– from the editors of Sci-Fi Lampoon Magazine

Humor is as spontaneous as slipping on a banana peel. At the core of every joke, somebody is hurt who didn’t see it coming.

Humor is cathartic. 9/11 happened right after the staff of the online satire newspaper, The Onion, moved to New York. They worried, “Can we be funny?” Their writers satirized the hijackers as being tortured in Christian Hell by demons. The God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule issue was a smash hit. Fan mail showed that readers found release in ridiculing the terrorists.

Humor has sharply defined limits, as a French comedian discovered when he was charged with “defending terrorists” for his comment about a video. The video showed ISIS beheading a Frenchman. The comedian quipped, “It’s in the French tradition.” Now, I thought that funny because I’m not French. But know your readers. Don’t pull a Gilbert Gottfried. A couple weeks after 9/11, he performed at the roast of Hugh Hefner telling a New York audience, “I have to leave early tonight, I have a flight to California. I can’t get a direct flight — they said I have to stop at the Empire State Building first.” Gilbert immediately knew he’d blundered, “I don’t think anyone’s lost an audience bigger than I did at that point. They were booing and hissing.” Being offensive is not funny. Keep in mind that humor must be perceived as funny.

The dictionary first defines humor as a quality that makes something laughable or amusing. Duh! A more useful definition follows: “The ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is amusing, comical, incongruous, or absurd.” Not much better, but at least it shows that funny requires agreement. The author perceives something funny and the reader finds it amusing. Show your work to others before deciding it’s funny.

Two things on “how.” Humor has to connect with your audience. George Carlin knew this. “There was about a two-year period at the end of the ’60s, when I realized I was in the wrong place and entertaining the wrong people with the wrong material and that I was not being true to myself.” It can’t be forced. Steven Wright knows this. “I don’t go off and sit down and try to write material, because then it’s contrived and forced. I just live my life, and I see things in a word or a situation or a concept, and it will create a joke for me.”

So, our advice to authors is to simply relax. Write funny speculative fiction that offers your readers some cathartic release in this fucked-up world. And remember, you can’t know something is funny until you laugh at it. Humor is as spontaneous to the writer as it is to the reader.

Sci-Fi Lampoon Magazine
Issue 2 is at the publishers!
Now accepting stories for Issue 3 http://scifilampoon.com/submissions/

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35 responses to “WRITING FUNNY”

  1. Luddite Avatar

    I went to a lecture by (under-rated!) science fiction author Bob Shaw where he described humour as “a reversal of expectations” and I’ve always followed that.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Peter Thomson Avatar
      Peter Thomson

      “Unexpected copulation of ideas” is one description

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    And the sting of humor is oftentimes in the tail–we tend to laugh in surprise or startlement when the end of a sentence finishes quite differently than we had anticipated.

    Liked by 8 people

  3. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    In order to help this thread along: an example of humor in doggerel.

    If you re-post this elsewhere, please credit the writer: Carl E. Reed. Thank you!
    …………………………..

    Bald-to-bald Action; or, What the Fuck Happened?!

    Bald babe ripped from the warmth of the womb–
    thrust into work & woe & strife;
    takes joy in art & drugs & sex
    dies bald & dazed at the end of life.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Liz Gauffreau Avatar

    For me, the humor is more in the telling than the situation. I love word play and taking delight in the foibles of colorful characters.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Until I started writing forty years ago, I didn’t think I had a sense of humor. I think it was because I’m an introvert, I don’t communicate verbally well, I don’t enjoy banter. My banter comes out on the page, with ludicrous circumstances.

    I collect material off the web to bolster whatever point of view I put forth. I found an article the other day on the meaning of cows’ moos. I’m going to be using some of that when we meet up with my cow, whom Sly travels with for a bit after he hits England. That episode is long written, but I can always work something new in.

    A cow, Bovinella, and a pig, Hislop, have a long-running unhappy relationship, they snip at each other constantly. It really gets on Sly’s nerves. (For God’s sake, can’t we just get along?) He has more important things to worry about, like saving the life of his Queen.

    As they bumble along, Sly (and I, of course) recites a good bit of his verse, to entertain them. And they engage in discussions about the meaning of life, poor Hislop all too aware that when people look at him they see dinner.

    This is where all those books of philosophical essays, bought for a dollar at the library sales, written a hundred years ago by presidents of Harvard College and such places, really come in handy. I have such treasures (seriously, folks, treasures!) . . . by the dozens!

