#1 Posted by CyborgDuo (123 posts) -

I love to write. I feel like it liberates me from the constraints of my real life. I often feel like I make a better impression on people if they know me or meet me through my writing, as, when I talk, I often mangle words or speak too fast for people to really get me. So, naturally, I have begun to write for my school newspaper.

So far, I have been loving my time at the LHS Times. It helps to introduce myself to a large audience who normally wouldn't give me the time of day. It gives me a place to voice my opinions in a hospitable and supportive place. It is my haven in high school. However, we do an April Fool's article every year, and I have been doing a majority of the articles.

I do not write comedic works very often. It is my one field where I am totally insecure, mostly because of my lack of experience. What also worries me is my sense of humor, which is a bit more dry than most people's. Therefore, I sometimes have to tweak my subject material to appeal to a wider audience while not sacrificing the values that I want in my writing.

So my question is, do you have a hard time writing (or talking, for that matter) about certain subjects? Do you feel insecure about any style of writing? I could really use some support so I can figure out how I can adjust to the demands imposed on me.

#2 Posted by jakob187 (22362 posts) -

1. What is the LHS Times?

2. Get really fucking high and then start writing. Trust me. It'll be hilarious, even if it's dead serious.

#3 Posted by CyborgDuo (123 posts) -

@jakob187: My school newspaper. And while it might be HILARIOUS, I think it will probably help me more as a writer if I'm sober.

#4 Posted by DillonWerner (1603 posts) -

I'm actually pretty good at writing funny skits, I'm freaking terrible at writing poetry though, God I'm horrible at that.

#5 Posted by FilipHolm (689 posts) -

I find comedy and horror to be the hardest "genres" to write. In both cases, it really needs to work in order for it to be enjoyable. More so than any other genres.

#6 Posted by 71Ranchero (3208 posts) -

Just steal someones elses material. Whats the worst that can happen? Hell you might even end up with a network television show.

#7 Posted by DocHaus (1710 posts) -

@Atramentous: Carlos Mencia! What are you doing here?

*laugh track*

#8 Posted by N7 (3895 posts) -

Comedy is easy. You just gotta know who you're writing to in order to really get it.
For instance, you don't make a story about a ghetto ninja for the Brooklyn Gat. Shit be offensive.
@DillonWerner: Poetry is easy. It's supposed to be serious, but most of it comes out sappy as shit, so the goal is to make it sound sappy from the get-go.
My love for Giant Bomb, darker than black
Sometimes comedy brings us together, sometimes it tears us apart
Sometimes I think, therefore I am

#9 Posted by Red (6146 posts) -

Just write something that'll get you laughing and it'll get other people laughing too.

#10 Posted by CyborgDuo (123 posts) -

Here, I decided to post one of the shorter "articles". Keep in mind the audience of high school students, which, in my opinion, is hard to write for because only a fraction of the populace will get any one joke. Feel free to pick it apart, as that actually is very constructive for me!

Fantastic Crème Brulee Recipe!

Sometimes you want to live it up a little. Well, do I have a recipe for you! This simple sugary dish is quite easy to make and just oozes class. The following is how I usually make my favorite dessert:


1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

9 large egg yolks

1/2 cup plus 6 teaspoons sugar

2 cups mixed berries (such as raspberries, blueberries, and sliced strawberries)

2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar

1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur (optional)(JK)

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Place cream in heavy saucepan prior to realizing that you have bought the wrong cream.

3. Swear a little bit. I find that any swears will do the trick. I assume Martha Stewart once said, “****, I’m going to jail!” and she’s a pretty good cook.

4. Spray in some whipped cream from a can, then pour the entire thing out and only use whipped cream. Then spray in mouth and on face to become Santa.

5. Attempt to split vanilla bean to separate the seeds. NOTE: Several experiments have been carried out in Switzerland to test to see if splitting a vanilla bean in half is a theoretically possible or not. THE CONCLUSION: Band-Aids cost way too much in Switzerland.

6. Pour in the remnants of the vanilla beans, with some blood for zip.

7. Bring to simmer over high heat. We’re talking Gosling hot, people.

7. Crack eggs into a bowl to separate into yolks. Don’t even try to pick out all the eggshells you inevitably dropped. They add texture.

8. Whisk yolks and some sugar (to taste) into a medium sized bowl to blend. I assume that means the sugar has to get over most of its prejudices over ingredients of different colors. This could take upwards of hundreds of years. I suggest an egg timer for exact timing!

