Tips on Writing Comedy?

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Tips on Writing Comedy?

#1 Post by Katy133 » Sat Nov 16, 2013 4:07 pm

I'm looking for some tips on writing humor; not just for comedies, but advice on writing humor for stories that have more serious/dark tones as well.

Also, what are your favourite types of comedy? (examples: dialogue humor, slapstick, black comedy, parody, deadpan, wordplay, etc.)

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Re: Tips on Writing Comedy?

#2 Post by SundownKid » Sun Nov 17, 2013 1:11 am

Main tip on writing comedy? Have a lot of terrible things happen to you, also, read and watch a lot of comedy.

But seriously, one thing that reminds me of is the "rule of threes". A joke is funnier when it's repeated 3 times. The first part brings surprise, the second part emphasizes it and the third part makes it absurd.

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Re: Tips on Writing Comedy?

#3 Post by Obscura » Sun Nov 17, 2013 1:38 am

The best type of comedy in a narrative setting is the kind that arises naturally from your characters' personalities. In other words, don't force a joke--let it emerge organically from the way your characters interact with one another.

Aside from that, it's a lot of work trying to make people laugh. Unless you've got the brains of Oscar Wilde, you have to sit there working and reworking jokes and bits until they sound right. There's a reason why sitcoms employ teams of writers, and filmmakers often hire comedians to "punch up" an existing screenplay. It's a freaking buttload of work.

Some links for you to check out:

Genre writers talking about humor. (This is a wonderful podcast for writers in general, BTW. Highly recommended). ... -21-humor/ ... -of-humor/

Jerry Seinfeld discussing how he writes jokes. An illustration of how much craft and persistence is involved in the art of telling jokes. ... te-a-joke/

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Re: Tips on Writing Comedy?

#4 Post by EightHeadedDragon » Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:50 am

This is quite a bit more helpful than what I was told by an actual professor on screenwriting. "If you're not funny, don't try to be" :(

But it occurs to me, that a lot of the funny people I know personally do have a lot of misses amidst their hits, but the courage/recklessness to keep trying. They say things that cross the line, piss people off, get them in trouble, and those experiences are scattered amongst the ones that went well for them. Then again, there are some people that simply aren't funny and don't know when to quit...

For the rest of us, there's always internet memes I suppose. :wink:

This commentary brought to you by someone who is of the not-funny group. My sense of humor is a little bit too dark and cruel and just makes most people uncomfortable. The one fellow who thinks I'm funny said I'd be hilarious if I had the stones to open my mouth more freely, but this is a guy who is constantly, constantly horrifying people with a ghastly and grotesque sense of humor.

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Re: Tips on Writing Comedy?

#5 Post by Dazed » Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:13 am

I took a playwriting class in college and my professor advised us COMEDY IS THE HARDEST GENRE TO WRITE on Day One. To master a successful comedic play/script/novel/etc. the author has a big one up if they're funny to begin with. Comedy is hard to get into if you've never exactly been exposed to it OR you're just not very clever when it comes to making people laugh. Honestly, some of us just aren't standup material.

Comedy can really shine through in cleverly written dialogue. Getting into shenanigans and obscure plots is always great too, but readers that remember specific lines that made them fall out of their chair is a feeling of accomplishment that never goes away. So make sure the dialogue is solid and new. And, as stated earlier, there are several different types of comedy - so you could go dark, raunchy, or slapstick. Parodies are also great if there's something you really want to poke fun at.

It's difficult but totally worth the time and effort. :)
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Re: Tips on Writing Comedy?

#6 Post by OokamiKasumi » Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:13 pm

Obscura wrote:...The only shortcut I've found to being a funny writer is to be the child of a somewhat cruel, sardonic, and borderline sociopathic parent who enjoys mocking you throughout childhood and especially the tender stages of adolescence. But we're not all born that lucky.
I was...
-- And this was indeed what allowed me to perfect my sarcastic, and somewhat bitter, sense of humor. :)

-- When I asked a close friend how she wrote Crack (humor), this was the advice she gave to me:

Writing CrAcK
By Kita the Spaz
-- Posted with permission.

~snerks~ Seriously, when you get prompts like the ones I do sometimes, crack is all you can make of them. What other kind of story would have "A monkey's uncle, banana peels and lilacs"? Certainly not a very serious one.

