I mentioned in my Friday and Saturday posts that I’d be writing about this topic today. Many people commented that they were eager to come back and read it. I thought, “Oh crap. Now I have to write something good.”
Let me preface this with the fact that I know I am, by far, not the funniest person out there. But I’ve been studying funny people and reading books and blogs about how to write humor and I’ve seen improvement in my humor writing and joke tweeting.
So, I’m going to share with you the tips I’ve learned about being funny that have helped me. This is not an exhaustive list, there are other tips, but these have had the most impact on me and my writing.
1. Stop worrying about what other people think. If you don’t care, then you’re one step ahead. For years, I worried too much about what people thought about me and was rarely myself. My sister was the only person that thought I was funny because I was myself around her. I’m still not perfect at this, but much better and therefore funnier.
2. The Element of surprise. According to research done by Jerry Corley of the Stand-Up Comedy Clinic, surprise is the number one element that triggers human laughter. Lead people down one path, then hit them with something completely unexpected.
Just combed down our golden retriever for the first time this season and discovered we own a chihuahua.
— Andry H’tims (@Thing_Finder) May 26, 2013
3. End with funny. In an interview with Gene Weingarten, Dave Barry said, “Put the funniest word at the end of a sentence.” and “Put the funniest sentence at the beginning of the story.” I try to put the funny stuff at the end of a sentence, paragraph or post rather than the beginning or middle. I haven’t tried putting the funniest sentence at the beginning of a story. I’m going to work on that.
4. Write good metaphors and similes. This is probably the easiest thing to do to make a sentence funny. You just have to get creative. Terrye Toombs at The Adventures of a Misplaced Alaskan is really good at this. Here are some examples from her blog.
“That went over like a fart in church…”
“And we weren’t the only ones sent out for the day like non-housebroken puppies.”
“So, like a monkey with OCD, every five minutes, you find your monitor displaying the latest statistics for your blog.”
5. Be honest. The truth is hilarious. People can relate to it. Talk about what everybody thinks, but rarely says. Be honest about the stupid things you do. People love this crap. When you look like a fool, people laugh. Embarrassing moments and stories are the best.
6. Include random facts and details. On Friday, I wrote in my post, “I waxed poetic – actually, it wasn’t really poetic, but I did wax – kind of like Ralph Macchio – about trying to figure out what the purpose of my blog is…”. That’s funny because if you grew up in the 80s, you know The Karate Kid and recognize the play on words with “wax on, wax off.” And it’s random.
7. Details are funny. Details help people paint a picture of what you’re saying, and they can make boring sentences funny. You could say, “I chugged my drink and ran.” or “I chugged my Caffeine-Free Diet Cherry Vanilla Coke and ran.” Which is funnier?
8. Place two completely different things next to each other.
Homemaking Tip: In a pinch, the end slices of bread can be used as toilet paper. (Ladies, feel free to post this to your web pinny thing.)
— Abe Yospe (@Cheeseboy22) May 7, 2013
Hilarious on so many levels. We think we’re getting a serious tip, but then he surprises us with the bread, which nobody would ever use as toilet paper. Then Abe wraps it up with suggesting women put it on that “web pinny thingy”. Awesome.
9. Obvious exaggeration or lies. Exaggeration and obvious lies are funny. It’s got to be obvious though or people will think you’re serious. Here’s an example.
In order to fit properly into my swim suit this summer, I’ll need to fast for about the next 246 days.
— AnotherBottleofWhine (@KateWhineHall) May 3, 2013
10. Use language that isn’t expected of you. A 40-year old speaking like a teenager is funny. Me, a mom that drives a mini-van, saying, “Yo, whattup, peeps.” is funny, but not as funny as Barbara Billingsly (Mom, June Cleaver, on Leave It To Beaver) speaking jive in the movie Airplane. That was hilarious.
11. Talk about everyday things. Write about your frustrations with mundane things. Or write about things people keep doing for no good reason. Jerry Seinfeld is the master of talking about mundane things. Check out this tweet from Brian Hope.
It’s mandatory for someone at a barbecue to question if the potato salad has gone bad.
— Brian Hope (@Brianhopecomedy) May 14, 2013
This is funny because everyone has done it or heard it. I’ve done it…probably every time I’ve been to a barbecue.
12. Let it mellow. This could be applied to all writing. If you’re not sure about something you’ve written, let it sit; let it mellow. I often use the Notes app in my iPhone to write a humorous observation or joke before I tweet it. I’ll come back 15 minutes or a day later and read it again. If I still think it’s funny, then I’ll tweet it. Sometimes I’ll realize it needs some work. Sometimes I realize it’s stupid and I delete it before someone finds my phone and sees how awful my draft tweets really are. I do this for my posts too. Walking away for a period of time helps.
13. Read funny stuff. If you want to write a funny blog, read funny blogs. If you want to write funny tweets, read funny tweets. Study the parts that make you laugh out loud and figure out what they said or wrote that made you laugh. The people I quoted in this post are hilarious. Start with them.
14. Practice! You’re going to write some bombs. I deliver tweets every day that I’m later embarrassed to have in my timeline because they were so bad. Sometimes I delete them. My husband reads most of my posts before I publish them. He has vetoed a couple because, “it just wasn’t funny,” while I thought it was hilarious. But I’ve noticed he hasn’t vetoed any lately and he’s finding fewer issues with my posts because I’m beginning to get a handle on what’s good and what sucks. I’ve had a lot more practice than I did a year ago.
Remember that not everyone has the same taste in humor. I’ve had comments on the same post that range from “hilarious” to “this woman has a whiney voice”. So, just ignore the haters.
It also helps if you’re a little funny to begin with. If anyone, even a sibling, has ever said you’re funny, then you probably are.
Do you have any tips that make you or you’re writing funnier? We need to know! Tell us in the comments.
If this was helpful to you, share it, yo!