If you’ve been in ventriloquism for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about the joke file. Comedians of all types have a joke file. It is a way to keep track of jokes you write or hear.

Let me stress that when you hear a joke – it isn’t okay to steal it. But throughout the history of comedy, acts have adapted material to fit their own style. Just because someone tells a drunk joke doesn’t mean no one else can. But you can’t use the bit word for word with the same timing and pacing. (Unless you get permission from the author or buy the joke.)

I’m not here to talk about ethics though, I’m here to discuss organizing your joke file.

After awhile, chances are you find yourself with notebooks full of ideas. Or maybe file folders. How do you keep everything organized?

We are all different. My friend Steve Petra tells me he has ADD. He once described how most people compartmentalize thoughts. He told me his brain was like a wide open space with ideas floating all around that bump into one another. As a result, he comes up with combinations that other people never see. To me he is an idea genius.

His style of thinking wouldn’t benefit me. It may benefit someone else.

I believe our joke files should work like we do. What works for one person may be a tedious mess for another. Ken Groves once mentioned he categorizes jokes such as: golf jokes, doctor jokes, etc. At one time he did it in tabbed folders and he now uses a spreadsheet. A simple search for a term can call up every joke that contains the word or concept.

Some people use an app known as Evernote. It can be searched for terms and holds everything you may want to save from written jokes to cartoons to pictures.

Personally, I don’t organize my jokes. I enjoy going through my notebooks several times a year and refreshing my memory. At one point I had so many lines in my head, that ad-libs flew out constantly. My memory isn’t that good anymore even though I still know a lot of material.

When I am working on a routine, the jokes usually come back to me, or I have an idea of where they are. I think that also helps me avoid doing a joke the same way as others. It has been in my head so long it gets twisted around naturally.

What you do should be up to you. Make it an easy process you won’t mind doing. That way, you won’t let the work backlog and you’ll find yourself in better control of your material.