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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Three Methods For Writing Humor

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Humor is one of the toughest things to translate into writing.

To be fair, writers are hamstrung: we can’t use intonation, hand gestures, or other visual/audial cues to help convey that we’re joking.

We only have words.  Yet, there are some writers who are able to make us laugh seemingly without effort.  How do they do it?

Yes, and…

In improv acting, one of the basic techniques that actors use is to never say “no”.  Denying what someone else has said or done is rarely funny.  Accepting a statement and taking it in a new direction can be hilarious.  This is often used in pickup line jokes.

Man:  “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”

Woman:  “Yes, and that’s why I don’t go there any more.”

Ouch!  This one wasn’t written by me–if anyone has a reliable source for its origin, let me know.  I’ll gladly attribute it.

Surprise twist

One of the most common methods for a joke is to offer a twist that sends your reader down one path, then switches up expectations at the last moment.  Try out this poem (written by yours truly):

Today I ran, first time in a while,
At first does it hurt, but I know it’s worthwhile,
I jump over logs, show my own unique style.

Pain is caused by weeks (months) of neglect,
Push through it, I must, to improve the effect
For improving my health, which I must protect.

More bushes appear, I bound right on through,
Legs pumping, arms swinging on cue,
I run, though I know not where to.

Sweat pours down my face, my neck, and my back,
Though tired, found strength that I feared that I lack.
What motivation, when a bear wants you as a snack.

On a second read through, the poem takes on a completely different meaning, doesn’t it?

Multiple meanings

This method relies heavily on the language being used, and in this case, the ambiguity of the English language.  The hardest to translate, this technique can upset your reader’s expectations through careful use of emphasis.

“I was walking down the street yesterday, and I saw a jogger.  She was smokin‘.”

“Pretty hot, eh?”

“No.  She stopped, pulled out a cigarette, and started to smoke.  Couldn’t believe my eyes!”

Using these techniques can help you turn solemn dialogue into a vibrant conversation.

Think you can show us up?  What techniques do you use to add humor?  Do you have better examples of jokes you’ve written?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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