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“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard,” says Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year. If you’ve ever tried your hand at…

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard,” says Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year. If you’ve ever tried your hand at humor blogging, you will likely agree. In fact, with the possible exception of the sestina, I’d say humor writing is the most difficult form of writing. To be good, it must be surprising, concise, sharp, timely, and consistent all at once. And humor bloggers turn out such polished gems every week or so. How do they do it? Here are some tips from the pros:

  • Learn the rules. All forms of writing – the essay, the play, the short story – have some well-defined basic parameters and comedy writing is no exception. For example, specifics are funnier than generalizations and repeating something three times is funnier than repeating it two or four times. By mastering the fundamentals, you let those who have come before do some of the work for you.
  • Keep up with the news. Good comedy is timely and relevant, even if it’s not specifically political. The best humor bloggers keep their fingers on the pulse. Read as much as you can, and keep up with what people are currently watching, reading, and talking about.
  • Observe. Comedy is everywhere you look, and, as observational comics have found, sometimes the most ludicrous aspects of daily life are those we’ve grown so used to that we’ve stopped noticing them at all. Look closely at the ordinary and you will discover the absurd.
  • Keep your temper. A controlled, targeted rant can be hilarious, but comedic rants are harder than they look, and even the best ranters grow tiresome after awhile. Outrage can be an excellent starting point for a good comedic piece, but bury that anger in the revision process if you want to reach an audience.
  • Keep us on our toes. Laughter comes from the unexpected. Try turning a familiar pattern on its head. How can you invert a story or a joke to deliver an unexpected conclusion?
  • Draw something. Many popular humor blogs are online comics, and no wonder – the visual aspect gives you an entirely new dimension in which to be funny. And as some of the most beloved sites prove, you don’t need to be an artist to draw a satisfying comic…although if you are, so much the better!
  • Edit, edit, edit. While digressions and non-sequiturs can be amusing, the best humor writing doesn’t have a lot of fat. Look for anything in your piece that’s tired, dull, or not on point. Get rid of it, or replace it with something wittier.

Do you often use humor in your blog posts? Which bloggers make you laugh on a regular basis?

183 Comments

  1. “My Favorite Year” is one of my Favorite Movies. Many people attribute the quote “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” to other sources, but the final decision has not been rendered. There’s no reliable proof one way or the other, so I’m willing to go with the movie. Why not? Whenever we watch the movie … which is often … we recite the line with Peter O’Toole. Although I don’t think dying is easy, neither is comedy.

  2. All about the humor. One of my recurring bits is “Punchlines to some of my favorite jokes.”

    http://namebrandketchup.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/punchlines-to-some-of-my-favorite-jokes-part-v/

    But my first humorous post was “All I ever need to know I learned from The Three Stooges.”

    http://namebrandketchup.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/all-i-really-need-to-know-i-learned-from-the-three-stooges/

    And my favorite humor blog is Girl On The Contrary.

    http://girlonthecontrary.com/

  3. I’ve tried one humor post and I thought it was received well. It was my very first attempt. This helps me with future writing of them. My blog is a mixture of light and serious. I’m trying to strike a balance and am pursuing some lighthearted humor. An occasional injection is nice. We all need a good laugh. Thanks, as usual, for helping us to write better!

    1. Heather, sets of three are a natural way of organizing things. Stories have three acts. The set of three in comedy is a little different concept, but it works because it’s a good way to drive a joke through its natural life cycle from subliminal to absurd. The first time it’s a casual observation, the second time it’s a little weird, and the third time it’s ridiculous and hopefully hilarious. If you call it back a fourth time, you have to be ready to commit for much longer, and to make redundancy itself the joke.

      1. Man, I’ve been doing this unconsciously all the time! In a recent post about a comic called “The Dreadful,” I used the adjective “dreadful” to describe aspects of the comic. I ended up using it three times. Once seemed not enough, and using it twice kinda left the reader hanging. For some reason, three seemed like the logical endpoint.

