Author Topic: Help make this section useful (tips for riffing)  (Read 54805 times)

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Offline Rattrap007

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2008, 01:17:39 PM »
- I also suggest voices from time to time. If you are going to say "How about a little fire scarecrow.." don't just blandly say it. Cackle like the Wicked Witch and do a impression of her saying the line.

- Also emote. I saw a few where the jokes are pretty good, but the voice is a little flat.

- Try not to have long gaps unless it is important dialogue onscreen.

- Stuck on a riff or a bit. Hook up with someone willing to toss a few jokes your way. I'm sure some people here could help. I'd be willing to give a few suggestions. Just ask one of the people, tell what scene it is (if a old short provide a link to source video) and then let them toss a few suggestions. Like when mattnelson posted a clip from The Justice League  live action film. I gave a few suggestions for a joke. He said he wanted to put a joke there but couldn't come up with one. http://forum.rifftrax.com/index.php/topic,10616.0.html there is the thread.




Offline bratpop

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2008, 08:28:56 PM »
Haha, nearly every line in my script is said by the characters. Which ruins your #2, since all the characters talk flatly. d'oh!


Offline Big Head Zach

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2008, 07:13:28 AM »
  • Avoid the tendency to point out the humor of a situation matter-of-factly. If there's a joke there, then tell the joke - don't advise the audience that there IS a joke there.
  • If your brand of riffing allows for voices, then do your best to sound something like the character on screen, at least in pitch or nasality. That way if there's several things going on, the audience can still follow what part of the action you're focusing on.
  • Remember the Comedy Law of Threes: If you use a gag/shtick three times in quick succession, then you either should stop or change something dramatically for the fourth iteration.
  • If you're scripted, practice your script so you sound more organic. No one expects iRiffs to be performed by professional actors, but a little comfortability with the lines will help fool the audience into thinking you really are thinking that fast on your feet (which is what the Riff is intended to do).
  • Dead air is exactly that - death. A good prize-fighter won't stop to let his opponent recover from a well-placed punch in the gut; he constantly jabs and dances around until he sees an opening, and then unleashes a flurry of blows. If your riffs are just really funny jokes every 20 seconds or so, it'll still feel empty compared to a constant barrage of chuckles and sniffs. If you can average a joke every 5-7 seconds followed by a swift and punishing "uppercut" every so often, no audience will be able to resist you.
  • Avoid running over dialogue if at all possible, unless what you have to say is hysterical compared to what the character is doing.
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Offline Indomitus

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2008, 08:14:27 AM »
Rule 7...  Drop the rules and find your own flow.

  • Avoid the tendency to point out the humor of a situation matter-of-factly. If there's a joke there, then tell the joke - don't advise the audience that there IS a joke there.

And while the obvious joke might be funny, there's usually some spin that can make it even funnier.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)


Quote
  • If your brand of riffing allows for voices, then do your best to sound something like the character on screen, at least in pitch or nasality. That way if there's several things going on, the audience can still follow what part of the action you're focusing on.

Or make them distinctive.  The audience will catch on.


Quote
  • Remember the Comedy Law of Threes: If you use a gag/shtick three times in quick succession, then you either should stop or change something dramatically for the fourth iteration.

The Rule of Three actually refers to the setup of a joke.  Once, straight, twice, straight, third time, contradict the first two.  My very first joke in my sophomore riff (still early in the writing process) is exactly and simply that.  Play it straight enough to set up a trend, then break the trend in a humorous way.
From the Wikipedia entry:
"In comedy, it is suggested that maximum humor can be attained by creating a structure in which a joke is set up, the setup is reinforced, and the punchline breaks the pattern."

But there are also ways to play against the audience's expectation that you will break the trend on the 3rd one.  As we've heard Mike & co. do from time to time, sometimes it's actually funny to scuttle a joke.


Quote
  • If you're scripted, practice your script so you sound more organic. No one expects iRiffs to be performed by professional actors, but a little comfortability with the lines will help fool the audience into thinking you really are thinking that fast on your feet (which is what the Riff is intended to do).

Good advice.  And I'll go so far as to add...  BE SCRIPTED.  There are very few comedians in the world who can successfully ad lib through a routine, and I doubt any of them are here making iRiffs.
I had several riffs that I noticed I was trying to change on the fly during recording.  I realized that it was because they were falling flat.  So I re-wrote them, then performed them with the new script, and they actually worked much, much better.  If you're ad libbing, then maybe you should revisit that script.