Okay, theory in practice is remarkably similar to the Murphy's Law Cascade Effect, also known as Finagle's Law of Dynamic Negatives.

-- Anything that can go wrong, Should go wrong -- and in the most annoying way.

To show you how this works, say for example, you are given these as a prompt:
  • • Sober yet emotionally-driven Main Character
    • Impressive yet fun-loving Love Interest
    • Doodles
    • Devoted yet insane Best Friend
    • [place of employment] betting pool
Well it would be remarkably easy to set it up for a one liner, but the real trick is to think, "What else can go wrong?"

So, you take it and think...

Main Character has been doodling little sketches of Love Interest; sweet, admiring and romantic images that, as a man and a professional, he would never admit to.

Here's where you bring the Best Friend in; as the slightly less-than-perfectly-sane friend she is.
-- This sort of character would resolve to help Main Character express their sentiments to the Love Interest, by stealing the drawings with the intent to show them to Love Interest. However, being that she is not subtle, and is in fact determined to be as noticeable as she can, she does not go about sneaking them into books and grocery bags, but instead plasters them up all over the neighborhood, the Boss's office, the [local snack] stand... Any and Every place visible and highly conspicuous.

Of course, our Main Character is mortified and goes around trying to tear them down before their Love Interest, who is out on a [job], can see these things.

Here you bring in the betting pool.
-- Main Character's fellow employees bet on everything from, How will Main Character kill Best Friend when he catches her, to what Love Interest's reaction is going to be. Of course, because they are invested in the outcome, several of them will most likely aid and abet Best Friend.
  • By helping her make more copies to place (or replace) the drawings.
  • Coming up with more horribly sappy and mushy drawings of their own and posting those everywhere too.
Love Interest of course, will have already come back to town the night before, so he's been at home sleeping, and out of sight.

Here would be the perfect opportunity to bring in someone who is made for spreading Crack: the Love Interest's jovial Best Friend.
-- Love Interest's Best Friend would go to visit the Love Interest, spouting admiration (and possibly jealousy) over Love Interest being the object of such passionate devotion etc...

It's at this point that the WTF factor kicks in for the Love Interest. So, what does he do, but go looking about for these drawings. What does he find?

Main Character with his hands full of these lovely little doodles.
-- Main Character had been in the process of tearing them down, but that's NOT what it looks like. Instead, he looks awfully red-handed with his hands full of papers and his cheeks gone red.

This is Main Character's chance to explain. Does he?

Hell no! That would bring the story to a screeching, and rather anti-climatic halt. So instead...
-- Main Character bolts.

Here you insert a chase scene, with Main Character doing everything in his power to escape what he thinks is an infuriated Love Interest on his tail. Pranks, doubling back, even a distraction of several busty girls shoved in the Love Interest's way.

It culminates in a confrontation in front of the [place of employment] and Main Character bracing for a fight he knows he will lose...

And here we have the punch-line.
-- "Mah... Why not just ask me for a date? Was all this really necessary?"

Crack, in a neat little package.
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Re: Tips on Writing Comedy?

#7 Post by Meneil » Wed Nov 20, 2013 2:53 pm

When you start breaking down comedy, it's almost all directly formulas. The one that SundownKid mentioned - repeating something until the third time, with the third time being the punch line, is a very common and effective method of delivering comedy. You do not necessarily have to be a funny person to write good comedy, but you definitely have to understand why something is funny to replicate it. There is probably better information online than what I can type up, but I usually have static characters in comedy - the funny part comes in how much the world changes, yet how stubbornly or awkwardly the main character/s remain the same.

Edit: Thought I'd give some other examples of common formulas. In movies/games, you'll notice that there's almost always a pause before a joke is delivered. This little gap of silence subconsciously prepares us to expect something, and ensures that we catch the joke.

Another is the 'voice of reason' character. The characters and world might be completely ridiculous, but there's always that one 'normal' character. Having that one normal character lets us compare him/her to the rest of the world, and realize how ridiculous everything is, and usually voices the audience's sane opinion. If everything's silly, then that's the norm, and the norm has trouble being funny without a counterpart. I see this in comics and sketches a lot.

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