Take It From the Experts: HBO’s “Talking Funny”

Talking Funny is a 49-minute HBO special featuring Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. sitting around and talking about comedy.

They chat about the moments they first felt like real comedians and what they like and dislike about each other’s work.

Also, they do impressions of each other, which rules.

And while I’d have loved to see *literally any* female or nonbinary comic included, the video is absolutely worth a watch for comedy nerds!

NOTE: Yep, Louis C.K. was part of this discussion. This was filmed before we all knew he was/is a big ol’ creep.

SECOND NOTE: There’s a part of the discussion that includes the N-word around minute 16. The discussion moves to curse words in general at minute 17.

So what can you learn from 4 masters of the comedic craft?

Here are my takeaways. Yours might be different, but that’s why this is my blog + not yours

Different comedians build their acts in different ways — While C.K. and Chris Rock both write a new hourlong act every year, Seinfeld tosses 10-20% of his act each year and replaces it with new jokes


Wanna get better? Build on the best material you have — Louis C.K. regularly makes himself use his former closing bit as a new opening bit, “just to fuck myself”


Jerry Seinfeld sure likes to talk over people (though we knew this from Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee)


You can have a great joke, but if you don’t set it up right, it won’t hit because the audience doesn’t understand the premise. Context is everything.


To Ricky Gervais, truly great comedy isn’t about being funny, because some things are always funny (ex. personifying animals). It’s about “going out and doing something no one else can do.”


In that same vein, jokes that depend purely on profanity aren’t good enough


Chris Rock’s take on racist jokes: “Talk about what [people] do, not what they are


Have you watched this special? It’s been on my list forever.

Interested to know what you got from it! Leave a comment and let me know. I promise I’ll actually check the draft comments this time. ????

(Side note: I feel like Seinfeld wakes up in the morning and looks in the mirror and growls, “You’re Jerry Fucking Seinfeld, you glorious bastard.”)


  1. Ian Reply January 23, 2019 - 9:14 am

    “And while I’d have loved to see *literally any* female or nonbinary comic included, the video is absolutely worth a watch for comedy nerds!”

    Don’t be so cringeworthy.

  2. Tyler Reply May 6, 2020 - 6:46 pm

    Who’s the “woke” cunt that wrote this nonsense 😂

    • lianna Reply May 7, 2020 - 12:16 am

      La la la, just gonna leave this here as evidence of what it’s like to be a lady on the Internet. While noting that the author wasn’t brave enough to attach his real email address.

  3. i Reply November 1, 2020 - 9:58 pm

    Really good takeaways. Gotta agree with these comments, even if they are worded without tact, the comment about female / non-binary was forced and cringeworthy.

    • lianna Reply November 2, 2020 - 4:17 pm

      I’m not sure why you keep coming back to this post years later to leave your shitty opinions, Ian McGrinty. Seems like this really bothers you! I wonder why!

  4. Brandon Reply November 20, 2023 - 10:07 am

    This special came out before people were out as nonbinary. Most people had never even heard of the concept at that time.

    • lianna Reply November 20, 2023 - 3:25 pm

      Untrue! Putting women aside (lol as usual), public/journalistic recognition of non-binary and/or gender-nonconforming folks began in the mid-1980s. By the early aughts, the New York Times was writing about them. Also, you can include people with different gender identities regardless of whether they’re out or not.

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