    2. I was a stand up for a while, and the rule of three definitely works – build up in three steps: step one alerts people to the fact that a possible joke is on the way, step two prepares the joke, step three delivers. Works every time with a live audience – providing the joke is actually funny, ahem – and goes down well in writing too. Once you start watching out for it you’ll see it everywhere…

  4. Great post with excellent tips — especially the one about specifics being funnier than generalizations. So true.

    I’m a humor writer, and my blog definitely reflects my often snarky, tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre. The irony? My devastating, blindsiding divorce was the key that allowed me to develop my writing voice. I mean, my marriage ended with a brick — a literal brick. If I didn’t laugh about that crazy symbol, I’d probably be institutionalized by now!

    Thanks again for the tips. I only wish you also provided links to the “experts” who provided them — I’d love to expand my list of funny blogger inspiration!

  5. Not sure where you heard “repeating things three times is funny.” There is a Rule of Three in writing, which may be what you’re referencing. From Wikipedia: “The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.”

      1. Yes, I’m sure your blog is a laugh riot, with you “repeating things three times.”

        The Rule of Three refers to a series of items, not repeating things.

      2. Yeah. Ignorance of rhetorical devices and failure to read the sentence you originally argued with bode well for the quality of your writing as well.

  6. Love this post. I constantly try to use humor in my posts every day. And I do love that quote drama is a lot easier to write the humor. Even when you’re angry and things get all crazy crappy it’s hard to find the funny but I got really good advice about that the other day from a quote by Corrie Pikul, which I later posted on my blog … “Rewrite your worst days as Saturday Night Live Skits.”

    It seems to be working for me quite well :)

    This is me check it out if you want a giggle every now and then.

    http://thewishfactor.wordpress.com/about/

  7. I write humor and use real life to do it. You are right on when you say “observe”. Funny things happen around us every day and most people actually miss that humor because they don’t want to see it or they’re too busy to see it. I’ve learned that seeing the humor sure makes my days much brighter.

    Being able to laugh at yourself is also key, sharing funny and embarassing stories about yourself helps others see humor in themselves and their lives.

    http://followingfunny.com/

  8. To find something funny to write about is as interesting to me as is trying to write a detailed discipline of my cat Cleo trying to sneak up on a little old mouse trying to get by her so he can sneak up on some little old bug that satiate his appetite for his three meal a day requirement until the next bug can come along its merry way! This is nature. I hope I don’t get a spam for Cleo, my wife was to lazy to cook!

  9. I love humourous bloggers.. I personally am not a funny blogger, sometimes a smart aleck :-)..I’d love some recommendations of some funny bloggers as I really don’t follow many..

  10. I don’t think I’m actually funny. Analytical actually. I do recognize that the most views articles on my site — a webcomic review site entitled webcomicoverlook.com — are the ones with the least amount of stars. I’ve met people in real life who’ve read my site and mentioned I was being sarcastic for comic humor. What? Nuh-uh! That’s totally my pain up there in writing form. I will admit, though, that I do go for oddly tangential asides just to keep people’s attention. I guess that’s humor.

    I do a terrible job keeping up with the news, because I tend to love humor that’s obscure, out of date, and makes you go, “Huh?” Examples outside of blogs:

    1.) MST3K — the fantastic Manos: Hand of Fate episode includes lines like, “It’s not Lysistrada. I like it, but it’s not Lysistrada.”
    2.) Listening to the delightful Flop House Podcast, one of my favorite quips comes from Stuart Wellington. Someone mentions that so-and-so a character is a survivor, and he replies, “You mean like Reba?” He then explains that it’s in the theme song.
    3.) And, of course, everyone’s favorite show, Community. Favorite line goes to Jeff Winger (Joel McHale). After seemingly sincerely agreeing to be a team player, Annie goes, “Really?” He replies, “Nooooo! What am I, iCarly?”

    I absolutely love anachronistic and unlikely references like that, and its gets reflected in my blog sometimes.

  11. I’m pretty critical of my humor writing, so when I can make myself laugh, I know I’m on to something. And it gives me great joy when a reader comments that I made him or her laugh. It makes my day.

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