Unique comedy has its place, with people who know how to do it well (like Steve Martin).
But I think most comedy fits a template like this for a reason.
The audience wants to know where the joke is headed. They want to see it coming. They anticipate the punchline. They revel in the suspense. And they rejoice when that tension releases.
If you think about it, a joke is nothing more than a short story.
And stories most definitely have a template.
I get though, in Steve’s case here.
To be unique is to stand out. Plain and simple, it separates you from the pack.
And don’t we all want to be remembered?
These notions stayed with me for months, until they formed an idea that revolutionized my comic direction: What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. This type of laugh seemed stronger to me, as they would be laughing at something they chose, rather than being told exactly when to laugh.
-Steve Martin, Born Standing Up (Amazon)