simon morris's picture
simon morris from Originally, Philadelphia, PA; presently Miami Beach, FL is reading This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George November 4, 2011 - 7:17am

Did you ever have someone say to you--"Say something funny?"

I find that the most difficult task in writing is to be intentionally funny AND original. Throwing in old jokes doesn't count even if you tailor them to your story. Can you give examples of intentionally funny lines (whether successful or not) you have created in context, or just make up something funny on the spot as a challenge.

Since I brought it up, I will begin by creating a one-liner. It is up to the reader to determine if it is, indeed, funny, but at the time I wrote it, I thought it was.

Did you hear about the masochist who went to his doctor for pain pills? He came back a week later to complain that he took them and he wasn't feeling any pain.

In context, I wrote a vignette in which two characters were discussing the viability of moving to Sarasota Florida.

One was unconvinced and the other gave a list of reasons why the move was a positive thing.

The other replied, "Yeah, I agree with all that, but Sarasota? I'd rather have a can a' soda." BRAAACK!

So, throw a one-liner, a shaggy dog story, a paradox, metaphor or simile that aims for a chuckle, a laugh, or if you have it in you, one that can get someone to pee his or her pants.  Too many writers are so bleeping serious that they ought to be funeral directors. Time to lighten up people!

 

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break November 4, 2011 - 7:33am

Pulled from my social media:

-My new book trailer is going to be a 108,000-minute YouTube video of me writing it.

-Tipping strippers with copies of "Infinite Jest" and "The Pale King" sounded a lot better in theory.

-I'm going to pull a Chris Gaines and write genre fiction under a fake name while wearing a cheap wig.

-You don't have writer's block. You just haven't taken the right pills yet.

-Holding out for iPhone12.

-I know you think big boobies are sexy, but nothing revs my engine more than a gal that knows the difference between: their, they're, and there.

#grammar fetish

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 4, 2011 - 7:40am

@Brandon - I got a giggle out of the Chris Gaines and the stripper one. 

My sense of humor is terrible.  My most recent "joke" consisted of a list of the most awkward things to buy during a single trip to Wal-Mart: pregnancy test, condoms, turkey bastor, long metal tongs.

I can't tell a joke to save me.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 4, 2011 - 8:10am
  • I'd recognize those nipples anywhere.
  • I'd never had my very own petite lap snake before. Well at least not one with legs anyway.
  • "I forgot to have children," mother told the nurse. They were her last words. I sat next to the hospital bed, holding her hand, comforting her as she passed. 
aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 4, 2011 - 8:15am

I think humor is largely subjective.  Some people like obvious humor and other people like dry, subtle humor.  I am somewhere inbetween.  I personally hate Adam Sandler type movies where the humor is all toilet humor and about being loud and obnoxious as possible.  I like British humor that is dry and witty but not ALL the time.  Personally I prefer satire or sarcasm.

I think some of the "funniest" opening lines I wrote were as follows.  Again, what I think of as funny  might be stupid to you.

--The world was ending and all Zack Peterson cared about was whether or not his hair looked cool.

--When rich people suffer God cares more because they can buy those gold houses in Heaven that everyone else can't afford. 

---Jason's life truly began the day he got hit by the bus.

---She updated her Facebook status to dead.

cowboywerewolf's picture
cowboywerewolf from DC is reading Homage to Catalonia November 4, 2011 - 9:43am

If you want humor, you really can't go wrong with Albert Brooks http://twitter.com/#!/AlbertBrooks

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts November 4, 2011 - 9:54am

She got her literary tattoo in Comic Sans.

Nighty Nite's picture
Nighty Nite from NJ is reading Grimscribe: His Lives and Works November 4, 2011 - 10:05am

What's the difference between a cat and a comma?

One has claws at the end of its paws and one is a pause at the end of a clause.

 

 

 

Mike Mckay's picture
Mike Mckay is reading God's Ashtray November 4, 2011 - 10:26am

^^^

 

Ba dum tsss

 

Am I doin' it right?

