British screenwriter, comedian and producer was once quoted as saying, “I’m struck by how laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.”
Suffice it to say, levity makes every subject easier to digest, communicate and handle. Therefore, as writers, even if we don’t find ourselves naturally humorous, we would do well to learn to embrace this powerful tool. This article explores the nuances of parody and humor in writing. Of course, knowing that humor can improve your writing and actually understanding how to infuse humorous merits into your writing are two very different animals. That’s where this content comes into play, it gives you the “how to” with regard to writing funny.
Commandments of Writing With Humor
Keep It Subtle
When you think humor, if your mind immediately goes to the slapstick antics of Larry, Curly and Mo, you might be off base. Good humor is understated and subtle, not exaggerated and silly. Also, don’t over-explain the punch line as there is no quicker way to break the effect. A good rule of thumb to remember when it comes to subtle and understated humor, according to The Write Practice is: “If you can’t explain what makes it funny, then you know it’s good.”
Embrace The Element of Surprise
In the same way we all enjoy a good surprise party, an unexpected twist in our favorite show, or seeing the scale go down after a great weekend of cheat eating, good humor often includes a component of the unexpected. Comedian Ken Davis once shared the secret behind the art of witticism: Set the scene for your audience, then promptly pull the rug right out from under them. In other words, spend around 90% of your composition telling your reader to look to the right, then suddenly bring something in from the left to fulfill the remaining 10% of the story, assuring your readers never saw the “shift” coming.
It Isn’t All Natural
If you are like me, you might have assumed that you either are naturally funny or you aren’t, there really isn’t any in between. In reality, though, as I have learned through these helpful articles and research on the topic of humor and writing, humor, like anything else, requires practice to perfect. Chris Rock, who is a well-known comedian, actually spends five nights a week practicing his delivery so that he can hit it out of the park on his weekend shows. He is super successful yet is still practicing humor.
Monitor the Mundane
Have you ever thought about what makes Jerry Seinfeld successful as a comedian? He’s not overly animated or creative, nor can he do a killer impression. But he is funny because he communicates jokes about and focuses on the mundane elements of life, the experiences with which we all can relate. The terrible bus ride to work, the inevitable problems that arise in life, car troubles, money issues, relationship nightmares, etc. When you write content, include elements that your reader will relate to as this will resonate with your reader, leading them to remember, embrace and better accept what is written.
Don’t Avoid Metaphors
There are many general rules we have all heard as writers, one of them is to avoid metaphors and similes in professional content. This isn’t a good idea, though, if your goal is pithy composition that will cause your readers to chuckle. Sure, you can overdo the metaphor, so don’t add more than one or two per several hundred words. Don’t feel you have to avoid them altogether, though. In general, a creative simile or well-composed metaphor will very rarely make a subject or pointless funny and it might just make it more memorable.
An article by New York Book Editors, explains that it is important to actually study the art of humor in order to duplicate it in your own writing. In the same notion that practice makes perfect, studying what you think something is funny can take you far as it relates to adding badinage into your composition. Answer the following questions about material you find funny, whether this material is in a blog, on a t-shirt, or in a tweet:
- Is there a formula you can duplicate in your own writing?
- What’s unique or interesting in how the joke/humor is delivered?
- What makes this joke resonate with you?
Take notes on your answers and see what you can use in your own writing. In general, if something makes you laugh, it will also cause your reader to chuckle. Therefore, understanding the basics of what you find funny can be helpful.
Understand Your Audience
Not every audience will embrace or appreciate your humor. Everyone’s different. Therefore, when composing an article, knowing your audience, defining what they would find funny, what is going on in their lives, etc. is important. Take the time before composing your content to explore this element and then hone your pithy quips to land in your reader’s wheelhouse and not out in left field.
Even if you have never tried infusing humor into your content before, now is your day to give it a go.
Brandie P’s career as a freelance writer spans several years and encompasses an abundance of niche specialties. Before beginning her writing career, she was an office manager and worked in the medical field. Her experience in these two fields have come in handy when writing topics pertaining to these fields.