Say, buddy, do you know how to get to Carnegie?


Quote
  • Dead air is exactly that - death. A good prize-fighter won't stop to let his opponent recover from a well-placed punch in the gut; he constantly jabs and dances around until he sees an opening, and then unleashes a flurry of blows. If your riffs are just really funny jokes every 20 seconds or so, it'll still feel empty compared to a constant barrage of chuckles and sniffs. If you can average a joke every 5-7 seconds followed by a swift and punishing "uppercut" every so often, no audience will be able to resist you.

But there is no mathematical formula for a funny joke.  If there were, Microsoft would have copyrighted it by now.
There is actually quite a bit that can be said about leaving some open space then coming out of nowhere with a big joke.  I cut one funny joke down from 4 lines to just 1 specifically so I could have some empty air before the next (even funnier) joke, which was the type that needed dead air in front of it to work.


Quote
  • Avoid running over dialogue if at all possible, unless what you have to say is hysterical compared to what the character is doing.

That's a stylistic choice, really.  My personal rule is I won't stomp the dialogue if it has something to contribute to my funny.  Otherwise, it's fair game.  And I stomp so much dialogue in Krull, because it's largely pointless.

« Last Edit: November 17, 2008, 08:27:54 AM by Indomitus »


Offline Big Head Zach

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2008, 08:32:42 AM »
Rule 7...  Drop the rules and find your own flow.

Too true. The flow must...be spiced?

Quote
  • If your brand of riffing allows for voices, then do your best to sound something like the character on screen, at least in pitch or nasality. That way if there's several things going on, the audience can still follow what part of the action you're focusing on.

Or make them distinctive.  The audience will catch on.

Quote
  • Remember the Comedy Law of Threes: If you use a gag/shtick three times in quick succession, then you either should stop or change something dramatically for the fourth iteration.

The Rule of Three actually refers to the setup of a joke.  Once, straight, twice, straight, third time, contradict the first two.  My very first joke in my sophomore riff (still early in the writing process) is exactly and simply that.  Play it straight enough to set up a trend, then break the trend in a humorous way.
From the Wikipedia entry:
"In comedy, it is suggested that maximum humor can be attained by creating a structure in which a joke is set up, the setup is reinforced, and the punchline breaks the pattern."

But there are also ways to play against the audience's expectation that you will break the trend on the 3rd one.  As we've heard Mike & co. do from time to time, sometimes it's actually funny to scuttle a joke.

That's right. I knew I'd get the official law a bit confused. That being said, it's a good guideline to sprinkle twosies and foursies in there so the statisticians will pull their hair out. Bite me, it's fun. :)

Quote
  • If you're scripted, practice your script so you sound more organic. No one expects iRiffs to be performed by professional actors, but a little comfortability with the lines will help fool the audience into thinking you really are thinking that fast on your feet (which is what the Riff is intended to do).

Good advice.  And I'll go so far as to add...  BE SCRIPTED.  There are very few comedians in the world who can successfully ad lib through a routine, and I doubt any of them are here making iRiffs.
Say, buddy, do you know how to get to Carnegie?

Be scripted, but be prepared enough to deliver without reading from it as you do so.  It does show, even in an audio track.

Quote
  • Dead air is exactly that - death. A good prize-fighter won't stop to let his opponent recover from a well-placed punch in the gut; he constantly jabs and dances around until he sees an opening, and then unleashes a flurry of blows. If your riffs are just really funny jokes every 20 seconds or so, it'll still feel empty compared to a constant barrage of chuckles and sniffs. If you can average a joke every 5-7 seconds followed by a swift and punishing "uppercut" every so often, no audience will be able to resist you.

But there is no mathematical formula for a funny joke.  If there were, Microsoft would have copyrighted it by now.
There is actually quite a bit that can be said about leaving some open space then coming out of nowhere with a big joke.  I cut one funny joke down from 4 lines to just 1 specifically so I could have some empty air before the next (even funnier) joke, which was the type that needed dead air in front of it to work.

Most definitely. I wasn't insisting that there be jokes every 7 seconds on the dot, but that if you let the audience down from their humor arousal too long, they'll fall asleep. It takes practice and LOTS of experience to be able to come up with content that fires off with the rapidity of Mike Nelson and company. Extended pauses should be followed by something incredibly powerful or rapid-fire, to (in a sense) "reward" the audience for not drifting away too much.

