Comedic Writing Tips

There are six essen­tial ele­ments of humour, sug­gests Dilbert’s Scott Adams, as he looks briefly at how to write com­edy:

  • Pick a Top­ic: The top­ic does half of your work. I look for top­ics that have at least one of the essen­tial ele­ments of humor: Clev­er, Cute, Bizarre, Cruel, Naughty, Recog­niz­able.
  • Simple Sen­tences: Be smart, but not aca­dem­ic. Prune words that don’t make a dif­fer­ence.
  • Write About People: If you must write about an object or a concept, focus on how someone (usu­ally you) thinks or feels or exper­i­ences those things. Humor is about people, peri­od.
  • Write Visu­ally: Paint a funny pic­ture with your words, but leave out any details that don’t serve the humor.
  • Leave Room for Ima­gin­a­tion: Leav­ing out details allows read­ers to fill them in with whatever image strikes them as fun­ni­est. In effect, you let read­ers dir­ect their own funny movie.
  • Funny Words: Funny words are the ones that are famil­i­ar yet rarely used in con­ver­sa­tion. It’s a bonus when those words have funny sounds to them.
  • Pop Cul­ture Ref­er­ences: Ref­er­ences to pop­u­lar cul­ture often add humor.
  • Anim­al ana­lo­gies: Anim­al ref­er­ences are funny. If you can­’t think of any­thing funny, make some sort of animal/creature ana­logy. It’s easy, and it almost always works.
  • Exag­ger­ate, then Exag­ger­ate Some More: Fig­ure out what’s the worst that could hap­pen with your top­ic, then mul­tiple it by ten or more. […] The big­ger the exag­ger­a­tion, the fun­ni­er it is.
  • Near Logic: Humor is about cre­at­ing logic that a‑a-a-lmost makes sense but does­n’t. No one in the real world could put gum on his penis and retrieve an iPod from a storm drain. But your brain allows you to ima­gine that work­ing, while sim­ul­tan­eously know­ing it can’t. That incon­gru­ity launches the laugh reflex.
  • Call­back: A call­back is when you end with a funny ref­er­ence that already got a laugh. It puts a nice peri­od on your humor writ­ing.

I won­der how much of this applies to speak­ing, too?

via Ben Cas­nocha