Writing Humor (with Visual Aids)

Photo by Rdevany at the English Wikipedia
Photo by Rdevany at the English Wikipedia

(Some content stolen, with permission, from Debra A. Daniel)

For the uninitiated or unfunny, writing a humor piece can seem almost impossible, but I assure you it is possible—barely. Because the technical jargon of comedy creation can be so confusing, so obfuscational, this tutorial provides visual aids for each major step in the complex process.

Photo by Popera
Photo by Popera

The first challenge is to grab your audience’s attention in a way that promises them lots of laughs if they will but lend you an eye. Arrrr ya with me so farrr? In professional parrr-lance, this is known as the hook. Succeeding with your opening come-hither is very difficult but absolutely crucial. Its importance cannot be overstated. I’d give my left arm to have the right hook.

Laughter is contagious, so you want to give your readers some out-loud laughs right away. One tried-and-true technique for loosening up your audience and for provoking laughs is what are called outright “jokes.” See the visual aid below.

Graphic by DonkeyHotey
Graphic by DonkeyHotey

If you’re a humor neophyte, you might start out with some political jokes. Gather even a few political jokes together, and pretty soon you’re having a political party. You can find some examples in books—and even more examples in government. At the beginning of a campaign season, to maximize the comedy potential, you may need a lot of political jokes. But by the end of the campaign, even one political joke is more than enough.

Later, you might try some “bar” jokes: “Two guys walk up to a bar. The first says, ‘Give me an entendre.’ The other says, ‘Make mine a double.'”

Another reliable humor technique is self-deprecation—which Kathy Minicozzi has already deeply anal-yzed in a previous post. I will add only that it’s no mere coincidence that the words “deprecation” and “defecation” are so similar. The little f-ing difference there is, is mainly just a matter of PR.

Though I never stoop to them myself, in a pinch puns can also sometimes be efficacious. I wish I could think of some examples to help you, but at the moment I’m drawing a blank.

Drawing a blank.
Drawing a blank.

At this point please watch 50 seconds of the YouTube music video linked below. Seriously. I’ll wait.

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbK0C9AYMd8

Thank you for watching that. Now, assuming that you were not expecting to see Chubby Checker performing his most famous dance, then I’ve pulled off the inclusion of one of the most important components of a humor piece—a surprise twist.

People love surprises—and fun, outrageous surprises can make them snort their beer up their noses. And while unexpected nasal irrigation is snot everybody’s cup of tea, it’s nevertheless salubrious, as well as conducive to even more laughter.

You’re almost done—but after some fooling around, you still need to provide your readers a satisfying climax. Until your diction mounts to this highest peak, don’t ever rest.

Photo by Rdevany at the English Wikipedia
Photo by Rdevany at the English Wikipedia

Once you’ve become a more confident lover of humor, you may even be able—like Donna Cavanagh—to pull off multiple climaxes. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Finally, there’s the all-important challenge of how to end your comic composition. I’m going to end this tutorial with Tony Halme. Tony was an amazingly versatile citizen of Finland. He wrote 5 books, recorded a music album, acted on TV, was elected to the Finnish Parliament, fought as a wrestler and mixed martial artist, and was a professional boxer who became Finland’s Heavyweight Champion. He stood 6’4″ tall and weighed 300 lbs. In every sense of the word, Tony Halme was “big.” And that’s why I’m concluding with him. Because every successful humor piece, and I don’t say this lightly, should end with a big Finnish.

Photo by Lumal at English Wikipedia
Photo of Tony Halme by Lumal at English Wikipedia
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8 thoughts on “Writing Humor (with Visual Aids)”

      1. You guys are both masters as far as I’m concerned although Forrest, I get more of the “Masters of The Universe” vibe off you and Bill, those who don’t say “He the man” when talking about you are simply not talking about you.

        1. Cavanagh to herd them all
          Comedy to bind them
          Bill Y to cheer them all
          And in good humor find them.

    1. Show him if you like. I’m sure Edward already knows that you are the Cleopatra of Comedy.

  1. Since I’m very much into the masochistic form of self-deprecation I would actually finish this piece with a Finish sentence: Vihdoin vihdoin vihdoin, which sort of means “I finally whipped myself with a birch branch” (and not necessary in a perverse sauna way).

    1. You have very impressive lingual skills, Abby. You’ve topped me. “Kinky Finnish” beats “Big Finnish” every time.

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