    My readers get the distilled wisdom of the ages during that road trip in a cow-pulled cart across southern England. I find humor in almost anything, as it relates to Sly.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Sue Ranscht Avatar

    Mysteriously, a flashing black box rebuffs my comment likes. One might think that would make them doubly shiny, but nooooo — it rubs them right out. Luddite, Carl, Liz, Mimi — please consider your likes to number 1 more than they appear. I reject my invisibility.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

        Thanks, Carl. It’s not the cursor, but a solid black message box that on my laptop appears to be 2″x3″ and flashes on and off in an instant as I click on a “like” star. When I clicked on “Post Comment”, it insisted I login — again — and then it allowed me to like the main post.

        Are you wearing your collar? I have a confession. After it let me like the main post, because my comment was already posted, I did not re-attempt to like the comments, lol. As you can see above, I was able to like your reply. Contrary to my expectation, I did not have to login first.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    @Sue: LOL! Wish I could help, technically speaking. I’ll bet GD or Curtis know what is causing that flashing black box problem. . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      I tried liking everything again. It worked. I don’t understand WP’s confusion — I am always logged into WordPress.

      Are you familiar with resistentialism? One professor put it this way: You know when your arms are full of bags of groceries, and you’re struggling to unlock your front door because you hear the phone ringing inside? (Bear in mind, this was in the early Seventies — all phones but pay phones were inside.) So you’re dropping things and bags are ripping (they were all paper), and you finally get inside, dump your stuff, grab the phone and nobody’s there? Resistentialism says there never was.

      The machines are out to get us.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Carl E. Reed Avatar

        @Glad you were able to get the technical kinks worked out! Like our IT guys say around here: When in doubt, re-boot. (And thanks for introducing me to a new word: Resistentialism. Sounds like a branch of chaos theory.)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          Lol, or maybe a great-grand ancestor of chaos theory, especially considering the current state of AI’s evolution. Asimov would be inspired and delighted.

          Liked by 2 people

  8. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    Sue, Carl,
    Sorry. All I know about computers is what my IT guy told me when I complained that my mouse pad ran out of space before my cursor got all the way to the left. “Move your desk.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Lol! That sounds like really snarky advice, GD. Could you hear him laughing?

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    Writing funny is not about telling jokes. But what the hell–let’s tell some jokes!

    –Did you hear the one about the insomniac agnostic dyslexic?

    He’d lie awake nights wondering if there was a dog. . . .
    ……………………………………………..

    Wife (seductive voice): “Take off my sweater.”
    Husband does so.

    Wife: “Remove my bra.”
    Husband does so.

    Wife (positively purring): “Thumb my panties off.”
    Husband does so.

    Wife: “NOW STOP WEARING MY CLOTHES!”
    ………………………………

    Sister Mary Raphael is interrogating her all-girl class on what they want to be when they grow up.

    Alice stands up. “I’m going to be a police woman.”
    Sister Mary: “Thank you; you may sit down.”

    Susan stands up. “I’m going to be an astronaut.”
    Sister Mary: “Thank you; you may sit down.”

    Elizabeth stands up. “I’m going to be a veterinarian.”
    Sister Mary: “Thank you; you may sit down.”

    Sonja stands up. “I’m going to be a prostitute.”
    Sister Mary (red-faced, enraged): “WHAT?! How DARE you say that in my classroom! Say that again!”

    Sonja: “I’m going to be a prostitute.”

    Sister Mary (white-faced, sinking back into her seat with relief): “Oh thank God! I thought you said you were going to become a Protestant.”

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Hahaha!

      A minister, a priest, and a rabbi are discussing how they decide to spend donations.

      The minister says, “I draw a circle on the ground, stand in it and throw the money up into the air. Whatever lands outside the circle goes to God.”

      The priest says, “I draw a circle on the ground, stand in it and throw the money up into the air, too! But whatever lands inside the circle goes to God.”

      The rabbi says, “I don’t need to draw a circle, but I also throw the money up into the air, and whatever God wants, he keeps.”

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    Somehow, Sue, your joke sparked my memory of this joke:

    A Catholic clergyman and his Jewish best friend remain in touch through the years, checking up on each other at regular intervals after high school.

    John (4 years later): “I’m a priest now.”

    Simon: “That’s great; I’m a trade union carpenter.”

    John (ten years later): “I’m a bishop now.”

    Simon: “That’s great; I’m a trade union carpenter.”

    John: (ten years later still): “I’m a cardinal now.”

    Simon: “That’s great; I’m a trade union carpenter.”

    John (yet another ten years later): “You’ll never believe it! I just made Pope!!!”

    Simon: “That’s great; I’m a trade union carpenter.”

    John (annoyed): “I must say you don’t sound very impressed! Did you hear what I said? I’m the Pope! THE POPE!”

    Simon: “Well . . . okay . . . but you can’t climb any higher now, can you?”

    John (exploding): “Can’t climb any higher?! Where are you going, my friend? You’re still a carpenter!”