9. Once the mixture has gotten to what we culinary experts call the MLK dream state, set the bowl OVER a saucepan of boiling water. NOTE: Do not let the mixture touch the water. If it does, repeat steps 1-9 while weeping.

10. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is pale yellow and hot to touch. If you have to ask how hot it needs to be, it isn’t hot enough.

11. Add the whipped cream mixture gradually, because we all saw what happened to the sugar the last time.

12. Divide this mixture into six soufflé dishes. If you don’t have six soufflé dishes, put down your bowls, wipe the blood and whipped cream off your face, and GET A LIFE you loser.

13. Put the dishes into a deep baking pan and fill the pan halfway up with water, making, essentially, a hot tub, minus the time machine. Completely forget about the berries, because fruit is for suckers.

14. Bake custards for however long your therapy takes. Cooking can be stressful, you know.

15. Take the mixture out of the oven. What you need to do next is add the singular element that makes this dish unique: the burned sugar on top. Now, the more safety minded usually caramelize their sugar in a broiler, but I usually want to blow off some steam after a breakthrough therapy session, so this is when my blowtorch comes in handy. You can usually buy a blowtorch on the black market and at most Williams-Sonoma's.

16. Aim very carefully at the custards and fire. Many amateurs get this wrong on the first try. Don’t worry, after the paramedics have long been and gone and several Dr. Phil appearances later, you’ll get the hang of it!

17. But seriously, most of the time, the cat you just bought after the last attempt will turn into a very small, very angry replica of the Sun.

18. Throw the cat into your neighbor’s yard. The litigations following will be much smoother if you do.

19. If you still have a craving for a sugary snack, get out some of the Peeps you were saving and stick them in the microwave. That Easter party was a terrible idea anyway.

20. Set the microwave for 30 minutes.

21. Watch as the peeps rise from their humble beginnings. There’s an Easter parable in there somewhere, but you’ll be too distracted by the blare of the fire engines and the cries of your cat to find it.

22. Serve lukewarm.

#11 Posted by NTM (8467 posts) -

I just pooped my pants. Mwahahah! Wasn't that just hilarious!?

#12 Posted by Example1013 (4855 posts) -

@CyborgDuo: I'd say that article isn't particularly amusing, but it's hard to pick out why. Here are at least some things I can say to try and help:

Non-sequiturs aren't inherently funny. Just because something is a non-sequitur doesn't mean it's amusing.

Quantity doesn't = quality. A funny story always only has one punchline, and it's short and at the very end.

Your audience may not all "get" the jokes, but writing jokes for *a* specific audience is important. If you try to write different things that are funny for different people, all you're going to probably end up with is nothing that's funny for anyone.

You need to laugh at it. Not just think it's funny, but be able to laugh at it. If it doesn't make you laugh, then you don't really consider it funny, and it probably won't make anyone else laugh either. You can't say "that sounds like it would be funny", you have to say "damn, that's actually hilarious, I hope other people enjoy it as much as I do".

The funny part needs to be lightning-quick. If you have to spend more than a few seconds on the punchline, or you have to explain it, by the time you actually finish what would be funny, it's not funny anymore. This relates back to picking an audience, and tailoring your jokes to that audience.

Above all else you're going to need to probably lock yourself in a room for the next 7 days and just spend every waking moment reading funny news stories and things, to try and get a feel for the funny parts.

I know I said before that you want one punchline at the end, but I realize that wouldn't make sense to say when there are hilarious sites like the Onion. What makes the Onion funny is that it basically does the opposite of a traditional joke, where the absurd, funny part is the news story or topic, and the writing is done in a completely serious manner. It's actually kind of similar to trolling, where you pretend to be completely serious, with the difference that the intent isn't to draw comedy out of deceiving people but to create comedy from the ridiculousness of the idea itself.

It's really easy to tell when something is funny or not, but it's really hard to explain what makes something funny (or not). For instance I still am not a very good joke-teller, but I do great in situations where I can go back and forth with someone else. Bottom-line it's just going to take hella work to come up with funny stories, and you're probably going to come up with a lot of ideas that you get halfway through and realize are terrible and have to throw out, made even harder if you don't understand funny things that well (not being able to talk well is kind of a problem because it probably means you don't spend a lot of time mouthing off in class and telling jokes and such, which is what helps build comedic timing and ability to create funny things). And you probably will still end up printing stuff that isn't funny. It happens. Just be ready to keep trying and practicing.

