I went to a workshop on writing humor. The teacher advised us to write what makes us laugh, and then trust that there are people out there with a similar sense of humor.
In some ways, I think this is more difficult than it sounds. I find that a joke that makes me laugh one day isn’t as funny the next day. And after rereading the same joke a few more times, it is even less funny.
By the time I’m done with a cartoon or story, I’m usually pretty certain that none of it is funny. I imagine angry mobs with torches and pitchforks camping on my lawn demanding that I stop trying to be funny. Or something like that.
So, I’ll amend her advice. I do think you should write what you think is funny. Trying to write what you think is funny is hard enough. I can’t imagine how you’d write what someone else thinks is funny.
And then, find a friend who usually thinks what you write is funny. Share your newest work with them after you’re sick of it and you’re certain it’s terrible. “Is this funny?” you can ask.
Sometimes, they’ll say yes. Sometimes, they’ll say, “I don’t get it” or “not really.” And then you can send it out or rework it or give up on it or whatever.
It’s not a perfect system. There are things you find funny that they won’t, of course. And the opposite, too. But a second opinion is really helpful with humor. At least it is for me.
Perhaps it’s more like training wheels, and someday I won’t need any help. I don’t know. I’ve heard that some stand-up comedians practice new jokes on open mic nights to see how many people laugh. So, maybe it’s not just me. Maybe someday I’ll have more people to ask, and I’ll find a way to appeal to a larger group of people.
At the workshop, the teacher also said that we should try to figure out what kinds of things make us laugh. To do that, we need to do a lot of research by watching and reading funny things. I agree with that completely. In fact, I probably need to buy some more books. Nice.
What books and movies do you think are really funny? Do you have any suggestions for writing humor? Which of my stories or cartoons do you find especially funny?