1. Humor brightens the written word. That’s no surprise. The good news is that the ability to create humor is a learned skill. There are ways of thinking and there are certain writing structures that make the funny lines resonate with your readers.
2. A great place to start is by focusing your humor radar and learning to think funny. Expose yourself to humor books, tapes, movies. Visit toy stores. Hang around funny friends.
3. Keep a journal of funny things that happen to you. Your best source of humor is your personal stories. Stories are the best way to touch your readers and the easiest way to create humor.
4. When creating humor for a written piece, keep in mind that coming up with a funny line is a numbers game. If you want two funny lines for a piece, write 20 lines. Or maybe 40. Just when you think you’ve burned out on funny ideas, you’ll write your best line.
5. At the core of nearly every joke (especially true for written jokes which do not have the physical delivery factor that enhances spoken humor) is a relationship between two things or ideas. The relationship usually connects two previously unrelated items. For example, Gary Larson cartoons often relate animals with human characteristics. In one cartoon, all the patrons in a restaurant are snakes. One of the snakes at the table in the background is twisted and in an unusual position. Two snakes at a table in the foreground and talking about the unusual body language of the snake at the other table. “Oh, honey, he’s just signing.” He is referring to using sign language for the deaf. The technique: Making a link with human characteristic which you would not normally associate with snakes.
6. To make humorous connections, use the laundry-list technique. If you’re writing a piece on how nurses have a challenging job, you might start with the premise that working in a hospital is like working in a combat zone. Then you create two lists. One list for hospital-related things. Another list for military-related things. And then you look for similarities and contrasts between the two lists. You might come up with a line like: “After an upper GI exam, you get the GI Bill.” Or, “When completing a shift report you sometimes resort to Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell.”
7. Keep in mind that the element of surprise, one of the key elements that make humor tick, demands that you keep the punchline and punchword (the word that triggers the joke) at the end of the joke. If you fail to place the punchword at the very end, you run the risk of smothering it and hiding the humor.
8. Use punctuation for the pacing and timing of your humor. If you were speaking the humor line, you would use a pause. When writing, use a dash to accentuate the punch word. Or use the ellipsis. For example, the classic Henny Youngman line would look like: “Take my wife…please!”
9. Practice writing jokes to a theme. For example, what if Hillary Clinton were elected President. Or ten reasons why Las Vegas is like Disneyland. Or by writing captions for cartoons. The practice is like going to the gym. The more you write, your writing skills become stronger. That applies to humor writing too. Jest wishes for fun writing and many laughs.
Copyright 2005 John Kinde