How to Write Funny

June 29, 2020
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What sorts of things do you find funny? Think about the last thing that really made you laugh. Humor is all around, if you look at life through a comedic lens. You might read, hear, or notice something that you think is hilarious or share a ha-ha moment with a friend.

Much of what’s funny happens in the moment. But you can sit down and write comedy, too. Stand-up comedians write and perform jokes in front of an audience. Screenwriters work humor into television and movie scripts.

You don’t have to be a professional to write jokes. There are tips and tricks you can use to come up with jokes of your own. TIME for Kids spoke with Theresa Julian, author of The Joke Machine, about writing to make people laugh. “When a joke lands and someone cracks a smile, there’s just so much satisfaction,” she told TFK. Here are a few of her pointers, along with examples. Study these, then try writing a few jokes of your own.

SURPRISE your audience. All jokes are based on surprise. Humor is about leading a thought one way then adding a quick twist at the end that surprises us and makes us laugh.

My basketball team is good at dunking. Until we run out of cookies.

I was shopping for a new toilet but couldn’t decide if I wanted to buy it. I figured I needed to sleep on it.

PAT LEWIS

EXAGGERATE to the point of ridiculousness. Stretch something to call attention to one of its main features.

Thirty days have September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31 except January, which has 6,952.

Studying is 10% reading and 90% complaining to your friends that you have to study

COMPARE things that don’t belong together. Show how two totally different things have something in common. When we see the similarity, we’re surprised—and we laugh!

This Black Forest cake is awful. It tastes like there are chunks of actual forest in it.

I was really scared on the roller coaster, and trust me, I don’t scare easily. I’ve eaten the beans in the school cafeteria.

GET FACTS WRONG in an obvious way. Twist a simple well-known fact into something different to create a new, off-center thought.

I was surprised when my doctor told me I’m color-blind. That really came out of the orange.

Why are you worried I won’t get my homework done? I’ll spend an hour on the essay, an hour on history, and two hours on math. I’ll be done in five minutes.

CREATE PUNS by playing with words’ double meanings, similar sounds, spellings, or contrasts.

What do you call a fake noodle? An impasta.

What do you call a number that can’t keep still? A roamin’ numeral.

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