Writing Humor,,,

From David Nickell
A new comment on the post "Tips on writing funny material":
Lee:  Good stuff. As obvious as the first one is, I think a sharp sense of humor is truly a gift that not everyone has.

I have written a humor column off and on since high school -- and that was more than 40 years ago. I am currently writing a how-to book on fiction, and I devote an entire chapter to humor. A lot of writers, I think, shy away from it. Or else they are pathetically bad at it.

My No. 1 rule in writing humor is whether it makes ME laugh. And I'm not talking about grinning or smiling. I'm talking about laughing out loud. When I create it in total isolation, I am the only audience. If I don't laugh, that means I've got to fix it.

I also love self-effacing humor. If you can turn yourself into a well-meaning Homer Simpson, that can make the audience comfortable in that they too have done some stupid things, but not THAT stupid.

Ventriloquism is perfect for such self parody. You can play straight man trying to get a moral point or an interesting story across, and the dummy can harass you, saying things like, "Who's going to believe some toothless bald man?" You could then become defensive, saying, "I'm not toothless." And the dummy replies, "I got news for you. Five doesn't count."

And so on. The dummy can bring out that inner voice inside you, the one with the doubts and fears that you can exploit to best advantage.

The most important thing, I think, is to find the rhythm. That is the cornerstone of humor. It has to sound natural and effortless and have a cadence to it. And like I said, it's got to make YOU laugh. Out loud.

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