mary Tyler Moore show stole the idea and it became their most famous episode... I think a clown died, but I haven't seen it."
This ends the notes part.
I think I'll friends only the rest of this and post it later tonight.