The Robin Williams Rules

Sep 24, 2012 | Better Writing

I’ve been a fan of Robin Williams for a very long time and I’ve watched dozens of his stand-up routines. Once when I watched several in sequence I noticed something fascinating: the way a top comedian develops material.

First something might happen spontaneously. It would be small, perhaps a phrase or a comparison. Then, that same bit of material would show up in a later presentation, but this time in slightly different form.

If you’re a standup comic, you don’t have to worry about feedback. You get some every time you go on. So Williams would know if that bit was working or not. If not, you didn’t hear it again. But if it worked, it would start showing up.

Each time it showed up, it would be a little different. With trials and feedback it might ultimately become a major part of the act.

That’s a good model for how you can develop material. You will have good ideas and if you capture them, you can develop them. If you write regularly you will have good things show up on the page that you didn’t plan. You can develop those, too.

Here are my two Robin Williams Rules

Capture the good stuff.

Develop it until you’re done.

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