Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Comedy is the hardest form of writing. There's no formula, no recipe for making people laugh and very few good tips on how to write funny fiction. But there are rules.

First, humour must look effortless. Comedy must appear to happen by accident or the reader will feel manipulated. 

Surprise is important to a good laugh. The unexpected often makes us laugh even when the situation isn’t funny.

As pleasant as it is to be silly in real life, silly doesn’t work on the page.  It just looks stupid. A waste of reading time.

Then there's comic timing, a rhythm that's even harder to do in writing than in stand-up comedy. Short sentences are funnier than long ones and several short sentences together can be funny. Punctuation and spacing on the page can also contribute to comedic timing. A full stop is often funnier than an ellipsis or a comma.

Stand-up comics claim there are funny words. THIRTY-TWO is apparently side-splitting, as are: PUCK, KUMQUAT, PANTS, NOODLE  and BELGIAN, among others.  It must be the context or the human voice that makes them funny.

And good comedy is usually simple.  Pared down. Succinct. A word tincture.  Very difficult to do. Think Tolstoy's "Drops dripped", only funny.
    Every time I sit down to write something funny, I break out in a sweat, my neck stiffens, my claws clench on the keyboard and I begin to cry. I’d never be able to earn my living as a comedy writer.
    Not to worry, with the advent of the iPad, I'm pretty sure that e-books will soon have all sorts of audio and video links, including laugh tracks. We won't have to suffer so much as we write comedy, we'll just insert a link and slink away knowing that, even though we got a laugh, we failed to rise to the challenge of making readers laugh with mere words.


MOLLYC said...

OMG,I love this! I write humor, have no idea how I do it, and couldn't give anybody advice on how to do it, either. You can. And I laughed out loud at "Belgian." Do you know that when people in Brussels get colds, they become slightly "Flemish?" Perhaps you are brilliant. molly

Jen Bee, a writer said...

Hey, that was funny. =) Helpful too. I was a little intrigued by these iPad thingies, but my laptop and I, well, we don't always see eye-to-eye. Never, in fact. Would be very creepy if I found it had eyes.

Nora Lumiere said...

Comedy is a slippery subject isn't it?
Hard to define and create, but wonderful when it works.
Thanks for the compliments.
(Laughing out loud is the best compliment!)

Debs Riccio said...

I write with humour, at least I hope I do. I've been told I do. And I LOVE making people laugh with things I say - trouble is, occasionally I get carried away and what sounds funny in my head, sometimes leaves my mouth stupidly and I have to 'explain' which of course defeats the humorous object. Laughter is a great tonic.

Nora Lumiere said...

I've only just found your comment; how is that possible? I was not notified, so I apologise for the delayed response.
I know what you mean about finding something hilarious and seeing people staring at you blankly. But even if others didn't find it funny I will at least have had the physical benefit of laughing, the dopamine and the endorphins.