Sunday, April 2, 2017

Writing Humor/The Theory Behind it

Why is comedy difficult?
Well in most writing, you have a story and it can go up and down and around and people don't necessarily have a specific emotional response they must have. Unlike a western or sci-go or historical fiction, humor is a genre of mood, not place or time or parameters of how reality is understood. In humor, there is an expectation, to be amused.
If we don't laugh, it's not funny. Pure and simple, that straight forward, and that daunting at the same time. People can write a sad story, and though you may not weep, you may feel sadness and thus consider the story emotionally to be a success, but if a joke draws indifference, it has failed. It is not a joke. It's just a bad line or a stupid line or a poor bit of writing poorly told.
There are so many ways for a joke to fail, it is the souflee of the writing world. When it works, it's light, it's fluffy, it's magnificient and you want everyone to enjoy it, but it can't last. The joke is a pleasure of the moment, and once the moment is gone, it can't fully come again except in someone else experiencing the pleasure of the moment. All jokes are essentially one night stands in the brain.
What does that mean? It means everything you write in Comedy, has to be something someone else never wrote. Every bit of humor has to be a joke no one else told. You can copy a style of delivery, or of writing, but people know the voice/stamp of comedy in a way they don't often in any other genre, such that the jokes will become stale even before their told if the voice of the writer and the humor being created don't match up.
So how do you write humor? The same way we write anything else. Start with the story.
1) Can you exhaggerate it? Make the stakes what they are not.
 "The fate of the universe depends upon me, and to a lesser extent, you." --Ace in Chicken Little
2) Can you diminish it? Make the consequences what they are not. "You are a sad, sick little man and you have my pity." --Buzz Lightyear.
3) Can you find an orange to compare to this apple? Associative connections are your friends. "If she weighs as much as a duck, she's made of wood..." --Monty Python's Holy Grail
4) Can you create an assertion that has no basis in reality and make it stick? "Donuts, is there nothing they can't do?" --Homer Simpson
5) Can you use logic to destroy all reasoning? Spock: "Your logic was impeccable, Captain. We are in grave danger.”
6) Can you play with language like legos? Puns, tropes, alliteration, assonance, oxymorons, hyperbole and metaphors are your friends.
"Marie Antoinette could have avoided that whole nasty business if she'd just issued an edict authorizing the distribution of food to the poor, but she couldn't. Because you can't have your cake and edict too." --Mr. Peabody.

7) Invert all your feelings on the matter. Ugate: "You despise me don't you?" Rick: "If I gave you any thought, I would."
Bonus if you can manage all seven in one piece.  Ultimately, the rules of humor follow one ultimate rule. Make 'em laugh.  Humor is a way of connecting the idiosyncratic to the universal and the universal to the individual  I don't have to be what the comedian is, to enjoy the stories the comedian tells.  Likewise, the humor reaches across ages.   
Consider whatever scenario you craft to be the diving board for the humor. Now, take a deep breath and dive deep.

1 comment:

LarryD said...

Good analysis. So true. Humor is a very hard thing to write.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!