Repeat After Me, ‘I’m Funny’

Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

You have a sense of humor. No surprise there, I hope. However, translating what you personally find amusing onto the page of a book, or deliberately introducing a laugh at a specific spot in a scene is sometimes easy, and sometimes difficult and frustrating. However, it is never impossible.

First Things First
If you’re too young to remember the raucous, politically-incorrect comedian Sam Kinison, you might want to look him up on YouTube. Sam taught me something wonderful. Referring to himself of course, he said, “I can make anything funny.” Sam proved this was true on numerous occasions, and I think he actually stumbled onto a universal truth. I have yet to run into any subject, no matter how serious or tedious or Republican, that has no humorous angles.

A corollary to this truth is that you also can make anything funny. Anyone can add a touch of wit to their dialogue, change the description of a genuflection into a pratfall, or make a character’s quirks droll, amusing, or outright hilarious. Writing humor is a learned craft.

That’s not to say that a humorous notion, a good line of dialogue, or a blatant joke will never occur spontaneously while you’re writing, but if you select a particular spot in your story where you’d like to inject some humor or a hard joke, and nothing immediately presents itself, all is not lost. Your laugh is right there on the page—always—and you can find it with just your sense of humor, a bit of imagination, and of course, a little work.

To illustrate this, a little exercise that you can try, let’s choose a devastatingly boring topic: How about the response policy for this blog.

How mundane! Bureaucratic drivel! Who cares?

Ouch! Do you ever want a reader to approach anything you’ve written with a ‘Who cares?’ attitude? Can a touch of humor make the reader more receptive, more positive? Possibly. Here’s my off-the-cuff attempt on a response policy:

As a very determined writer, I will ask that you be understanding about the time constraints that we all face when we’re working. Ergo, I give you my word that I will take immensely valuable time away from my writing and reply to ALL posted comments as soon as it can be reliably determined that hell has frozen over… Until then, I’ll do the best I can.

Screaming funny? No.

Acceptable to everyone? Not a chance!

However, it’s certainly more memorable than simply stating, “I’ll do the best I can.”

Can I find a better joke? With a little work, sure. A determined writer can find a better joke in almost every situation.

But, I don’t write humor books.
No one is asking you to!

Humor, a box wrench, and my great-uncle Harold are all tools. Whether you have any use for them at the moment is irrelevant. However, if you do decide to hurl a bit of humor at a target audience, wouldn’t you like to hit the bullseye more times than not?

Next Up: My Character Laughed Realistically

Parting Funny: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” –Winston Churchill


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