#13 Posted by DrBendo (237 posts) -


The recipe bit is not very good. You're essentially working one gag over far too great a length. From the initial turning point, every aspect can be easily predicted; anyone reading will know exactly how it plays out, and nothing will surprise them. While you kick the shit out of that dead horse, not every implementation is poor; a couple of points show decent effort, but they're undermined by being repetitive and expected. For example, item 8 makes allusion to racism, but item 9 makes the exact same comparison immediately after. Do you think that telling the same joke twice in a row improves it?

Look at the comments sections on this or similar sites. You'll see someone attempt a joke, and it will be followed by thirty people making the same damned joke, each convinced that their substitution of one noun for another somehow makes it new. While each individual comment isn't always hackneyed, the impression as a whole is never funny - it's little more than monotonous. Your article has a similar effect.

There are a few basic things that can help. First, trim that fucker down; it would not lose any value at half its length or less. Second, given that you probably haven't the level of experience to write many good jokes, you should focus on how the jokes are presented. In this article, for example, the presentation adds nothing; the humor is tossed out there, but it isn't enhanced. Your set-up involves something considered posh, so you could play that angle up throughout the piece. Strike your initial approach (addressing common kids on something considered above their station), and replace it with an assumption of class from the onset; treating it as one would a recipe for cheese on toast still gets the same point across, but it does so without flatly spoon-feeding it. Instead of using the second-person and taking a casual tone, us the most erudite and sophisticated language you can - "you can..." could be "one, of course, has the option of...". Look up some of the Stephen Fry sketches from the days of Alfresco or A Bit of Fry and Laurie to see how pompous diction can strengthen absurdity. With a tone like that, the individual gags can be supported by the manner in which they're told; especially with such a young audience, people are less likely to anticipate formality than absurdity. You would have to be more careful to keep too much language from piling up between events, but with some brutal editing, the final product would be better.

Writing comedy is not easy to do well. Most people think that they're funny, but they don't realize that their laughing friends generally have shitty taste. When learning most genres and formats of writing, you're not very good for some time until you get the hang of it; with comedy, though, you're complete shit for a long time, and you may never get the hang of it. Coming up with an amusing concept is easy, but executing that concept in a way that adds to it is difficult.

#14 Posted by JasonR86 (10027 posts) -


Just write about the process of writing comedy. That's probably comedy gold.

#15 Edited by CyborgDuo (123 posts) -

@Example1013: @DrBendo: Thank you guys. That is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Back to the drawing board!

EDIT: The format of this "article" might also not do it any favors, due to the rather rigid step-by-step process. Perhaps I will tweak the presentation and go with your idea of an extremely snobby dish, as that gives me an opportunity to make fun of the next town over, who flaunts their wealth and are always very antagonistic to my working-class town.

I wonder if my other articles suffer from "puncline-itis." With some I kind of doubt it, as they are built in with in-jokes from the school (the easiest humor around). One is a riff on the classic Dave Barry article at the end of each year, but for the upcoming apocalypse. Dave Barry is the KING of non-sequiters. His stuff usually has a punchline a minute as well, but they usually work. I wonder if I need to tweak that.

#16 Edited by kmdrkul (3499 posts) -

I find that all the funny shit that comes out of my mouth is when I'm surrounded by friends. If you hole yourself up trying to force funny down, I can imagine it would be pretty rough. I can think of a hundred stupid, real-life stories that I have lived through with my friends and suddenly I have a ton of great material to pick and choose from.

Oh, and know your audience.

#17 Posted by Whamola (135 posts) -

Just a heads up, and I'm not trying to be rude, but everyone I've ever met who says that their humor is too dry for most people has always just been an unfunny dope.

#18 Posted by GrandMarshal (390 posts) -

but saints row 3 kills it

#19 Posted by onan (1333 posts) -

I find it difficult not to write comedy. If I'm writing something too serious, I get incredibly uncomfortable and have to slip my joke in the back end and hope she doesn't notice. I've failed a few papers in college as a result.

The secret to any kind of humor is brevity. Humor happens when the brain follows along an expected path, but is forced to make mental connections it didn't expect. That sharp mental snap is what makes people laugh, and why they likely won't laugh again at the same joke. You were all set with step #3, "Swear a bit." That was unexpected, but then you just kept going with some ridiculous Martha Stewart reference. It's like you don't trust the audience to remember this is also a recipe, so you try to tie a logical connection between your swearing and cooking, but humor isn't about logical connections.