Nighty Nite's picture
Nighty Nite from NJ is reading Grimscribe: His Lives and Works November 4, 2011 - 10:59am

Thanks. I'll be here all week. Try the veal, it's great.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 4, 2011 - 1:24pm

As I wrote on the last thread on humor, I'm a humor writer. But I'm not a "joke teller" and I'm not sure if I've ever told a joke in person (although I may sometimes say funny things in person). As far as my writing, I don't feel like it contains jokes (although I don't know how else to describe writing humorous content). And my humor comes automatically when I write and I need to make a concentrated effort to "shut it off." If I make a conscious attempt write humor, it ends up sucking. And I lack the self-awareness as far as when I write something that is funny and when I write something humorous-ish that just isn't. I used to have this self-awareness long ago but lost it for reasons that I cannot determine. It's to bad because back when I had the self-awareness, if I wrote a bad joke (or whatever), I would either rewrite it again and again until it was good joke or cut it out entirely (I'm using the word, "joke" here because I don't know how else to describe it).

Anyway, I feel like writing humor is something that cannot be learned and is just something ingrained in an author. But perhaps I'm wrong and it may be possible to study humor to become a better humor writer through it. I read a book on humor writing a while back (it may have been a Reader's Digest book) and found it pretty bad. As I mentioned in the last thread, here's the one book that I would recommend (and it is extremely short and there's a big discount for it on Amazon although your likely to find it in a library or through an interlibrary loan): http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Youve-Heard-This-Philosophy/dp/B005DICX2W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320437434&sr=8-1

Also, I've met people who are hilarious in person but don't write humor. I guess it has a lot of humor has to do with "timing," and although timing is definitely imprtant in humor writing, it is even more important to humor that is spoken rather than written.

Bruno Hat's picture
Bruno Hat from Glasgow, Scotland is reading writing and arithmetic November 4, 2011 - 1:58pm

"Did you hear about the masochist who went to his doctor for pain pills? He came back a week later to complain that he took them and he wasn't feeling any pain."

Well I laughed.

I think the funniest thing about this thread is that no one can spell humour properly.

 

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 4, 2011 - 1:59pm

Haha, nice.

Bruno Hat's picture
Bruno Hat from Glasgow, Scotland is reading writing and arithmetic November 4, 2011 - 2:05pm

Phil:

Just checked your profile and your favourite book is 'Lanark' and your favourite author is Faulkner.

Lanark is in my top three and Faulkner is in my top two. You're obviously a man of good taste.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 4, 2011 - 2:11pm

Yeah, Lanark is a beast of a book. Alasdair Gray's work was what made me want to write seriously.

As a token of admiration I shall add you as a friend.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin November 4, 2011 - 2:13pm

The short story "A Little Credit" came out of a bet my father made with me that I could not write something "upbeat," there were a couple of jokes in there. 

". If their tolerance for the icons and phrases means anything, one day, I hope to get into the Louvre.

So that I can paint graffiti all over the bathrooms."

Is not very original, I feel like I've seen similar thoughts re: the place of Graffiti in the louvre, but a little funny.

The punchline of the whole piece involves the narrator discovering the use of a giant rooster as his signature for his graffiti:

"'Well,' I tell her, 'The writing and stencils are alright, but I don't want people to forget my huge cock.'"

-

Not my best work I admit, it was mostly to settle a bet, but there were a couple of cute little jokes. Usually my jokes involve the so called "gallows humor" most of the jokes in Citizens, which I could and should track down but am too busy to do righ now 

Legal Technicality, in my opinion, is significantly funnier:

 “Well, to explain that will take several conversations. The language wall is pretty steep between your way of speaking and my own. You do not have a word for 'farming,' it is a foreign concept, you don't know about 'contracts' or 'human rights legislation', you just don't have any of the conceptual framework for me to even begin explaining.”
After everyone has exchanged looks of utter and total confusion about his strange sounding words Toj finally breaks the awkward silence.
“What's a 'conceptual framework'?”

