How to Be Funny

DISCLAIMER: The author is a humor writer and a little touched in the head. Don’t believe everything she says.

Chapter 1: Hilarious Misery

Pickle-Faced Grouch
As with greatness, some people are born funny, others have funniness thrust upon them. The rest are either average humans or pickle-faced grouches. Then there are the professionals, like us.

There is at least one pickle-faced grouch in every family. He never gets the point of a joke and hates cute kids, puppies and Santa Claus. His presence literally darkens the room. Just ignore him. He doesn’t count.* Average people and funny people are our targeted demographic.

Okay, now that I got that out of the way, I’d like to say something about how to be funny, so you won’t think I made up the title of this piece just to mess with you.

In order to be the kind of person who makes people collapse in helpless laughter, it helps to be miserable. You think I’m joking? Just look at the facts:

1. Mark Twain suffered from depression.
2. Robert Benchley’s mother loved his big brother better and she let him know it. He never got over it.
3. Dorothy Parker tried to kill herself.
4. Jim Carrey’s family was so poor at one point that they had to live in their car, parked outside his sister’s house. They must have had some interesting bathroom problems.
5. Jerry Lewis has a reputation for being difficult.
6. James Thurber gradually went blind, which made drawing cartoons for The New Yorker pretty hard.

On the other hand, Stephen King is a happily married family man who lives quietly somewhere up in Maine. He can see, hear and walk. He writes books that mess with our heads and turn our stomachs while simultaneously holding us in thrall until we have devoured every graphic word.

See what I mean? You’ll be more successful at being funny if you were the class outcast, your mother didn’t love you, you never have any money, your dog hates you, your love life is nonexistent and you’re ugly. If you are a well-adjusted, happy person, your best bet is to write blood-soaked horror stories or open a hardware store.

The upside of this is that pain makes the best humor. Nobody is going to laugh if a woman says, “I went out with a nice guy last night.” On the other hand she might get a reaction with, “My date was such a lowlife an ant had to crouch down to walk under him.”**

In other words: good time = boring; misery = you might get a laugh if you say it the right way.

You will have an even easier time being funny if you can combine misery with clinical depression. This isn’t necessary, but it helps. If nothing else, you can poke fun of your psychiatrist behind his back.

Being miserable and depressed is fine, but it won’t make you funny unless you have a sense of humor. If all you are going to do is bitch and moan and eat a pint of ice cream every night, you won’t get any laughs. But if you can think of something about whatever is bugging you that is so funny that even you, the sufferer, are laughing instead of punching someone out, you’re on the right track.

NEXT: I don’t know yet, but I’ll think of something — unless I am asked to shut up and pick another subject.

Ideal Audience


Hey! The footnotes are here:

*He’ll never buy a funny book, either. The only thing he ever reads is the obituary page of the newspaper.

**Let’s hope this remark doesn’t get back to the guy. He might have a few things to say about the woman, too. With such bricks are juicy reputations built.

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10 thoughts on “How to Be Funny”

  1. I agree. I needed a new co-workers to smile more when greeting guests. I told him to imagine my hand being smashed in my car door . . . he smiled. 😉

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