A Joke’s Long Journey

Comic Myq Kaplan takes the scenic route when it comes to working out new stage material

February 7, 2013
mkaplan

When Brooklyn-based comedian Myq Kaplan has an idea for a joke, his first step is to speak it directly into a digital voice recorder. Next, he’ll work out the idea in front of an audience, taping himself in case any new ideas emerge. He repeats this process for every joke until he fills up his recorder. Then, he listens to everything and writes it all down in a notebook.

When the notebook is full (which he says happens once or twice a year), he spends an intensive week typing all the jokes into a file on his computer — a modern twist on the practice of cataloging jokes in file cabinets, famously employed by Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers.

“My all-jokes file from the early 2000s to now is probably over 400 pages, typed,” says Kaplan, who hosts the podcast “Hang Out With Me.” “My method … utilizes the best of all of these tools that I have at my disposal: my speaking brain, my typing brain and my writing brain.”

Throughout the process, the former “Last Comic Standing” finalist edits and rewrites on the fly. It’s a calculated approach to joke-writing that’s almost like putting together a puzzle without the picture; he keeps rearranging the pieces and adding and subtracting until the bit takes shape.

Speaking to Kaplan, who performs in Arlington this weekend, it’s easy to see why constant repetition and editing work for him. He self-edits as he speaks, often pausing and correcting himself if he realizes he’s delivered something in a way he’s not satisfied with. When asked about how he started his earlier career as a musician, he replies: “I began my life as a” — pause — “well, as a fetus, but then after that …”

It makes sense, then, that puns and word jokes are among his favorite types of humor.

“When I started out, I would come up with thousands of word jokes,” says Kaplan, whose first album, “Vegan Mind Meld,” was released in 2010. “Maybe 1 percent of them [were] things that other people would like, but I would try them anyway. At this point, I’ll share them on a more limited basis: ‘This is for Twitter, but not to be said out loud. This one is just to be texted to my friend who has the same sense of humor as me, but nobody else. Don’t tell anyone these unless you run out of everything else.’ ”

Good thing he has 400 pages of material to fall back on.

Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington; Fri. & Sat., 10 p.m., $20; 703-486-2345.
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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Rudi Greenberg | February 7, 2013