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