How to Write Funny

Funny Writer Hard at Work
Funny Writer Being Funny
In this lesson, I will cover whatever comes to my mind first. This could be just as surprising to me as to you.


Nothing kills humor faster than trying to figure out why it’s humorous. If you must write an academic treatise on the subject, nobody will stop you. If you kill a few laughs in the process, so what? Academic treatises are not funny, anyway. But if you actually want to make people laugh with your writing, you had better not analyze it too much or you will be about as funny as an outdoor root canal during a rainstorm.

For example, take the simile I used in that last sentence, contrasting funniness with a root canal being performed outdoors on a miserable day. Why is it funny? It makes use of exaggeration. It’s ridiculous, because nobody would ever perform a root canal outdoors. It’s pretty far from any reader’s experience, so it’s safe. It juxtaposes two disparate ideas (root canal and rainstorm). Now it isn’t funny anymore, and I wasted a lot of time thinking it up when I could have been doing something a lot more fun. See what I mean?a

Use funny words.

When Spiro Agnew said “nattering nabobs of negativism,” he was a lot funnier than if he had just said, “obnoxious, bigmouth reporters.” He also got people to pay attention to him, including a lot of obnoxious, bigmouth reporters.

You get the idea.

Don’t guilt your friends into reading your stuff, and then expect them to give detailed, intelligent critiques.

Your normal friends are not going to know how to critique your work to begin with. In addition, they don’t want the job. Most of them would rather be reading something else, or nothing at all, which means if they take the time to look at your stuff they will read the first paragraph and quit, or skim over it like a kid in a sled. They might pick one thing out of the whole piece to make a brief remark about, most likely the least important thing in the whole damned tome.

However, if one of your friends does read the whole thing, then tells you it’s “cute,” re-write it or throw it out. To call a piece of writing “cute” is to kill with faint praise. David Sedaris does not write cute. Neither did Mark Twain. Greeting card humor can be cute. You are aiming for something more substantial, like “drop-dead hilarious” or “the greatest piece of humor literature of the 21st Century so far.”

I believe in aiming high.

aSome people would say it wasn’t funny to begin with. They are entitled to their opinion, even if they are unintelligent factory outlet robots with a malfunctioning humor chip.

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6 thoughts on “How to Write Funny”

  1. I remember when I first found HO, I used to tell Don Don’s that I write off-the cuff, without any thought and she just wasn’t buying it at all, at all. I eventually caved in and admitted that I spend a fair bit of time over the few lines that I write each day. For me, it’s all about originality and if the day comes that I end up writing the way Bon Jovi play music, I’ll start a Bon Jovi tribute band! I do think here’s a difference with analysis and choosing the right adjectives though.

    Hang on there one minute, Kathy Minicozzi, did you just get Bill Y to be partially series about something?

    I think you did!

    How did you do that now?

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