Learn how to write comedy with the book, Comedy Writing Secrets. Authors Mel Helitzer and Mark Shatz discuss comedy writing tips, the basic formulas of humor writing, and why it’s important to have fun while writing humor. After all, the imagination is key to learning how to write humor! Today’s tip of the day, excerpted below, is taken from part one of the book and is called The Basics of Humor Writing.
Discover How to Write Humor Through Creative Thinking
Humor has tremendous value. It’s an art form. But it’s not a mystery–it has structure and formula. You can learn this creative art for your own personal enjoyment or for financial gain.
Admittedly, some widely known authors feel that humor-writing skills (let alone the sense of humor) are mystically inherited rather than learned, and likely molded by such factors as ethnic characteristics, early childhood maternal influence, and insecurity.
But the truth is that anyone can learn to write humor. Although some individuals are naturally funnier than others, just as some individuals are more athletic or more musically gifted, humor writing can be taught and humor-writing skills can be acquired. Humor is not a mystery, because (like stage magic) it is possible to demystify it.
Let’s use a simple humor exercise to illustrate that humor writing is accessible to everyone. Consider the possible uses of two round bar stool cushions. Other than stool cushions, what can they be? For five minutes, use your imagination and plenty of exaggeration. Without being restrained by practicality, scribble down as many possibilities as you can.
Your list of possible uses for two stool cushions might include the following:
- elephant slippers
- oversized skullcaps
- eye patches for a giant
- hemorrhoid pads for a really large person
- Frisbees for the athletically challenged
This humor Rorschach test illustrates the first step in humor conception–imagination. Creativity is the key to comedy’s engine, which won’t turn over without unbridled imagination. Look at any other common object–an ashtray, a beer bottle, furniture in a room, or parts of the human body. Train your mind to constantly ask What if? and brainstorm all the possibilities of what else these objects could be. Don’t worry if your ideas seem absurd. The exercises are designed to get your imagination in gear. To write funny, you must first think funny.
What if? imagination allows you to realign diverse elements into new and unexpected relationships that surprise the audience–and surprise makes people laugh.
Humorists have one cardinal rule: Don’t be inhibited. It’s better to take a nihilistic attitude toward sensitive subjects than to pussyfoot around taboos. When writing, write freely. Make uninhibited assumptions. Editing and self-censorship are second and third steps–never the first!
We’ll describe later how to fit your ideas into the basic formulas of humor writing. If your internal critic limits your imagination by saying This stinks, then you will be left with nothing. Your goal is to tap the full potential of your comedic imagination by remembering this mantra: Nothing stinks. Nothing does stink!
Imagination drives comedy, and just about everyone has an imagination–or no one would ever get married. So just about everyone can learn the fundamentals of humor. How well you learn them depends on how much effort you’re willing to expend.