The true advantage of having a sense of humor is the enjoyable experience of laughter itself. We love to laugh. It makes us feel good. It’s a great experience to share with friends and family, and despite lousy weather, workdays, etc. it often sneaks in and brightens our mood. The world will not come to an end while we’re laughing.
Mr. President, a massive asteroid is going to destroy the Earth next Tuesday, but on the positive side, I’m no longer worried about missing my car payment.
Evaluating what tickles us can help us make decisions while we’re writing, and we’re more likely to be successful at writing the types of humor that we personally enjoy.
Examining what makes us laugh doesn’t have to be terribly serious or formal; just think for a few minutes about the different types of humor and which types most appeal to you. Getting a feel for what makes you laugh is enough. Quite simply, if your method of understanding humor works for you, that’s what you should use.
There are Standard Types that can be used, but this is a somewhat narrow view of the universe of humor available to us. Consider:
- The lowly, but often lovely pun and other plays on words
- The double-entendre that’s just a tad risqué (or not)
- A simple triple – no diving board required
- Observational humor – clever interpretations of similarities and differences in every day life
- Physical comedy – ye olde slapstick
- One-liners – a staple for standup comedians
- Shaggy Dog Stories – long, rambling stories with a deliberately disappointing (groaner) punchline
There are also more obscure forms such as the paraprosdokian (Yes, that’s actually a word, and they’re often hilarious). The paraprosdokian ends a phrase, sentence or story with a surprise that causes you to reevaluate and reinterpret the beginning of that phrase, sentence or story.
[In the middle of the night] The light comes on. There’s this man standing over me with a gun. He says, “Take advantage of my little sister, will you?”
I said, “Sure, where is she.”
This little story by Emo Phillips, a true master joke writer, very nicely demonstrates the surprise ending of a paraprosdokian, although we can say it’s a bit twisted. (Don’t you just love a good twist!)
You should also consider other ways to view what makes you laugh.
You can also interpret humor by form or feel. Perhaps you like clever dialogue or the combination of a visual with clever dialogue such as cartoons. Perhaps funny characters or character traits appeal to you. Situational humor can take many, many forms; consider the wide variety of situation comedies on television. Incongruity also takes many forms.
We have to shift the paradigm. Are the movers here yet?
Perhaps, you like sarcasm, irony, exaggeration, non-sequiturs or an aggressive quality to your punchlines. Absurdity, pure silliness, put downs, send-ups… The possibilities truly are nearly endless.There have been so many attempts to define and classify humor that there really is no “correct” way to evaluate what tickles us. Nor is there a correct way to write a good joke. It doesn’t really matter how you define what makes you laugh, as long as you understand it, or at least, make a valiant attempt.
When you choose to inject a bit of humor into your writing, it’s prudent to rely heavily on your own sense of humor to guide you. The greater your understanding of what makes you laugh, the easier it will be to translate what makes you laugh into the written word.
Next Up: Everyday Objects Are Funny