This is a continuation of my award winning series on the art of writing humor.1
Do you think you could be another Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck or David Sedaris?2 Do you automatically make people laugh without trying, although you are perfectly normal looking and intelligent and you always make sure your fly is zipped up?
Do you have a highly developed sense of humor, and have you managed not to make yourself obnoxious with it or get yourself killed?
And oh – can you write? I almost forgot that one.
Presuming that you do have a gift for ferreting out the funny facets of life and that you know the differences between a noun, a verb and a paragraph, here are a couple of rules for taking something mildly amusing and turning it into a nose snorting hilarious piece of literature.
Use some true incident or observation for inspiration, then lie like a bastard to make it as funny as possible.
My mother was very sweet and understanding to any child who had been naughty, as long as it was someone else’s child. To her own brood, she was The Terminator.
If she caught Charlie Pearson from next door trying to steal candy from Harvey’s Market, Mom would look at him with sad eyes, shake her head, tell him it wasn’t a nice thing to do, make him put the candy back and promise not to tell his mother if he would promise not to do it again.
If she caught me doing the same thing, her eyes would turn into deadly laser beams, burning my brain. Her hands would become giant outstretched claws. She would open her mouth and the words, “What do you think you’re doing, young lady?” would echo through the store, out the door and as far as the next town. In other words, she would be a combination of The Terminator, a Werewolf and Madame Guillotine. I would have one choice: put the Baby Ruth back or die.
See what I mean?
Don’t be upset or embarrassed if people think your exaggerated or made up story is completely true.
If I were to publish the above example in a humor piece (which I won’t) it would not surprise me if a few people were to offer me sympathy and/or directions to the nearest support group. It’s flattering when people do this, because it means that my writing was good enough to hold their attention.
At that point, I would probably laugh, then give up and admit to those few people that the story was made up and that my mother was a nice lady who was pretty easy on us most of the time.
This brings me to another point:
Don’t post or publish anything that is going to hurt the people close to you.
This is self-explanatory. You’ll lose some great potential comic material, but you’ll save some feelings, reputations and relationships.
In other words, before you put something out there for complete strangers to read, make sure that it will be okay with the people you are poking fun of that you are poking fun of them and that they understand that you are lying like a bastard. Either that, or disguise your characters so much that the original models won’t recognize themselves and nobody else will catch on, either. Good luck with that, because it’s pretty near impossible.
1Alright, I gave myself the award. So shoot me!
2… or James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, P.G. Wodehouse … okay, I’ll shut up!