A good joke reminds comedian Will Durst of poetry.
"We highlight active verbs, there's economy of language and leading with an impression of a feeling," Durst says. "That's what a poem does."
Durst showcases his poetic humor at the Marsh Theater every Tuesday until Election Day (Nov. 6) with his show Elect to Laugh.
When Durst started doing comedy, it was during the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, so many of his jokes were political.
"It was rock 'n' rollers who wanted to sit down and hear the lyrics," he says about his audience then.
Durst hopes to bring such people back to stand-up comedy with his material. He is not confessional, like some of the young comics starting out, he says.
"They get involved with the presentation and authenticity," he says. "For me, it's the joke. I'm joke, joke, joke. I call myself a joke hose with a Thesaurus. I like language."
To familiarize himself with the kind of language people are using and what issues concern them in politics, Durst reads the comment sections of newspapers. His reading material includes the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
And this informs what Durst likes about the weekly show at the Marsh: the need to be timely.
"I have to tweak and tune it every week, and I like having to respond to what's going on," he says. "I like the pressure."
With Mitt Romney as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Durst will focus more on him along with President Barack Obama -- although Rick Perry, Newt Gingrinch, Ron Paul, and the rest of the former candidates will still make appearances. Durst says he particularly will miss Perry. He has cut down the jokes on him from five minutes to about two. He says he will especially regret getting rid of a joke about Perry threatening for his state of Texas to secede from the union -- Durst wondered whether such a move could be be reciprocal.
Politics has always fascinated Durst -- so much so that he once ran for mayor of San Francisco.
The political landscape "is like a soap opera with these characters, and sometimes you think they are dead and they come back as another character or something," he says. "This year has been especially fecund with Donald Trump, who George Will just called a bloviating ignoramus, and Rick Perry, who's George Bush's evil twin, and then there's Newt Gingrinch and his open marriage with offshore accounts."
Will Durst's Elect to Laugh starts at 8 p.m. Tuesdays (and continues through Nov. 6) at the Marsh Theater, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), S.F. Admission is $15-$35.