Skip to main content
Publish date:

Ian Frazier on Humor Writing

[Humor] is something that you really can’t hit by aiming at it. It’s not like you can go out and get the facts and report them and now here’s a humor piece with the facts. With reporting, if you work hard you can usually pull something out. But writing humor doesn’t respond to working hard, necessarily. I mean, you could just sit there and look at the page all day and maybe something will come. But writing humor for me is more like a watchful-ness. You have to watch. When you say something funny, or someone else does, it’s more like you wait for the piece. I think maybe it’s more like writing a poem. I’ve never really been into that at all, but I assume a poet would get to a certain point and say, gee, I know I need a fifth stanza here, but I don’t know what it should be. And then maybe the poet doesn’t think of anything for five years. I don’t know I can imagine that; I’ve had it happen with humor pieces. I’ll get to a certain point and say, you know, up to here it works but I don’t know what to do next. It’s a sense—you have a sense of humor.

Hi Writers,
I read this great piece in The New Yorker May 26, “Tales from a Chelsea Soup Kitchen” by Ian Frazier. It's a feature about how he started a writing workshop that operates in tandem with a NYC church-based soup kitchen.

I thought it had a lot of interesting things to say about how to operate a writing workshop and gave some good idea-generating topics. Unfortunately, the article isn't available online, but I did find this podcast with Frazier, in which he talks about writing humor. Whenever a New Yorker writer has something to say about writing, I listen.

Here's a bit of the transcript from the podcast interview, which runs about 15 minutes (and I promise, well worth your time):
Sometimes people write funny things and I say, you know if you just made it a little longer and added a little plot, you’d have a humor piece here. It isn’t just people in this workshop. It’s people in general. They’ll get something funny, but it’ll just be a line or two lines. Even now I think because of TV I think that’s become a problem—that people write really, really short. So all of the suggestions of where this could go, you know there’s all this potential here.

Any thoughts about what Frazier has to say about humor writing? Post them here.

Keep Writing,
Maria

15 Promotional Ideas for Nonfiction Authors

15 Promotional Ideas for Nonfiction Authors

For the introverted writer, the process of promoting your book may seem to be a daunting, even frightening undertaking. Here, nonfiction author Rick Lauber lays out 15 promotional ideas for authors to get their books into as many hands as possible.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 26

For the 2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a Well Blank poem.

Black Friday Savings 2021

Take Advantage of Our Black Friday Deals This Weekend

At Writer's Digest, there's no need to get up early or push and shove at stores to get your Black Friday deals. In fact, we give you the whole weekend to take advantage of them. Check them out here.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Break

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Break

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, your character receives an unexpected break or benefit.

The Joys and Challenges of Writing About Food

The Joys and Challenges of Writing About Food

Food takes on a main role in Annabel Abbs' novel, Miss Eliza's English Kitchen, where research incorporated all the senses. Here, she discusses the joys and challenges of writing about food.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 25

For the 2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a thankful poem.

How To Turn an Idea Into a Chapter Book Series

How To Turn an Idea Into a Chapter Book Series

From finding the idea to writing the manuscript and sending it off to agents, author Christine Evans maps out how to turn an idea into a chapter book series.

8 Tips for Developing a Thrilling Espionage Premise

8 Tips for Developing a Thrilling Espionage Premise

Maintaining tension and high stakes requires careful attention in the writing process. Ambassador Philip Kaplan offers 8 tips for developing a thrilling espionage premise that helped him in writing his debut book, Night in Tehran.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 24

For the 2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a response poem.