Quote
  • Avoid running over dialogue if at all possible, unless what you have to say is hysterical compared to what the character is doing.

That's a stylistic choice, really.  My personal rule is I won't stomp the dialogue if it has something to contribute to my funny.  Otherwise, it's fair game.  And I stomp so much dialogue in Krull, because it's largely pointless.

Krull, you say? I'll have to check that out when it's done. HGP's latest (and first) project is 99.44% recorded and levelated, just needs a trim and re-synch here and there and then it'll be out.
"Big Head" Zach Gaskins
Writer/Co-Host (Board Games), Head Games Podcast

"Everything in this universe is like something from The Chronicles of Riddick by default, until mathematically proven otherwise."


Offline Invisible NanoGhost

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2008, 11:43:41 AM »
Rule 7...  Drop the rules and find your own flow.

  • Avoid running over dialogue if at all possible, unless what you have to say is hysterical compared to what the character is doing.

That's a stylistic choice, really.  My personal rule is I won't stomp the dialogue if it has something to contribute to my funny.  Otherwise, it's fair game.  And I stomp so much dialogue in Krull, because it's largely pointless.


I find it frustrating if the riffer speaks over dialogue that is significant to the show, even if it is not significant to any upcoming riff.  I agree there are times when the on-screen character is saying something so bland or obvious that anyone watching the show can guess pretty much what they are saying, and thus it doesn't hurt the story to riff over it.  But I've also been annoyed a few times by riffs which are running over some line where the viewer needs to know the specific comment.  I realize that by the time someone has riffed a movie, they've seen it so many times that they've memorized the plot (or lack of plot...), but this might be the first time the viewer has ever seen the movie.


Offline Indomitus

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2008, 04:38:27 PM »
Hence the reason why many viewers like to watch the movie by itself first, then watch the riff.

BUT the riff is at center stage when it's playing.  I do let important plot points sneak through, but often they'll end up being a target later on.


Quote
That's right. I knew I'd get the official law a bit confused. That being said, it's a good guideline to sprinkle twosies and foursies in there so the statisticians will pull their hair out. Bite me, it's fun. :)

Sometimes, the movie itself can provide part of that Rule of Three.  Be lazy.  Let the movie set up your joke.


Quote
Be scripted, but be prepared enough to deliver without reading from it as you do so.  It does show, even in an audio track.

I'd say it shows even more on an audio track, because some people will tend to deadpan more when they're reading.  Also, if you're looking down at a piece of paper, odds are you're not in the best position with the microphone.  Learn the basic jokes by heart as much as possible, and try to only rely on the actual script if there's some extended bit or sketch that doesn't need to directly match action on the screen.


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Krull, you say? I'll have to check that out when it's done.

Please do.  It was originally (long ago) going to be an old-school MST3K fan riff, so some parts of the script are older than dirt, though most of it was re-written.  It's been polished to bejeezus and back, and is nearly ready to fly.  Just need to re-record a small part of the intro (to help set up a couple gags during the riff  ;) ), then create the PAL version, and it'll be ready to put up.
Sure I'm biased, but this one's really great; I still laugh at certain jokes even after having watched it nearly 2 dozen times in the past few days.  To be honest, I think my second, third and so on will be more realistic tests of whether I can turn out a good riff in a reasonable amount of time.


Quote
HGP's latest (and first) project is 99.44% recorded and levelated, just needs a trim and re-synch here and there and then it'll be out.

As soon as Krull is up, I plan to start looking through the iRiffs.  After I catch up on my Rifftrax, of course, because I'm still way back on Iron Man.  (and for the record, because a couple riffs are similar, I watched Iron Man AFTER writing and recording Krull.)



Offline bratpop

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #22 on: November 18, 2008, 12:09:57 AM »
I'm doing a skit over a scene in my iRiff just because the monologue bored me so much and there were no gaps in it, I figured screw it. There's no narrative to follow anyway. It's basically the same as the Architect scene in Reloaded. If you listened to the recent interview with Bill, he said they just had to step on his lines to make with the funny. Otherwise, all my riffs are in the gaps between dialogue. Which I admit I want to break sometimes because it's a bit scripted and annoying, but that's pretty much how they always do it.


Offline Invisible NanoGhost

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #23 on: November 18, 2008, 02:05:11 PM »
I'm doing a skit over a scene in my iRiff just because the monologue bored me so much and there were no gaps in it, I figured screw it. There's no narrative to follow anyway. [...]

