Let us take a point from “The Art of Flirtation” and see how it is constructed. The very first line the straight-man speaks when he comes out on the stage unmistakably declares his relation to the comedian. When he shows the book, he explains precisely what it is. And while laugh after laugh is worked out of it, the precise things that the book teaches are made clear.
No. It ain’t ten cent love.
It’s fine love. (Opens book)
See—here is the destructions. Right oil the first page you
learn something. See—how to flirt with a handkerchief.
Who wants to flirt with a handkerchief?
I want to flirt with a
Listen to what the book says. To a flirter all things have got a language. According to this book flirters can speak with the eye, with the fan, with the cane, with the umbrella, with the handkerchief, with anything; this book tells you how to do it.
For ten cents.
Note that the straight-man does not say, “with the eye, cane, umbrella—” and so on through the list. He says “With the eye, with the fan, with the cane—.” There can be no mistake—as there might be if the items were enumerated swiftly. Each one is given importance by the “with the eye, with the fan.” The words “with the” lend emphasis and a humorous weight.
Shut up. Now when you see a pretty
woman coming along who wants
to flirt with you, what is the first thing a man should do?
Run the other way.
No, no. This is the handkerchief flirtation. . . .
You see precisely what the subject of this particular point is because it is stated in unmistakable words.
. . .As soon as a pretty woman makes eyes
at you, you put your
hands in your pockets.
And hold on to your money.
Now this is a big laugh at every performance—a sure-fire laugh when it is well done. Note that it is the fourth line the comedian has after the specific point introduction, “. . .See—how to flirt with a handkerchief?” Now the line “Who wants to flirt with a handkerchief? I want to flirt with a woman,” is not intended to be a real laugh-line. It serves as an audience settler, gives emphasis to the explanation of just what the book tells and helps to blend into the next line.
There’s a first laugh on, “For ten cents.” A bigger laugh comes on, “Run the other way.” And the bigest—in this point-division— on the third laugh line “And hold on to your money.”
2. Blending into the Following Point
When you have a big laugh, you must make the next line carry you on smoothly into the succeeding lint. It matters not whether the points are all related to the same general subject or not—although we are considering here only the single-routine two-act—you must take great care that each point blends into the following one with logical sequence.