It doesn’t surprise me that there is a formula to help mass produce comedy. When I talked to a friend of mine (who’s a bigger fan of the late night monologue format than myself), he didn’t like the idea that there’s a set of people pumping out joke after joke, most of which are discarded, only to have a couple presented by one person without credit to the writers. I can see where he’s coming from, but I believe that anything—even if it’s “creative”—can be put into a recipe. The difference is that each host has a unique tone, unique voice, that can carry or change jokes to suit them better.
Compare John Oliver who likes to throw around analogies and scream to Jimmy Fallon who happily laughs at his own bits and keeps it more family friendly. Give a handful of people the same joke and they’ll deliver it differently.
In Talking Funny (starring Louis CK, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld) Jerry retells one of Louis’ jokes (8:54) to which Louis says “That’s a completely Seinfelded version. I mean, you really polished it up, you made it nice.” Even though Jerry loved the joke and heard it countless times, his voice tells it differently. Here is the comparison.
So while monologue comedy is formulaic, and seemingly heartless in how its produced, I think it requires funny, unique voices to make them and sell them. Another post this week suggested that perhaps a robot could in the future make jokes, and that’s possible, but I’m not sure that the tone and energy could ever sell it.