    Simon: “Sure, sure . . . but the last time around you boys promoted one of us to God. I’m keeping my options open.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Lol! Yeah, but they didn’t pluck him from a union.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    Wife: “Please go to the store and get a gallon of milk. And if they have eggs, get 6.”
    Husband comes back with 6 gallons of milk.
    Wife: “Why in hell did you buy 6 gallons of milk!?”
    Husband: “They had eggs.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Lol! Writers craft humor. Non-writers fall into it when they speak.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Carl E. Reed Avatar

      @GD: re:

      Husband: “They had eggs.”

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Carl E. Reed Avatar

      Congrats, GD! That last joke of yours killed the thread. Heh!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. saramzerig Avatar

    I remember a brutal joke told in stand-up where the crowds reaction was split nearly in half between offended Ohhhhs and knee-jerk laughter. It was the kind of joke that is ultimately a sad commentary on life. I started to type it here but decided not to scar half of THIS audience 🙂

    Unlike Godfried’s example though, this comedian seemed to have fully expected the mixed reaction.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Carl E. Reed Avatar

      Well, now we’re all just dying to know what that joke was, you unconscionable tease!

      A proposed solution to the “better-not-offend-someone” dilemma: Type the joke in using a letter-scramble substitution code: two letters forward, perhaps–“It was a dark and stormy night” becomes “Kv ycu c fetm cpf uvqtoa pkijv”. The interested reader will have to decode the letter scramble, so . . . if they are triggered . . . not your fault!

      OR–

      Type a comedic message into the blog using a teeny, tiny font that has to be enlarged in order to become legible.

      (Which I can’t seem to do, apparently. Why is everything about WordPress so difficult and/or counter-intuitive?!)

      Anyway–please imagine (work with me here!) the following posted in 4-point type:

      “Hi there! I am a thirsty liver-worsted, wasp-waisted Welsh Lilliputian. Have you any thimbles of brandy or sausage-pastes to share with one of the wee folk lamentably under-capitalized at present?”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. saramzerig Avatar

        Those are all good ideas, Carl. Or, you could elude to the joke and give fair warning in the comment that half the audience was offended and wait and see if anyone says, “now we’re all just dying to know what the joke was” 😈

        And since you’re dying to know, even after you’ve been forewarned, here it is: Our comedian noticed a cute girl sitting with her friends across a dimly lit bar. He finally worked up the courage to introduce himself to her, but as he approached he saw that she had a black eye and thought, Great. She’s already seeing someone.

        Remember: you were dying to know.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Carl E. Reed Avatar

          That is a funny joke and the kind I appreciate! It is not misogyny qua misogyny or violence against women that is being laughed at or excused here, but rather the ubiquity of such violence being regarded as unremarkable; i.e., it is the shoulder-shrugging complicity of American society as a whole that is the real target of that joke and the point of the crackling comedic punchline.

          Smart comedy flays. (See George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor.)

          Liked by 2 people

          1. saramzerig Avatar

            Well said … I agree. I recall laughing and wincing at the same time when I heard it.

            Liked by 2 people

    2. Carl E. Reed Avatar

      Exactly! And this is the crux of the difference between humanist savagery (if I may be permitted to coin a phrase) and just plain savagery in comedy. Humanist savagery depends upon the decency of the listener, viewer, or reader for that “omg-that-is-so-wrong!” startled laughter reaction; whereas plain ‘ole unvarnished savagery simply attacks a race, gender, religion, profession, etc. and calls it a day.

      In the first instance we laugh because the joke-teller creates tension between our deeply ingrained sense of right and wrong and empathy for others (especially those of little or no socio-political power) and the nihilist/sociopathic worldview the joke-teller assumes (or pretends to assume) we share with him or her; in the second instance the joke-teller expects us to jeer along with him or her over cruel anecdotes or “comical” bigoted statements and think: Yeah, those people. Hah!

      Blech! Most of us readily discern the difference between faux savagery and the real thing–it’s the difference between the belly-laugh and the gasp.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. curtisbausse Avatar

        Carl, your last comment is a good explanation of a point made by the brilliant French comedian (there aren’t many) Pierre Desproges: ‘We can joke about everything, but not with everybody.’ When the listener thinks the offensiveness is justified, the joke has worked in the wrong way.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Carl E. Reed Avatar

          Ah, leave it to a Frenchman . . . Good quote!
          ………………………….

          NEXT DAY: I’m reading Chandler (The Long Goodbye) at the front desk and run across this. Marlowe is ruminating(p. 365):

          The French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. curtisbausse Avatar

            Ha, ha – Chandler’s brilliance in a single sentence.

            Liked by 2 people

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