And the rest kind of goes downhill from there. The CERN reference in a line about vanilla beans made me groan. The crux of the joke is about the word split, and you made the second meaning (I guess?) to be about splitting the atom, assuming most readers are aware of the work CERN does. And this comes immediately after a line about spraying whip cream on your own face in order to look like Santa. You get the reader to the point that they absolutely expect nonsense and nothing is funny. Then it's not even really useful as a recipe, so what point is there to even continue reading?

"We’re talking Gosling hot, people," assumes (1) you, as the writer, are attracted to Ryan Gosling or are assuming everyone reading a recipe is a woman and they all find Gosling universally attractive, and (2) worse, you're assuming solidarity with the reader when you've already lost them, making it even more of a train wreck. "We" assumes everyone is along for the ride, when they very clearly aren't.

There's a lot of other bizarre things throughout. "The MLK dream state"? Seriously? Some humor relies a lot on the flaying of the sacred cow, but you have to prep the work for it. Otherwise, it becomes obnoxious and incredibly inappropriate. Think of all the times someone has told a funny borderline racist joke in your presence that you felt bad for laughing at, versus all the times you've heard someone try to tell one only to come across as a shameless racist. The things we pay reverence to and the things we consider to be taboo are absolutely rife with the potential for humor as long as they're handled correctly. If your work is just random slapstick involving whipped cream santa beards and flaming cats that are into Ryan Gosling, bringing up Martin Luther King Jr.'s call to end racial inequality on the incredibly tenuous link between ingredients being different colors, then you're doing it wrong. Plus you don't nail down those colors, which happen to be white OR brown sugar (you don't specify), plus an orange to yellow egg yolk. At best, you have the potential for some humor about racism against asians with the "yellow" thing, but at that point, why mention anything about MLK or bring up the very specific hardships African Americans have had to endure at all? It's just that there's no connection there at all, and considering I just linked your immolated pets to heartthrob Ryan Gosling a few sentences ago, that's saying something.

Maybe, maybe if it were a chocolate cake recipe, but at that point you also have to contend with the fact that I'm going to assume there are black students reading your high school school paper, and generally speaking, freedom of the press doesn't extend to racial humor.

Doesn't this all just miss the point of an April Fool's issue? I always considered the best examples being the ones that try to fool you into believing it's legit, and that's the humor you should be going for with this. Write very serious articles about how, in an attempt to get people to attend more sporting events and increase school spirit, the faculty has decided to make any future announcements and letters home using the school mascot. ("Dear parent of ______, I, Arnie the Aardvark, would like to regretfully inform you that your child has been suspended due to being caught smoking after classes on school grounds. This is behavior unbecoming an aardvark and will not be tolerated.") Things that sound absurd, but might actually be true. Much more "Onion" than "really bad joke book." It doesn't have to be hilarious, just weird and smile-inducing, and hopefully getting a few people freaked out enough to run to their friends and then get laughed at for their gullibility.

Good luck.

#20 Posted by onan (1333 posts) -

@CyborgDuo said:

I wonder if my other articles suffer from "puncline-itis." With some I kind of doubt it, as they are built in with in-jokes from the school (the easiest humor around). One is a riff on the classic Dave Barry article at the end of each year, but for the upcoming apocalypse. Dave Barry is the KING of non-sequiters. His stuff usually has a punchline a minute as well, but they usually work. I wonder if I need to tweak that.

I've never heard of Dave Barry until you mentioned him, and googling I see he wrote a humor column for the Miami Herald. I suppose the jokes of a 64 year old man would go over well with the faculty, but I doubt many at your school actively read newspapers, let alone have respect for the humor columnist. It's probably not the best thing to model yourself after someone else when it comes to humor. Unless you're confident in your own grasp on humor, imitating someone's style can only be seen as a recipe for disaster (Which honestly wouldn't be that bad of a title if you decide to stick with your original Crème Brulee piece).

Get some peer review going with people you respect and consider funny. Old fart humor usually doesn't go over well with HS kids, so get other high school kids to take a look and possibly contribute to it. Maybe offer to share a byline.

