Once, a friend was taking a Humor Writing course, and I attended one with her because I had nothing better to do at the time.
I don’t remember much, other than the class was SO EFFING BORING YOU GUYS SERIOUSLY.
Like, the teacher was this old guy with the “Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?” voice, and nothing he was talking about was funny. At all. Except making fun of it afterwards. That was funny. Because my friend and I were HYSTERICAL. But that’s really neither here nor there.
The only two things I remember him saying were things you ABSOLUTELY HAD TO DO TO MAKE SOMETHING YOU ARE WRITING FUNNY was to make up nonsense words, and to use a lot of alliteration.
So, using his rules (I’m sure there were more, but I was drawing unflattering but super-accurate and awesome caricatures of him on notepaper I stole from my friend through most of the class so I don’t remember anything else) the sentence “I was beaten by a group of thugs outside the drugstore last Tuesday” is NOT funny, but “I was roughed-up by ruffians, rather raucously, rowrgh!” IS HYSTERICAL.
So of course after the class my friend and I tried to think of the worst situations we could, then make them funny by applying the RULES OF COMEDY to them. Like cancer, and stabbings. OH! Also, I remember him saying the word “Cheetos” was never NOT funny. So I guess you were also always supposed to say the word Cheetos in everything you wrote.
Now, there’s always a lot of debate whether writing humor can be taught, or it’s something that you just either have, or you don’t. Here’s the thing. I think almost anything can be taught. But I think, with humor writing, you also have to know what’s funny before you start. Like, you can take a shit-ton of creative writing classes if you want to write fiction, but if you don’t have an ear for dialogue or any idea how to come up with plot points without them having holes so big you could pilot the Titanic through them or maybe you just TOTALLY SUCK AT WRITING, probably no amount of classes you take, and no amount of good books that you read, is going to fix that. I think there’s more than a little innate talent in every good writer, whether they’re writing the next Great Gatsby or the next Me Talk Pretty One Day.
But this does not stop the internet in trying to tell you how to be funny. No, no no. The internet wants you to know how you can write things that are funny, and that you DON’T NEED ANY INNATE TALENT. And who am I to argue with the internet? No one. No one at all.
Now, people tell me I am funny. And I’m inclined to agree, only because a., I crack myself up daily, b., my dad is hysterical, and I sound more like him every day, and c., people keep reading my blog, so probably it doesn’t totally suck a bag of dicks. So here, I’d like to help you be funny, too. Because I can’t even tell you how many people are all “AMY! I wish I could be as FUNNY as you! Isn’t Amy HYSTERICAL!” And I’m totally helpful. If it helps, I wish you were all as funny as me, too. Funny people are my favorites. If you were all funny, I would love you MORE. It’s lonely up here on top of Candy Mountain, Charlieeeeee.
Plus, although I’m already totally the most hysterical? Maybe I can be FUNNIER. So we’re learning TOGETHER, my little hamhocks!
So, you already know that you have to use a lot of alliteration (repetition of a consonant sound in the first syllables of words in a phrase), say “Cheetos” a lot, and make up nonsense words. Awesome. You’re totally already on your way.
Next, we get advice from here, where the writer tells us the following:
Write a comedy piece, then re-read it and edit it at least fifteen times. Um. That seems…excessive? Fifteen times? If I re-read something I write twice, it’s a good day with a lot of free time, seriously. FIFTEEN TIMES? I can assure you that nothing I say would be funny if I had to read it fifteen times. I’d probably want to stab myself in the eye.
“Humor is based on truth, literalness, humility, objectivity and possibility” (she goes on to say that these are all traits we have as children) So…we should write humor as if we are children? Hmm. Well, I do have to say that The Nephew is just about the funniest, without even trying to be. Also, he totally cracks himself up regularly. Which is awesome, and apparently hereditary. So ok, point taken, I will write more children’s humor. Here’s one that cracked The Nephew up over the holidays: “I made you this Lego dog! Want to see me smash it? Aw! Now I am sad, I have smashed my Lego dog! Boo hoo hoo hoo!” Good one, right? I know. The Nephew certainly thought so. It made him laugh so hard he tipped over and kicked up his little heels and say “Again! Again!” I win aunting.
