Whether you are writing horror, fantasy, romance, stand-up or about your life, nearly every written work benefits from some uplifting comedy. Writing comedy to get readers to roll on the floor with laughter (ROFL) is one of the most difficult skills to master. A lot of folks are born with the sensibility to be frustrated, moody, serious, confused or scared, which are elements that make great writing.
But comedy? Some people believe that if you did not have a funny environment growing up, you most likely won’t have it to use when you create stuff. However, anyone with even the least sense of humor, anyone who laughs a lot and likes jokes can absolutely learn to be funnier. Here is a course entitled Not Later. Write Now that helps you concentrate and write, even with a lot of distraction around you.
How to write comedy? The truth is, writing something funny is a bit like trying to figure out why folks start falling in love. You may be able to do this but after it happens, you start feeling foolish about having fallen for that someone, or that punch line. Others believe that when writing comedy, every syllable counts. As the saying goes, ‘there’s money in funny.’ The person who can write in such a way that people laugh definitely has an edge over other people that find this a not-so-easy task. So if you are funnily-challenged when it comes to writing, what can you possibly do about this? Well, you can take a course such as this one called Ultimate Beginner’s Class to Learn Stand Up Comedy, which shows you how to make people laugh using stories.
You might say that writing comedy goes hand in hand with risk and danger. This is because when you write comedy, you are putting a part of your personality on the line, so to speak. This is why it won’t come naturally for you to write humor if you have a personality that is cautious. Nonetheless, the skill of writing comedy, whether fictional or not, is something you can sharpen with a few simple concepts.
Be Really Observant
People find it funny when you write about situations they can relate to. This is why so many comedians doing stand-up begin their jokes with, ‘Why is that..?’ or, ‘Have you ever noticed..?’
Jokes Using Clichés
Misdirection is something comedy relies on. What better method of achieving this than using phrases already known by your readers? Every reader assumes, for example, that the phrase, ‘You can lead a horse to water’ ends with ‘but you can’t make him drink.’ Taking this phrase where it is not expected to go is both amusing and attention-grabbing.
The Rule of 3
Usually, writing comedy requires establishing patterns and then getting the readers misdirected with punch lines. One way you can do this simply is to pair 2 ideas that are alike with the third being in-congruent. One sentence that uses the rule of 3 is:
- “It is simple to lose weight: exercise more, eat less and pay NASA to provide you with an anti-gravity chamber you can live in.”
Jokes Have a Structure
When writing jokes, remember that there is a format. Jokes have a punch line and this comes after the set up. This holds true even in 1-sentence jokes. Don’t rush to the punch line. This is why the Henny Youngman classic gag is not, ‘Please take my wife.” Instead it is, ‘Take my wife…please.’
Also, remember to use correct formatting and make your comedic words legible. Messy layouts and sloppy mistakes in spelling make it look like you could care less, which is not the message you want to send out. There is also such a thing called comedic timing. This can be as basic as saying a funny sentence, phrase or word out loud at the least expected moment. Before a punch line, you can force a pause but if you are storytelling, you can apply the element of surprise to use this technique, which takes the readers in a totally funny, unexpected path. Here is a course called How to Write Faster at Work for writers that want to get their writing done much faster!
Don’t Be Too Obvious
Hearing a joke that they’ve heard before won’t make an audience laugh. Rather, avoiding clichés, being creative and original is something that generates laughter. Also, sometimes all it takes to get a giggle or two is to be a bit weird. Imagery that is surreal such as standing behind a Viking as you line up at the DMV should do the trick.
Writing an everyday life event like being a dog sitter, may not be that funny. However, taking care of 12 dogs while trying to do some house cleaning before your boss comes for a visit sounds hilarious.
Let Jokes Develop On Their Own
When you struggle to be funny as you write a script, a full joke written based on a punch line almost never works. It is better for the humor to come from the character you are writing about than the other way around. Characters that are developed fully with quirky, specific traits will tend to say something funny naturally. Comedy also grows out of a situation’s conflict. Some of the best writers for comedy write scenes without really trying to be funny, waiting for the opportunity for a joke to present itself from one of the characters. If what you are writing at the moment does not seem to be funny to you, take a break. Take a shower, a walk or a nap and come back later when you have a clearer mind. Here is an article that talks about writer’s block and how this can be overcome.
Humor = Pain
It’s unfortunate but true that most folks find the suffering of others funny. Yes, it is cruel, which sometimes makes things even funnier. Think about it, which do you find funny: someone walking down the street finding a quarter or someone walking down the street and tripping over a banana peel? Accentuating the negatives in a situation is also funny to most people. Cruel but true. On the other hand, once you try this trick, you will most likely find it to be easier to get people to laugh when you write about negativity rather than positivity. Remember celebrity roasts? Same concept. This show would not be as funny if all the celebs got was glowing praise.
Some Words are Funnier than Others
Do you agree that hen is a funnier word than chicken? Watch any classic sitcom or great comedy movie and across the board you will find that a lot of the jokes rely on ‘funny words.’ Also, it turns out that words using the sounds of C and K are considered funny. As a rule, comedic writers don’t brainstorm to end their jokes with sounds of C and K, but when you pitch jokes, keep in mind that the minds of your audience will find words using these sounds quite funny. Aside from sounds of K and C, find funny sounding words, like ‘rhubarb’ to use as you write. Words such as these are also known as inherently funny words. these are generally found amusing without any given reason or context. Words such as these have been used by a range of popular comedians to enhance their routines. These include words like succotash, kumquats, duck, guacamole and kidney.
So Are Numbers
There are comedic cycles to numbers. For instance, whole numbers are funnier than fractions. The number 23 is funnier than the number 20. The book ‘Catch 22’ was originally entitled ‘Catch-18’ until the author decided 22 was a funnier number than 18. Folks sometimes giggle just by hearing numbers like 37 or 69 said out loud.
Read and Write
Even just for a few minutes a day, it is a good idea to write. Think of this as exercising your funny muscles. Also, read stuff that make you laugh. Whether it is novels by Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams, screenplays by Judd Apatow or Woody Allen or an essay by David Sedaris or Dave Barry, it is a good idea to keep yourself exposed to comedy greats.
There is nothing like using specific allusions to improve a joke. You get a bigger laugh if you use a bigger allusion. Many times, people attempting comedy writing for the first time write jokes using allusions. For example, if you are writing a joke about a dog, being more specific about the dog breed will be funnier. In other words, saying Chihuahua, Poodle or Schnauzer is a lot funnier to read and hear than merely the word ‘dog.’ Also, the sentence, ‘I found a carp in my Mercedes’ is much funnier sounding than, ‘I found a fish in my car.’
Read Your Stuff Aloud
A lot of comedy writing is not so much about what you say but how it is said. It’s all about the way a certain phrase turns out, rhythm, delivery and how you say something. There is just no substitute for hearing something out loud. As a matter of fact, I would say this is vital. Even if you just sit down and read it to your dog, or get some friends to check if they laugh in all the right places. If you have only been reading your sentences in your head, don’t be surprised if silence follows lines you thought were roll-on-the-floor hilarious.
Structure Your Time
Now that you have decided to write comedy, don’t just start and stop when you feel like it. Rather, structure your day in such a way that you have a schedule to follow. For instance, write a paragraph a day. You will be surprised how much things come together when you do some planning. Your new best friend should be a to-do list. Finishing a task daily, even if it is to write an outline of an episode and ticking off your tasks done will make you feel like you are in control and oh-so-productive. You know, it is really about the little things. Here is a course entitled Write Your Life Story that shows you how to write your biography and the process of tailoring this for your audience.