I did think the rifftrax for one of the StarWars movie was pretty funny when Mike recited an entire recipe while the movie was showing a long dramatic light-saber fight...   ;D


Offline Big Head Zach

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #24 on: November 18, 2008, 02:32:42 PM »
Our upcoming iRiff contains a moderate sprinkling of obscure facts about the caves in Townsend, Tennessee. Trust me, it hurts less than the alternative on the screen/speakers.
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Offline bratpop

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #25 on: November 20, 2008, 07:57:35 AM »
OMIGOD, change of subject.

Punchwords. If you want any of your jokes to be the least bit funny, pay attention to punchwords. A punchword is the word in the punchline of a joke that is funniest. Such words include "poop," "vagina," and "Cheney." For maximum laughter and coherence, word your jokes so that the punchword falls at or near the end. Instead of saying, "Cheney would have been better suited for this guy's job," say something like, "This guy's job would be better suited for Cheney." This way "Cheney" comes as a surprise instead of being followed by an explanation of why you suddenly mentioned Cheney. Improper punchword placement can force many good jokes to become merely amusing poop.

Try to cut down on your unnecessarily excessive usage of verbage. Get to the bones of the joke. Why did the chicken cross the road? "So that he could arrive at his desired location on the other side of the road," doesn't flow very well. Reduce this to something more catchy, such as, "Because."

Make sure to allow some room for laughter after the funnier jokes, such as ones utilizing the words, "poop," "vagina," or "Sarah Palin."


Offline Mass Riffer Mafia

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #26 on: December 01, 2008, 07:55:52 PM »
Quote
Here are some of my tips, by category:

WRITING
-Always watch the movie (or short) through at least once before you start to write riffs. It gets you familiar with the material and allows you to be more "sophisticated" in your writing, planning ahead for callbacks or running gags.
-If a riff seems too easy, think hard whether or not it's stolen (I find myself unwittingly cribbing MST riffs all the time!)
-If you get hung up on a particular moment, just move on. It's very unpleasant and inefficient to stare at the screen for twenty minutes trying to think up a joke. Move on, and the perfect riff will hit you later when you're doing something else. Promise!
-Find a compromise between too simple and too clever. Instead of "She's really old!," try "Time for Nana's pudding" or something that makes the listener think a little.
-Bill frequently reminds the contributing writers that our mission is not to savage a film, it's to be funny. Not every joke has to rip the movie a new one. Just try to make each moment as much fun as it can be.

RECORDING
-Rehearse your riff several times. It's time consuming, but you'll be glad you did. Record the rehearsals if you like.
-A good headset mic will cost no more than $50, and will make the process much easier.
-Be very aware of your levels. Do some test recordings to make sure you're not clipping or distorting your voice. If there are multiple riffers, take the time to get everyone's levels even.
-Use whatever software is available to you, but I recommend something with timeline-based editing and multiple tracks so you can record your commentary on it's own track and edit as heavily as you need to. Sony Vegas is the best IMHO, but Audacity does the job and is free.

EDITING (for videos mixed with riffs)
-Find a good balance between your riff audio and the movie audio. Older films (like shorts) aren't as dynamic as modern movies in terms of sound, so you'll probably be able to find a good level that is consistent throughout. As Rifftrax reauthorers know, mixing a riff with the bombastic soundtrack of a modern action flick takes a lot of work to get the sound even throughout.

So the riff writing doesn't have to be done in chronological order?


Offline Indomitus

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #27 on: December 01, 2008, 10:20:43 PM »
So the riff writing doesn't have to be done in chronological order?
No way.  In fact, you might think of something really funny for the end of the movie, and might need to go back and write a few lines earlier in your script to set it up.  In that case, you're writing the end first then adding the bits before it.

Find your flow and go with it.  It's the end product that counts, and everybody's writing/recording/editing processes will vary according to their own style and resources.  (One of the reasons I'm staying solo, for now at least.)


Offline Steve-O

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #28 on: December 01, 2008, 10:27:17 PM »
My tip: Be funny. The rest is just frosting.


Offline RoninFox

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Re: Help make this section useful
« Reply #29 on: December 01, 2008, 10:30:16 PM »
There are great advantages to having other writers too.  More than once now I've been editing scripts together and seen a one liner from the other writers script that sparked a reaction riff from me, or two jokes that could be combined to make one that was funnier than either of them.
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