#21 Edited by LordXavierBritish (6651 posts) -

Writing truly great comedy is the hardest thing to write because there is absolutely no science to it.
It thrives on the unexpected, more than any other genre or style, if you feel you've caught it chances are you're becoming complacent and have already fucked up.
You have to keep it constantly flowing, you can't look back and you can't try to pin point it. If you think something is funny write it down and don't think about it because as soon as you analyze it it won't be funny to you anymore. That is the nature of comedy. 
And never fucking explain shit. If you feel you have to explain the joke for people to get it it means it's a bad joke.
Also it's pretty much impossible to actually write good comedy consistently on your own, its almost necessary to have someone to bounce it off of. If you already know the punch it's never going to sound right to you, you're never going to understand exactly how the reader will receive it.
Never think about it too long, just write.

#22 Posted by TheBostonPops (71 posts) -

As a professional comedy writer, here are some quick tips to get yourself started that I learned way back when I got started in this field:

1. The most basic rule of a standard sketch or article is the rule of three/callback. Hit a joke, then maximize it's effectiveness by utilizing it again twice more as your throughline for the piece. The second and third times will hit harder if they're masked, that is, unexpectedly get called back. This gives you a very easy framework to write around.

2. There is more comedy in truth than just making jokes. In writing a comedic article, look at the Onion for what I mean by this - they write articles that come from truthful moments and reality, but are made farcical by their tone and rhetoric. Think about something that has happened to you or in the world and lampoon it, trying to stay as honest as possible.

3. Write what YOU find funny. A lot of people say "know your audience," and while that isn't wrong per se, your piece will be less honest and funny because you're not as connected to the subject at hand. Don't pander, just write what makes you laugh and others will follow suit.

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions, duder. Comedy is tough (hell, it took me years of trial and error before it became something people would even THINK of paying me for), but it is incredibly rewarding to make people laugh.

#23 Posted by NegativeCero (3090 posts) -

I wouldn't know since I haven't tried it, but I'm sure it is. I was expecting this to be about stand up comedy, which I've heard is worse.

#24 Posted by onan (1333 posts) -

@LordXavierBritish said:

And never fucking explain shit. If you feel you have to explain the joke for people to get it it means it's a bad joke.

I know this was advice for writing, but I've had a lot of success "doubling down" on bad jokes in person. Occasionally, if a joke doesn't hit the way I was hoping it would, I'll just stop and go back and walk the person through the joke, step by step, with extreme earnestness and lots of eye contact. If they don't laugh even after the explanation (and I'll stop after about 10 seconds), I'll finish what I was saying and then just stare at them and nod slowly. It makes the entire situation really uncomfortable and they tend to bust out laughing more often than not.

I want to say I've seen this done somewhere, got it from someone. And now that's going to bother me.

#25 Posted by AwesomeRoryAgain (8 posts) -

Cracked has some pretty funny articles if you want inspiration. Dont fucking doubt yourself either bro, Intelligent people always seem to doubt themselves the most. But people see humor as a sign of intelligence, so just smoke some joints and start writing whatever comes to mind, I know you'll do excellent. Let me know if you need any ideas.

#26 Edited by MelficeVKM (161 posts) -

@NTM said:

I just pooped my pants. Mwahahah! Wasn't that just hilarious!?

I burst out laughing and I feel bad for doing it.

#27 Edited by CyborgDuo (123 posts) -

@onan: Thank you for your feedback. It really helps.

I think I was trying to make fun of racism, not races, but if it comes off that way, I should definitely fix that. I suppose what really prompted that is the word "blend", and that sort of brings up the image, at least in my mind, of racial tolerance and integration in America today. But if I base that whole concept around one word, then I run the risk of either A. Having people take that joke to the literal level of the color of the ingredients and their real life counterparts (as you, understandably, have), or B. Having people say it makes no fucking sense, which is far more likely. Pretty sloppy all around. I'll cut it (and with it, gut the entire article, perhaps work with a different perspective, using the point of view of a wealthy snob from the Ivy League college town next to ours?

It is a known fact that Gosling is attractive. End of story.

With regards to the April Fool's point, I definitely see your point. I just have a problem with doing that because there's a lot of other writers doing that exact thing, and I wanted something different, tonally, to just a fake article. Which makes my job that much harder. I do think the rest of my writing turned out a little better than this, and this suffered because it's very rigid format made the jokes formulaic and expected.

I just used Dave Barry's format because it works very well with the subject of that other article (about the "impending" apocalypse). I'm not really using his humor, although he is one of the only people I find truly funny. I don't laugh at a lot of jokes, although I understand that they are, inherently, funny. Actually, I don't laugh a whole bunch, period. Which proves I am the WRONG man for this job.

