Humour Writing Tips

by | October 15, 2006

Anyone for bungee-shopping?

What’s the plural of “Johnny-on-the-spot”?

I’m amazed at people who buy accordian files; imagine knowing that many people who play the accordian, that you’d need an entire file for them!

Comedy – it’s all around us every day – IF you just look and listen.

As sophisticated as entertainment, education and advertising have become, one basic fact remains true: HUMOR SELLS! In this day of economic stress, political unrest, increasing crime and Kathy Lee and Regis, people NEED and WANT more humor in their lives.

If you are or aspire to become a humor writer, you’re plunging into a world that’s madcap, zany and can actually make you a few bucks.

TIP 1: WRITE DOWN everything you find funny every day. Really. Do it. Get those little pads of colorful self-adhesive notes and keep one with you at all times. Yes, even in the bathroom (bathroom humor is big with kids). Just jot down anything funny that might come to mind in the course of your boring, useless existence; it may come in handy someday when you’re wrestling with a line in a sitcom or trying to come up with a funny premise for a skit. If you think of something when you’re driving, pull over and WRITE IT DOWN – it’s that important.

TIP 2: KEEP A HUMOR FILE. This is so you have somewhere to put those dozens of little pieces of pink and yellow paper. Don’t worry about sorting them out or trying to make sense of them right away. If they make too much sense, they’re not funny. Just keep shoving them in, and when you need inspiration or hit a writing snag, pull out the file and start laughing!

TIP 3: REMEMBER THAT PEOPLE LAUGH WHEN THEY’RE SURPRISED. Whether humor is spoken, written or physically acted out, people laugh when they know they’ve been tricked into thinking one thing will happen, when another does instead. Lead them down the garden path, then open the trap door and let them fall in.

TIP 4: DON’T TRY TOO HARD. When humor in a piece is too contrived or unnatural, it simply isn’t funny.

TIP 5: PLAY WITH WORDS. Ad writers get paid thousands of dollars for coming up with headlines and concepts that are based on unusual or unorthodox uses of everyday words and phrases. This is especially useful when writing humorous titles; for a comedic look at hockey, The buck stops here becomes The puck stops here! Experiment on paper – free associate and have fun with cliches.

TIP 6: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. Last year, I was discouraged by the number of rejections I’d received for two particularly funny articles I’d written. I tried an experiment; using the editing tips I outline on my editing page, I cut each article’s length in half. I sent them off and sold them both within a few weeks. If something is too long, it isn’t funny; shorter pieces pack more punch. (This rule applies to most writing, not just humor, but it’s particularly critical where comedy is concerned).

And remember – light yogurt is great – throw in a little chocolate syrup, you’d never know it was calorie-reduced!