Humor is a funny thing. It is easy to make some people laugh -- employees, mothers, bartenders, the guy at the coffee shop -- but being funny to strangers is an art form. I recently attended a workshop by author and comedy instructor Judy Carter on how to write funny.
Let me stop here and warn the reader that this blog posting is not actually funny.
Judy boldly stated at the beginning of the workshop that she could make anyone funny. And by the end of the workshop, I believed her. The key is in finding your authentic voice, and then finding ways to embrace your defects and be more human. Think about what other people (spouses, lovers, siblings) would say your defects are, and make it into a joke. My mother would say I spend too much money on clothes and shoes. To be funny, I would need to embrace that defect and make jokes about it. To do this, I need to put myself down in front of people.
You know you spend too much money on shoes when...
- Your credit card is always maxed out.
- You’ve never even come close to wearing out the soles on a pair of shoes.
- You’ve taken photos of all your shoes and taped them to the shoebox lid so you can remember what you have.
Yes, the last bullet is something I have actually done, as you probably guessed from the picture of gold sandals -- Taryn by Taryn Rose -- on sale!
But the example above also illustrates another point that Judy made, and that is that comedy is about lists. And the key thing to know about lists is that anytime you make a list, be sure that the first two items in the list are relatable to most people, and that the third item is spun to be funny. According to Judy, specificity is funny. The formula for funny lists is general, general and then funny. Your list can be more than three, but should never be less than three. And your challenge in writing these lists is to think about the distinctions of whatever topic you are covering. What is weird about spending too much money on shoes? Not being able to afford going out in them. So I’m sitting in my studio apartment eating ramen noodles in a $400 pair of stilettos. What is hard? What is weird? What is scary? Those are the other questions to consider as you try to write humorously.
I like to think of humor as something that comes naturally, but after Judy’s workshop, I realized that there is an art to writing jokes and being humorous to more than just a handful of loved ones. You can learn more about Judy at her website http://www.judycarter.com/. Thanks to the Independent Writers of Southern California for bringing her to its members like me.