I usually write serious things. I like to think I'm good at doing that. The skills used there don't necessarily transfer to here. I'm having the WORST time with all of this. A lot of the other writers are extremely busy, so I got stuck with a lot of the work. Which presents a problem for someone who values the quality of their work a whole lot. Perhaps the stress imposed on me is not doing me any favors in the writing department.

I think I need a day off.

#28 Posted by crusader8463 (14755 posts) -

Writing Comedy is Hard! Like my penis! See it's pretty easy. Like your mom! This isn't hard at all.

#29 Posted by ImpendingFoil (586 posts) -

Tragedy + Time = Comedy

#30 Posted by DjCmeP (1224 posts) -

If you think something is funny then go with it if it makes you laugh I'm sure someone else will too.

#31 Posted by returnofjake (260 posts) -

If you want well written funny-yet-making-a-point articles for inspiration, I suggest you check out Charlie Brooker's blog at The Guardian.

When I write I try and be funny but never just for comedy. I find if I just write how I talk then things normally turn out OK... my comedy background is in radio though so that's probably no help.

#32 Posted by onan (1333 posts) -

, sure, no problem. I didn't realize it was like all that.

brings up a good point about the rule of threes and callback humor. By introducing an element earlier on, even if it isn't funny initially, it becomes funny with subsequent reintroduction because it's linked by proximity, if not necessarily logic. Callback humor is especially funny in conversations when you can use elements of stories someone else has said in your own jokes a few minutes later. They tend to find it even more hilarious when you do that, I think mostly because they feel they have ownership of that element and you're using it in a way they never expected or anticipated.

With regards to your Ryan Gosling thing, it wasn't funny initially, but if you stuck with it, if you sounded somewhat obsessed or stalkerish, it would uncomfortably become a bit funny. It could be incorporated into your snobbish recipe too if you wanted. Examples:

7. Bring to simmer over high heat. We’re talking Ryan Gosling hot, people.

11. Add the whipped cream mixture slowly, gradually, like you would along Ryan Gosling's chiseled yet supple chest (as featured in such films as Crazy Stupid Love) before offering to help him clean it off.

15. Take the mixture out of the oven, carefully and gently, like Ryan Gosling would treat your heart if only he had a moment to respond to your letters.

You've got the right general idea, using the many meanings of words to create humor is a tried and true method, but those connections need to be strong. "Blend" doesn't bring anything racial to mind. It can be used metaphorically in regards to race, and if used in the context of mixed races I wouldn't bat an eye, but relying on it to sell the connection between mixing eggs and sugar is absolutely a stretch. Race relation jokes are an incredibly sensitive topic that shouldn't be used by someone who admittedly needs help with delivery because there's a much greater risk of offense. I probably would never use it in writing, because of the risk of misinterpreted tone and the permanence. With your "blend" gag, you might be better off using the word "homogenize" if you're going to insist on making a racial gag, since it's more equally applicable to cooking and race, neighborhoods, culture, music, etc... although for the life of me, I can't come up with something good.

Some people have said not to write for your audience, and that's simply not true. Yes, write what you consider funny, but keep the audience in mind. I let a lot of jokes go because I quickly imagine the reaction of the people I'm speaking to and realize it'll go over like a ton of bricks with them. I'll try to come up with a way to phrase my joke that they would appreciate, and that usually deals with vocabulary level, but in many cases it boils down to content. You're trying to get high schoolers to laugh, so you need to limit yourself to what they're familiar with. A completely different approach would be needed if you're babysitting a 5 year old, for example, and want to get them in a good mood. Young kids tend to like puns a great deal, middle and high schoolers not as much, and then when they become adults again, a lot of people start appreciating the pun again. I dunno. Humor is absolutely about knowing your audience, though.

I know the desire is there to stand out for this article, but I'm not sure why. You don't stand out when writing regular articles, do you? Trying to stand out in a humor issue when you admittedly need help with incorporating comedy into your craft seems like a bad idea. Maybe you won't stand out, but who cares? Comedy is about quality, not necessarily standing out. If you go check out some amateur stand-up routines, you're going to laugh hardest at the person with the best storytelling abilities and best use of turns of phrase and juxtapositioning and callback humor. If the next guy on the stage brings up a Carrot Top-style crate of props, you usually can't even compare the two styles, and prop guy doesn't automatically get brownie points for trying something different. He actually probably has a much greater potential for failure. That seems like the case here. Your sense of humor is very dry, right? If so, this holiday is right up in your wheelhouse. Write something serious about something absurd.

