Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Understand Humor

This month I'm participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. The theme I'm going with this year is writing humor. Follow along to learn more about the different ways to make your fiction, articles or blog posts humorous. 

Is it possible to understand  humor? To understand what makes it work?

"Studying humor is like dissecting a frog-you may know a lot but you end up with a dead frog." --Mark Twain

It can be tricky to pull apart funny stuff and figure out how it ticks, but let's give it a shot. 

What makes things funny? 

Here are six ideas:

#1: Silly Names

Seth? Charles? Bethany? Nah. Go with Pickles, Thunder or Leeloo. A great and humorous name will give us instant insight into the character's personality, too. 

In Disney's movie Tangled Rapunzel learns Flynn Rider's real name is actually Eugene Fitzherbert. Check out those names! Waaaaaay better than if they'd given him  a bland fake name like Micheal Jones and his real name was Brandon Smith. 

What better picture for this post than my Zoe actually getting to meet Eugene?
She was over-the-moon thrilled.
When he saw her he said, "Hey! I recognize that dress. Come here, blondie!"
Such a cute guy.

#2: Ridiculous Settings

Sure you could set that fight scene between the bully and the picked on kid in the classroom or the hallway of a school. But why not push it farther and go for the cafeteria kitchen? Think of the mess! The flying asparagus, the slippery mess of ketchup and the head dunk of doom into the mystery meat! 

Think of funny and strange places to set your funny scenes, ones with opportunities for hilarious happenings. 

#3: Zany Personalities

Don't make your characters like your normal, level-headed best friend or your sweet and kind neighbor who makes you bread. 

No! Anything but that! Make them crazy, vindictive, nutty or obsessed with buying weedwackers and hedge trimmers. Give them silly ideas and over-the-top goals.  Have them plot to take over the world by arming their prairie dog army with sporks.  

#4: (ooooooh!) The Forbidden

I'm reading Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell to my two oldest sons at bedtime. We are enjoying this book quite a bit. And they really look forward to the nights when it's their turn. (I alternate every other night between their room and two of my other kids' room and reading The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle)

So, anyway, we reached this scene where Miss Barmy (the nasty villainess who is creating loads of trouble for Emmy) has ingested a potion-like substance which makes her pass gass when she lies. And we're not talking about polite little toots. Oh, no. These are rip-roaring, massive, noxious bouts of flatulance which have the maids gasping for air and reaching for windows. It's hilarious! 

It's also what is considered a "forbidden" topic for kids. We've tried to teach our little ones that talking about and sharing with everyone the grody sounds their bodies can make is impolite and, well, gross (of course, with kids, this is more like an ongoing lesson than a one-time sort of topic). 

So, stories involving bathroom humor are incredibly funny to them! 

#5: Funny Sounds

Bonk! Ooof! Ouch! Thud! 

Sprinkling a scene with funny sounds is a great way to get more laughs. 

#6: Weird Appearances

Sure your girl character could wear jeans and a t-shirt, have long blonde hair and a ready smile. 

OR you could give her frizzy thick locks that she loses items in. Can't find your car keys? Oh, they're probably in Bertha's hair. Lost the tv remote? Bertha, do you mind checking your hair? Hey, we haven't seen the dog for awhile....but there is a strange sound coming from Bertha's  hair...

And, maybe, Bertha likes to wear bright floral muumuus from thrift stores. 

Have fun with the appearances of your characters! Make them unique. Make them strange. But, of course, make them funny!

So, what do you say? Do you completely understand humor now? Of course, right?! 


  1. No, but I'm learning more every day.

    Such a cute picture.

  2. I am loving Bertha and her crazy, wild hair.

    This was a very easy to follow breakdown of humorous things writers can use/include. Thanks!

    Lyre @ Lyre's Musings

  3. It's a basic truth that farts are universally funny. I think part of the reason we laugh at them as kids is because it feels a little bit naughty!