Maybe you think you don’t have a funny bone in your body. Or you see others who clearly have a “talent” to write funny. Perhaps you’ve been making your way in lyrical prose, journalism, book reviews. You have no need to write funny, right?
Never mind. Here are 5 great reasons to write funny:
1. Writing funny is hard.
To choose to write funny is to choose a challenge. There’s a reason the Greeks elevated comedy above tragedy: they knew it was easier to write drama than to write comedy.
Granted, it seems that some people are naturally funny. Somehow, they see the world upside down, inside out, or through a glass rippled. But to write funny and funnier is also about acquiring a broad base of skills and a range of techniques (just check out the breadth of our Humor Scale… which is, itself, by no means complete).
2. Writing funny encourages revision.
While all writing can benefit from revision, writers can get to the place where they require little of it to pull off a well-crafted piece. It’s easy to slip into sedentary status.
To revise is to exercise. It requires an increase in knowledge, language facility, and technique. And then it requires focused application of these elements. (I bet you dollars to donuts that Garrison Keillor is still thinking of ways to write funnier).
Writing funny often requires multiple revisions to really work a piece. Lift those juxtapositions! One more twist. Another turn. Flip something on its head. Cut, cut, cut (upper cut!). The harder you revise, the funnier you can make a piece.
3. Writing funny cultivates courage.
There is nothing quite like trying to write funny and knowing that if you don’t nail it, you haven’t… nailed it. (Tight rope walking might be a comparable activity.)
While failed tragedy forgives (for the most part), failed comedy strikes the writer’s heart. If you’ve cultivated a cushy writing life, it might be time to get courageous and up the writing ante. (Sure, bring along a safety net of encouraging friends or chocolate truffles for the adventure.)
4. Writing funny offers partnership.
I can’t remember the last time (or any time, for that matter), that I felt compelled to consult my kids for writing advice.
But when I wrote the punny satire Facebook Executive Psychologist Triage Meeting, I decided to sit down with my sixteen year old, who gave me some expert advice on how to write funny.
(Any continued advice on this point would be welcomed, especially since puns are extremely difficult to pull off in a culture that does not appreciate the fine points of punning. For while “the Roman orators Cicero and Quintilian believed that ‘paronomasia’, the Greek term for punning, was a sign of intellectual suppleness and rhetorical skill, modern English culture is often less… forgiving of a supple punchline.)
5. Writing funny makes you laugh—if not at your jokes, at least at yourself. And that’s good for the heart (& maybe the body).
Watching Carol Burnett recently, I was struck that she’s still with us, still doing her funny business. In fact, I momentarily wished I was a social scientist, positioned to do a comparative longitudinal study on comedian longevity versus rock star longevity.
There might be no longevity correlation whatsoever, between the focus on comedy as opposed to the focus on drama, but at least one man received an honorary doctorate for discovering humor’s power to preserve.
Where to Begin
If you’re not ready to (publicly) write funny yet, why not begin by laughing? Take the 1,000 Laughs challenge. Or pretend you are a penguin in the polar vortex. That will get you thinking on opposite poles.
At Tweetspeak Poetry, we know that one of the absolute best ways to develop language facility is to read a poem a day. Check out our beautiful poetry daily. The most convenient way to read an excellent poem a day.
Photo by Bert Dickerson, Creative Commons, via Flickr.8