#33 Posted by ShaggE (7223 posts) -

Push harder on the keys when you type. It gets more of the funny through. Also, loudly proclaim that "homework sucks and teachers are weird". That's been the backbone of ill conceived school-based comedy for decades.

#34 Posted by TheHT (12559 posts) -

maybe try some absurd satire? onion-type stuff.

#35 Posted by Enigma777 (6237 posts) -

It's only hard if you're not funny.

#36 Posted by DrBendo (237 posts) -

@CyborgDuo: @onan: @TheBostonPops:

I think the thread is illustrating a core problem of comedic advice. I think that a portion of the advice from Onan and Boston is decent, but some of it it completely disagreeable. I don't know about the wanker, but Boston mentioned his background, and I have a bit of the same. Yet, I find the rule of three to be an abomination; I consider it among the most hackneyed techniques available, and callbacks are incredibly lazy outside of a few greats like Dave Allen (not to mention that a short article makes them all the more obvious). Boston suggests your own humor, but others recommend a focus on the audience - I think that those two filters only work when in conjunction. I suspect that both Onan and Boston would likewise have their disagreements with my initial take. Onan seems to favor the traditional "fake story" approach, but I agree that subverting that trite convention is the better way to go. As an aside to Onan, Dave Barry is largely timeless. I don't care for his humor, but his style owes little to his age; he's kept the same general approach for thirty years. Given the broad nature of his writing, I think his style would go over today as well as it did in the '80s.

The differences of opinion go largely towards the distinction between the process and the product. If you got a dozen comedians telling you how to write comedy, you'd likely get a dozen distinct responses. The only clear take-away is that you aren't yet there. You have two basic options: you can take a different approach, or you can whittle your current approach and improve on it. I'd recommend the latter, as the former is more of a long-term plan. Then again, others would completely disagree. You'll find the same amongst your readership, though.

On the upside, unless the world has changed quite a bit, almost nobody reads their high-school paper, and the saturation of shitty, forced humor is so severe that you're unlikely to fuck up in a way that could be remembered. You seem to handle criticism reasonably, so I'll throw in another dose. Serve humor over format. Your leaning towards scrapping what you have in favor of a more cohesive theme is good, but keep in mind that you needn't fit the new concept into typical standards. With your initial recipe article, you listed ingredients because a good recipe does. However, a list of ingredients just isn't funny; it takes up space and delays humor. One shouldn't abandon all conventions, but you should remember that you aren't writing a proper article, and sacrificing format for effect is often a good choice.

#37 Posted by TheBostonPops (71 posts) -

@DrBendo: Eh, the kid didn't come to the forum for hard discussions of comedy theory or to become the next best humorist to be on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, he wanted some tips to improve his writing for his high school newspaper article. That said, the rule of three and the callback are easy, beginner rules to follow when starting to write jokes, sketches, or essays. Rules are meant to be bucked when you feel like you've outgrown them, but until then, it pays to play by some rules and learn how comedy can evolve.

In addition to what you and brought up, audience does matter, sure - it is definitely important to keep in mind those you are entertaining. It's just as important though to remember that people are going to read, listen, or watch your material for what you bring to the table, your unique brand of humor. Stay true to yourself, do what makes you laugh, and the audiences will come. I do agree with you that they work in conjunction, but I think audience is less important in the initial creation, and way more important in the editing phase (i.e. taking your jokes for a walk at a comedy club, throwing some new sketches in with the old to see what works).

#38 Posted by SSValis (1198 posts) -

@MelficeVKM said:

@NTM said:

I just pooped my pants. Mwahahah! Wasn't that just hilarious!?

I burst out laughing and I feel bad for doing it.

damn it, me too

#39 Edited by onan (1333 posts) -

The wanker is in IT and just owes his sense of humor to a shitty childhood and moving around a lot, but yeah.

Good points throughout, although from my layman perspective, discarding comedy axioms like the rule of three seems like something you do when you're very comfortable with your talent and are at the point you're considering writing comedy professionally or doing stand-up. For a guy just starting out who admittedly isn't considered to be very funny, there are much worse places to start from. Otherwise, sage advice.

Edit: Looks like beat me to the punch with the common sense. Oh well. I'll just throw up some ditto marks and call it a night.


#40 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6115 posts) -


Writing Comedy is Hard!

My response.

Your move.