Posts Tagged ‘John Cleese’

How can YOU write comedy?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

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“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”  Peter Ustinov

Who doesn’t love humor?  Readers, editors, and audience members yearn for it.  How would we get through the serious business of everyday life without it?  Bennett Cerf once said, “If writers want the sure road to success, for heaven’s sake, write something that will make people laugh.”

How can you make sure it’s actually funny?

According to Norman Lear in his memoir, Even This I Get to Experience, he says, “Laughter lacks depth if it isn’t involved with other emotions.  An audience is entertained when it’s involved to the point of laughter or tears—ideally both.”

Have you ever set out to write a humor scene and gone blank?  No one said comedy is easy.  A Shakespearean actor, on his deathbed said, “Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard.”

Amy Poehler from, Yes, Please, suggests, “Get out of your head.”

John Cleese discovered in So, Anyway, “an important creative principle: the more anxious you feel, the less creative you are.  Your mind ceases to play and be expansive.  Fear causes your thinking to contract, to play safe, and this forces you into stereotypical thinking. “

So exactly how do you write humor naturally?  Find your zone of creativity.  Relax.   Knowing your character, the setting and the situation will help you develop comedy intrinsically.  Ask yourself what’s weird about your topic.  Scary?  Hard?  Stupid?  Brainstorm.

Humor works when there is a setup and a payoff.  It’s what we expect to happen and what really happens.   Techniques include exaggeration, understatement, word play, satire, and parody.

Finally, remember to read what you write out loud.  Humor is all about beats and rhythm.  You should feel your comedy.   Timing is everything.

Writing Prompts:

1.  Where is humor in your life?  Everyone has funny anecdote in their lives.  Write a scene with one of your experiences.

2.  Keep a humor journal.  See something funny on the street?  Your favorite funny line in a movie or book?  What makes it funny?  Funny characters around you?  Funny things YOU do?

3.  Having a tough day?  Pretend you’re Dave Barry.  How would he turn this into a funny essay?  Write it.

4.  Use humor in your artistic projects.  Especially in the serious ones.

5.  Read humor to write humor.  And most of all, have fun!