This month in the Witty Nib Writing Club, we’re focusing on something quite silly – making humorous writing! Join in the prompt here and start honing your skills.
5. It’s Not Lying – It’s Hyperbole!
A great way to introduce just a dash of something funny is to exaggerate it. In what way could making something just a bit more extreme force it into the realm of hilarious?
One of my favorite examples of this is the title of the 1965 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; it includes 4 mads, which is just one past anything reasonable. To me this is funny, but to other people it’s frustrating. There is definitely a balance between taking things too far and not taking them far enough.
In a similar vein, you’ve got understatement. This is pretty popular in British comedy, which I think is why I love it so (there’s even a Wikipedia article about English understatement). Think Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, wherein eating babies and using their skins for gloves is spoken of as a nonchalant thing.
4. Political Jokes Are a Thing
Polandball is an old set of memes that are probably my favorite Reddit jokes of all time. In these poorly-drawn comics, different balls dressed in the flags of different countries interact and show national/international stereotypes. For instance, here’s my favorite one:
The joke is making fun of the American stereotype of intense patriotism. I post it somewhere every 4th of July.
The humor of political jokes is often tied to people’s perception of what is wrong with the world or a certain people group. Though you might not realize it, the “You might be a redneck if…” jokes are political because they make fun of a people group. They make fun of a socioeconomic status. Sometimes these jokes can elucidate important elements of change or things that you want to see improve.
Political jokes have a dark side, though: sometimes the joke will pry into the very tenderest corners of someone’s heart and cause them pain. I’m of the opinion that this isn’t really a good thing, and I try to not hurt people’s feelings with jokes. Even if I’m
“just joking,” hurting someone’s feelings still means I hurt them. So I try to be careful and am aware that I should own any failures in that department.
I’m a big fan of puns, but this section will serve more as a warning than anything else.
It’s an easy concept to understand – use one word cleverly in a sentence where another may be expected, or use a word to imply something else. They’re common in every language and culture, and many people enjoy the puzzle-like nature of these jokes.
There’s a lot of downside to puns though. Sometimes the puzzle is too hard to get, and it will pass over people’s heads. Sometimes it’s too common a pun, and people will find your joke poorly made. Other times, the pun may be in poor taste, even if unintended. Lastly, your audience may determine just how much you can get away with: an international audience won’t necessarily know enough about your language or cultural niceties to get every linguistic joke.
As a whole, use puns in writing sparingly. They cause too many groans, and too many people hate them. Readers may punish you for this sort of humor.
2. Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!
An element of randomness can often bring a chuckle. The Spanish Inquisition sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (and the rest of Monty Python, really) are a great example of how random, incongruous things can add humor. In the full Inquisition sketch, the three cardinals show up at several random times and break into hilarious questioning of subjects. They even put a lady on the rack, which happens to be a dishrack they turn to tighten some strings ineffectively.
Pitfalls of this sort of humor are going to far and doing it too often. The tone of your passage will of course determine how much you can get away with, but there’s always a point of too much. In the Monty Python sketch, there’s always a lead in with a normal character saying “What is this? The Spanish Inquisition?” to another normal character. Spongebob lives in a pineapple under the sea, but it fits the show’s overall tropical theme. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy runs right along the edge of acceptability in my opinion, as do similar works like Space Opera.
So, use this most powerful weapon of funny with glee and caution!
1. Not Everyone Will Find it Funny
Humor is in the eye of the beholder. I know that I simply cannot appreciate a certain kind of humor (I’d tell you about it but I can’t explain it), but plenty of other people laugh hysterically at it. No matter how funny you are, no matter how many people tell you that you’re funny, others will say you’re a wet dishrag.
So, get some health insurance, find a therapist, write something to make other people laugh, and make use of that sweet, sweet healthcare.
Other Places Full of Neat Hints
This Writer’s Digest Article has some really cool hints that are rather detailed. For instance – did you know the “k” or hard “c” sound are considered the funniest in English? I sure didn’t!
Do you have any more hints or tips that I’ve missed? Something you’d like to focus in on? Leave it in the comments! Or, better yet, feel free to talk about it in your own response to Witty Nib Writing Club’s prompt!