A Humor Writing Secret – Let People Make the Connection

People say humor writing is hard. It’s not that hard. Not if you know the formula.

Yes, there are actually steps you can follow to write humor.

(Now, writing humor well is another topic entirely. For that, you’ll need years of practice spent studying humor and language.)

Humor is based on a number of different things that all have to happen at the same time, chief among them is letting people make the connection in their own brains (there’s also Recognition and Surprise, but we’ll discuss those later). If the reader can make that connection on there own, something is funny. If they don’t make it, because they’re unfamiliar with the topic, the joke dies, and you lose the laugh.

This is why you should never explain jokes or repeat them. The connection, and the surprise that comes with it, are gone, and so is the opportunity to laugh.

Here’s an example:

If you watch Family Guy, you’ll get this, and it should have made you at least chuckle. If you don’t, you don’t know who this is, and you’ll never get the joke.

So for you Family Guy viewers, why was it funny? Because a few things all happened at the same time:

  1. You recognized the character Bruce from Family Guy. You know what his catchphrase, and you know how he sounds. (Recognition)
  2. You read the text, and seeing “Oh no” triggered his voice in your head. (Connection)
  3. As you read the rest of the text, you realized you did exactly what it says. (Surprise)

If those three things happened — all at once, mind you — the joke scores and you laughed. But if you didn’t recognize Bruce, or you don’t know what he sounds like, or you’ve already seen this before, there’s no laugh.

To make a joke score, whether you’re telling it or writing it, you need to let people make a connection in their own minds.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.

    Comments

    1. Raymond van Velzen says:

      Hi Erik,

      Thank you very much for this article. I write what are hopefully humorous posts for my own site, without any education as a writer, actually. While you can find tons of tips for blogging in general, it’s much harder to find some tips specifically for writing humor, so I’m glad I found your site. I’ll be sure to check out other posts.

      Cheers,

      Raymond