-

The rest of the crowd hushes immediately and watches with complete fascination as Nathan simply hands Toj a thin sheet and says “Mark here.”
He produces a small stick out of nowhere and hands it to Toj, and when he presses it to the sheet he leaves long circles that cover a great deal of the strange markings that dominate the sheet.
Nathan has a look of befuddlement, as though he doesn't know what to do with the sheet now, “Err...” he says, “That will do.”

 

The limerick I put up in the poetry thread is pretty funny.

But I find humor to be situational, involving the specific ironies and misconceptions of the narrative, it is hard to be spontaneously funny, you have to set a framework with the situation which you can derive humor from. You don't have to be working with specifically absurdist or "humorous" subject matter, you just have to bring alive the misconceptions and ironies in a humorous light, but you need background before you can do that.

Bruno Hat's picture
Bruno Hat from Glasgow, Scotland is reading writing and arithmetic November 4, 2011 - 2:20pm

Thank you Phil. It is a beast of a book. A total game changer.

I work in Glasgow and have to visit people as part of my job. I was out in the west end about four months ago to visit a tenement.

The ground floor flat had loads of jars on the window ledge with paint brushes in them. I kept ringing the buzzers and finally this shape appeared in the glass of the main door. A man opened and looked at me over the rim of his glasses. He was wearing a green house coat and had paint in his beard. I thought, oh fuck, that's Alasdair Gray.

The conversation went like this:

Me: "I'm looking for flat 3/1."

Alasdair Gray: "Well you should have pressed 3/1's buzzer."

Door closes.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 4, 2011 - 2:26pm

Fucking epic. Respect. I would love to have that chance, even if it's just to be dismissed.

 

Bruno Hat's picture
Bruno Hat from Glasgow, Scotland is reading writing and arithmetic November 4, 2011 - 2:32pm

It was only after he closed the door that I cursed myself for not asking him something but I was too stunned.

Point is though that I was pleased with how the exchange went. 

simon morris's picture
simon morris from Originally, Philadelphia, PA; presently Miami Beach, FL is reading This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George November 6, 2011 - 6:39am

I was commenting on Huffingtom Post the other day about the Herman Cain sexuaol harassment scandal and I refereredd to the link between the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill dust-up and the present one.

I stated that the difference between the two is that this time, there is a "smoking Coke can" --a verified pay-off.

iBronco's picture
iBronco from New Jersey is reading White Noise November 6, 2011 - 10:20am

"The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it." Mark Twain, one of the great humorists, on humor. And I'd say that humor is best displayed in the form of tradgedy. You as the writer bend and bend the tragedy but never break it. We enjoy seeing someone in pain by fault of their own or by some existential threat. Think of Seinfeld; their lives are utterly tragic, and we laugh because the characters bend but never break. 

"The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow." -Mark Twain. 

I'm interested in writing humor, and I'd like more examples of writer's who are considered humorists. If anyone has resources, please link. Thanks!

Frederick's picture
Frederick from Southeast Connecticut is reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs By Chuck Klosterman November 6, 2011 - 1:31pm

"My GPS does not sound like a slut. Besides, I paid 300 bucks for that shit so don't make fun of it."

"So, you're saying she's a prostitute now? Look, Pleasure Town is a previous destination."

 

 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books November 7, 2011 - 10:52pm

God. I have no confidence in my humorous bits. I am pretty good in person, the timing and tone and all that work better ...when I'm writing it all seems to fall flat. I have written a few funny bits here and there, when I wasn't really meaning to, but when I try to be funny it is a disaster.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 8, 2011 - 9:01am

@ibronco: Took a workshop from this guy once, great contemporary humorist: 

Phil, your piece in Flash Me, the commencement one, reminded me of the above Almond piece, which is a compliment.

iBronco's picture
iBronco from New Jersey is reading White Noise November 11, 2011 - 3:32pm

@Chester Haha, nice, I'll check him out. The video was funny.