Let’s face it, we all love a giggle but can you make people laugh? Some people seem to be better at it than others, which poses the question CAN YOU LEARN TO WRITE HUMOUR?
Adding humour to features, fillers or your latest novel or non-fiction book can keep your readers riveted and has the ability to turn the most boring of subjects into something of a talking point.
If you find the thought of writing humour daunting; you’re probably not funny. Harsh but true.
Have you noticed that in life, anything we struggle with, is usually because we don’t have a natural affinity for it? I’m terrible at working with figures so I would never want to work for the Inland Revenue for example – I actually did work for the Revenue for 14 years, which sucked for them. I was only meant to be there for three weeks but most of the time I was organising or taking part in sporting events.
So this brings me back to question CAN YOU LEARN TO WRITE HUMOUR? And the answer – NO.
OK, that was a little funny, but seriously, what does it take to inject humour into your writing? For the next few blogs, I will guide you through the different types of humour and how to use it in your writing. This week we are talking about humour in general, stupid jokes, timing and punchlines.
Not everyone finds the same jokes or situations funny, so have a think about what makes you laugh. How many times have you been the only one who is still laughing after someone told you a terrible joke twenty minutes ago? Think about what is was that made you laugh – has a similar situation happened to you? Was it a witty one-liner that whacked your funny bone?
I once read a joke book whilst in the waiting room of the Osteopath; the jokes were short and incredibly silly but I was laughing so hard I had to stop reading. The receptionist kept looking up from her paperwork to check I was still breathing. Here are a couple of examples:
What’s brown and sticky? – A stick
What do you call a greenfly with no legs? – A Bogie
What’s red and invisible? – No tomatoes!
What do you call a man with a spade in his head? – Doug
I know some of you are shaking your head and tutting right now but I just had to step away from my laptop I was laughing so hard!
Knowing what makes you laugh can help when you want to write something funny. The reason the above are funny is timing; they are short and punchy. This is an example of something I wrote to Grow Your Own magazine after my first year of growing vegetables.
I started growing my own fruit and vegetables last year and although I realise I will be learning for many years to come, here’s what I have learned so far:
You don’t need to plant every seed in the packet – there’s only so much you can do with courgettes!
Lovingly tending a blade of grass in a pot does not make it the celeriac you know you planted.
Spring onions are just leeks you were too impatient to wait for.
Bindweed, when staked and cosseted under a cloche tunnel, will thrive but will never produce green beans.
Green beans look a lot like bindweed.
I kept each point short to allow for maximum impact – unless, of course, you are currently screwing up your nose wondering what I’m on about. This means it had no impact on you, which is fine, it means this type of humour is not for you – or you’re comically stunted.
Maybe, you laugh more at the kind of humour which involves the telling of a story with a comical punchline. This can be effective in novels as you can adapt the story to the character. It doesn’t have to be in strict ‘joke’ form.
Here is an example from a story I wrote about Jen who is meeting her ‘friend’ in the work canteen. Jen is the narrator.
Carla has a great job in IT and my job sucks. Her boyfriend’s name is Zak – he’s a lawyer – my boyfriend’s name is Toby – he’s my dog! Carla calls him that as we do everything together.
So consider how to incorporate your own sense of humour in your writing.
TRY THIS EXERCISE:
Think about a joke you thought was funny and ask yourself what it was that tickled you. Could you have heard the same joke from someone else and still thought it funny? Was there a story and a punchline or was it like my examples earlier…just stupid?
Feel free to leave your favourite joke below and I’ll let you know if snot came out of my nose or if I simply did an Elvis-style lip curl.
Next time I will be discussing black comedy and how to choose the right word for effect.