Me: Ask me what makes me so funny!Today’s tip is about writing humor. I’m not even sure that I should be giving suggestions here, given that my process tends to involve an ongoing internal monologue about what I think I want to write that occurs throughout the mundane events of the day. I’ll be running the Swiffer WetJet over the kitchen floor, or retrieving a Mickey Mouse magnet from under the refrigerator with a spatula, or plucking the stray hairs on my chin, and the ideas just come.
You: Okay, what make you so f
But within that internal monologue, I revise until it’s funny. Okay, maybe just funnier than it was, but sometimes I crack myself up. There are tricks to make things just a touch more humorous, and I share them with you now. Lord help me.
- Specific things and names are funnier than the generic. So “running the Swiffer WetJet” is more amusing than “sweeping the floor.”
- Some imagery will just hit the right chord. It’s funnier to think of someone lying on the floor fishing around under the fridge then washing the dishes.
- Revealing personal things is funny. So if I tell you about plucking stray hairs on my chin, you have an “Omigod, I can’t believe she said that!” reaction, and it’s funny.
- Truly, some words are funnier than others. Spatula is better than broom. Swiffer WetJet is like a gift from the comedy gods.
- Showing an awkward personal experience that others share is amusing, like digging under the refrigerator or plucking chin hairs.
- Generally, the rhythm of funny is in threes. Two normal phrases, and the last punch line. But not always.
- References to current events or trends is funny, but it has to be current. You don’t want to look oh-so-two-minutes-ago. Retro can also work, but anything before the late seventies isn’t retro anymore, it’s just old-people funny.
- Tone can really change how funny something is. I’d pledge my lifelong allegiance to the person who comes up with an ironic font and no, the little winking emoticon isn’t enough.
- Everyone loves a good inside joke. Well, everyone on the inside does anyway.
- Setting up for the unexpected is funny.
Squirrels are amazing creatures, built for speed and agility. Once I saw a squirrel running across M street, darting in and out of traffic. It got to the Starbucks, and came back just as quickly. That is, until it was flattened by a Hyundai. You know, people aren’t as fast as squirrels. Just something to think about.Now look at it with the rules applied.
Squirrels(4) are amazing creatures, built for speed and agility. Once I saw a squirrel running across M street,(9) darting in and out of traffic.(2) It got to the Starbucks,(7) and came back just as quickly. That is, until it was flattened(4) by a Hyundai.(1) You know, people aren’t as fast as squirrels.(10) Just something to think about.(8)You’ll see that it wouldn’t have been as funny if it had been a cat far too personal, and not a funny word. Using flattened evokes old cartoon images, and is funnier than run over by. Of course, Hyundai is better both as a specific instead of car and as a funny word. The whole fake ad was an inside joke and was said in a casual tone.
So, now I’ve gone for broke on my trade secrets. And all in honor of the November Carnival of Children’s Literature, where the theme is tips, tricks, and advice. Yes, for this month I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit. It doesn’t have to be a post that you did in November or October, though you may consider tweaking and re-posting an older entry to use; you can pick a post from any point this year. If you have something from last year, polish that baby up and repost it. I’ve got a good part of the Carnival ready now, so if you want to send something, get it to me by Tuesday evening. Send your links through my email (see the Email MotherReader! button). I have some great submissions so far, but I want more. Because I give and give and give to this relationship, and I need to take. I need to take something for myself. Or for, you know, the Carnival.