Some of the world’s funniest people had no sense of humour at all, but their work is hilarious. Think Lucille Ball. You don’t need a sense of humour to be funny, because funny is in your mind, not in your bulging-with writers-cramp elbow.
I’m told that I write ‘funny’. People laugh at my comments all the time, but I can’t say that I always understand why. Anyway, there is no point in trying to dissect the why of a joke, because then the joke is no longer funny.
Humour has to have some semblance of truth in it. For instance, try this paragraph on for size. It’s from my book The Pregnant Pause of Grief, the first trimester of widowhood.
“In the past, I learned that when the way is rough, our faith has a chance to grow. Is this still true? Is God still who He says He is? If He is, then through these new experiences we’ll become the biggest mountain of faith you ever saw. Maybe mine is hiding in my twenty extra pounds! In that case, I’d better not lose it!”
The Pregnant Pause of Grief is about how to survive the first three months of widowhood. I wrote it from a place of complete devastation, but the truth is that I’ve also spent a lifetime trying to lose that last twenty pounds and that twist at the end lightens the mood of the chapter. (See, I told you that explaining a laugh is never funny!)
Humour is rational and yet unreasonable and hopefully all at the same time! There is no right way to write it, for humour depends on the listener. Humour needs to make you think, while at the same time, make no sense and occasionally be totally outrageous. Some people will never get it and others will take offence at your humour, or for that matter, anyone else’s!
We must be true to ourselves and our experiences. I’ve earned the right to make jokes about widowhood because I am a widow. People going through the same thing need to know that it’s okay to laugh in the midst of their pain. We bond in the experience and at the same time lower our worry level. A twenty-year-old unmarried something has not earned the right to make jokes about my circumstances, but they can joke about their own.
A Newfie joke is not necessarily funny to a Newfoundlander. A fat joke may not be a giggle fest for someone who just fell off their weight loss plan. Here is an example.
Husband despairs of ever getting home to watch the World Series, because wife is still trying on dresses. She presents yet another option and preens herself before him.
“Do you think this dress is a little too big on me, Hubert?”
Hubert is desperate. He answers, “Buy the dress and a quart of ice cream and let’s go home!”
This story is irrational because no hubby will sit through fifty dresses. It’s truthful because many a husband has found himself separated from his favourite TV show. The truth is that weight gain is inevitable. It’s absurd because weight gain takes time and anyway, weight never goes to the body part you hoped it would.
Certain words are funnier than others. I upped the story by calling hubby—Hubert. If I was telling the story live I would pronounce his name as HUUU——- bert, simply because that is funnier than Hubert.
So up-think yourself. Change a word or a phrase. Say the unexpected. Why write ‘George ate dinner’, when you can write ‘George became one with the plate before him and inhaled his pork chop with the fierceness of a momma tiger defending her antelope.’ For that matter, why call this article How to Write Funny, when How to Right Funny gets more attention?
Here is an example from my book Meeting Myself, snippets from a binging and bulging mind. I could have simply said that I started a diet on Monday, but that isn’t funny. Instead I wrote, ‘Starting on Monday, I sincerely promised to stop swallowing my own saliva and drip-dry the coffee.’ Or try this line on for size. ‘I was twenty-five before I found out that gravy was not a beverage.’
A person may describe themselves as having a ‘wry’ sense of humour but if they say they have a ‘rye’ sense of humour that adds an entirely different dimension to his stories. A simple change of word makes all the difference.
Now I suppose you are going to say that an article about humour should be funnier. You are right, so re-write this article and up think yourself. I promise to laugh.