In order to understand how to write humor, you have to understand why people laugh when they are physically tickled (she goes on to say that you laugh when you are tickled because it is a physical assault and you’re not allowed to physically retaliate, so laughing is the only defense you’re able to put up) How does this analogy work, exactly, then? Humor writing, like tickling, is a physical assault, and you’re not allowed to attack the writer, so you laugh like a moron instead? I don’t think your analogy means what you think it means. Also, who says you can’t physically attack someone for tickling you? I can tell you right now the last time someone will tickle you is the first time you kick them in the nuts.
Exaggeration is funny. Yes. It IS funny. It’s funnier than a gazillion twenty-gallon hats overflowing with sour cream, it’s so effing funny.
Some things are funny in themselves, like anti-aging cream or the traits you share with your dog You know what would be hysterical? A dog covered in anti-aging cream. Mostly because that shit is expensive, yo, and also useless? So I’d like to use it all on a dog, then see the person who spent like a week’s pay on useless garbage be all “MY ANTI-AGING CREEEEEAAAAAMMMM!” Heh. Also, wouldn’t the dog just be so confused?
This seems like it wasn’t all that helpful. My apologies. In my defense, this woman’s name was Rochelle, so I thought it had to be a joke.
OK, let’s move on. This comes from a blog by the guy who draws Dilbert. I’m already a little worried. I know a lot of people think Dilbert comic strips are funny but I don’t get it. I think because I work in an office, they’re not funny, they’re just my daily life, and there’s nothing funny about that. Other than death. THE SWEET SWEET RELEASE OF DEATH.
So Scott Adams tells us that in order to be funny like him, we need to pick two of these six topics, or else it’s not funny: Clever, Cute, Bizarre, Cruel, Naughty, or Recognizable.
So a story about a sexy librarian with three heads would be SO EFFING HYSTERICAL because it’s bizarrely naughty. Point taken, Scott Adams, and I will be sure to blog about that later. Unless one of you guys wants that one. I’ll let you have it, I’m not grabby-hands about dirty three-headed librarians at all. I’m a sharer.
Use simple sentences, as if you were writing an email to a friend. Um…my emails to my friends sound like my blog. Nothing about me is simple. Just ask my friends. Sorry, friends. Wait, does this mean I have to use LOL and TTYL and ZOMG and shit? And use 2 instead of to? I AM HORRIBLE AT THAT. I don’t even do that when I’m texting. Would that make things FUNNIER? Shit shit SHIT. I feel like I’ve let you all down. I AM SO SORRY.
Be smart, but not academic. So you’re ok to talk about the periodic table of the elements, but not to mention beryllium. CHECK AND MATE SCOTT ADAMS.
Humor is about people. Period. I don’t know. My cat’s pretty effing hysterical. He fell off the bookcase yesterday and knocked over a lamp.
Leave room for the imagination. Or what? OR WHAT? This totally sounds threatening, like “if you don’t leave room for the imagination…the imagination will break in, under the cover of darkness…and stab you to death with a knife made up of pure conjecture.”
Use funny words such as “vagina” or “shish kebob” whenever possible. I’m sorry, but the preceding sentence has me in hysterics. I’m going to use those two words on my blog more often. Probably in combination with one another. Seriously, you should all try to work these two words into conversation, like, immediately. Maybe even in the same sentence. Here, I’ll give you an example: “Maureen, is that a shish kebob, or are you just having problems with your vagina? CHEETOS.” (I threw in the Cheetos because you have to, in order to make things funnier. It’s totally a rule.)
Refer to animals and pop culture a lot. I already DO this. But not to be funny. Because I know a lot about them. Who knew it was also funny? WINNING.
Exaggeration is never not funny. Wow, Rochelle and Scott Adams agree on this one! A kajillion times, they agree!
Then Scott Adams finishes his post with this: “Humor is like any other human capacity; some people are born with more of it than others. No amount of advice will help if you don’t have the humor gene.”
Oh, ok, since Scott Adams agrees with my theory that you kind of have to be funny to write funny and you can take all the classes and still not be funny when you’re done, disregard all the snarking I did on him up there. He’s obviously brilliant.
OK, one more. We can’t stop at two. I think three is funnier than two, right?
This is an eHow on how to write humor, so you know it will be good and smart.
Be observant. Oh! Good. I WILL THANK YOU. Because there’s nothing funny about walking around with your eyes shut. Well, I guess if you trip over something and fall, that’s funny, in itself, though. I AM TORN.
Humor is pain. The author says that people tend to find a lot of humor in the suffering of others. OK, if you mean like America’s Funniest Home Videos-style suffering, which I personally don’t find at all funny but some people do, fine, but I don’t especially howl at genocide, guy who wrote this eHow.
Accentuate the negative. The author says, “like celebrity roasts!” LISTEN THESE AREN’T FUNNY. Do people really find these funny? I totally find these cringe-worthy. I won’t even turn them on. It’s like they’re making fun of someone for money and the person being “roasted” has to sit there and grin. It’s like HIGH SCHOOL all OVER AGAIN. No, thank you, I had enough of that in the eighties and nineties, thanks.
Surprise people. BOO! Are you totally laughing? Oh, wait, sorry, I’m supposed to be talking in text-speak, aren’t I, are you ROTFLYMFAO? I know. You’re welcome.
Exaggerate. Ok, that’s the trifecta. I’m going to exaggerate more from now on. What’s that? I couldn’t exaggerate more if I TRIED? I’m like the QUEEN of exaggeration? Yes. Yes, I am. Thank you. But there’s always room for improvement, Heckle McGee.
Confuse people. I’m ZIGGING! I’m ZAGGING! Are you laughing yet? This guy says an example of this is “standing in line at the DMV behind a Viking.” ZOMG people like this are the ones who write those Capital One credit card commercials with the Vikings, which leads to someone thinking a Geico Caveman series is a good idea! I HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT EHOW GUY. Also, I have to disagree with this. The only laughter you get if you confuse people is CONFUSED laughter. Which, if you’re a connoisseur of laughter, is the same as polite laughter. And no one likes polite laughter. It’s like when a man takes his pants off for the first time when he’s with his lady-friend (or man-friend, don’t mean to exclude anyone) and the man- or lady-friend says “Oh! Well! Isn’t that just the cutest thing!” NO ONE LIKES THAT.
Be specific. I specifically think these rules can bite me until I’m dead a million times over, is that specific enough for you?
Use funny words and sounds. Listen, douchecanoe, you can go straight to Ronkonkoma for all I care. (See what I did there? Total brilliance. Also: VAGINA SHISH KEBOB CHEETOS.) This guy says to use the word “rhubarb.” I don’t think rhubarb is all that funny, because whenever I hear it, I think that it’s one of those words bad community theaters (NOT MINE) use onstage to pretend they’re talking, all “peas and carrots peas and carrots rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb” and that’s not funny to me, that’s just sad. If this reference confuses you, hie you immediately to Netflix or your library or the video store, if your town hasn’t turned them all into Dunkin’ Donuts, and get a little movie called Waiting for Guffman, also known as THE BEST MOVIE ABOUT COMMUNITY THEATER EVER MADE. No, no need to thank me now. You can thank me after you’ve watched it and your stomach’s stopped hurting from laughing so hard. “If there’s an empty space, just fill it with a line, that’s what I like to do. Even if it’s from another show.” LOVE LOVE LOVE.
OK! Well, there are three very good* (*not really very good at all) lists of ways to be funny. The main ones that keep coming up over and over seem to be:
Use funny words and sounds
So now you KNOW how to be funny!
I expect you to use these tips ALL THE TIME NOW. Go around and be all nonsensical and say vagina and Weehawken and shish kebob and Cheetos ELEVENTY GAZILLION TIMES. Now you are the funniest! Don’t you feel awesome? I know you do. I’m glad I could help. Probably you’ll want to name your firstborn after me; I’m cool with that. I suggest naming him or her Vagina Cheetos, though, because Amy is totally overused, and also, can you even IMAGINE how FUNNY that child would be, with a name like that? I mean, the LAUGHTER that would result JUST FROM GETTING HIS OR HER NAME CALLED IN CLASS. You can’t NOT do it now. I mean, seriously.
(Title is a quote from Waiting for Guffman. If you haven’t seen it, seriously, GO GO GO. I mean it, my little macaroons! It’ll make your YEAR.)