Next to business writing, humor writing may be the second most difficult form of writing there is. The greats like Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, and John R. Powers don’t come along every day. Fortunately, we can learn from successful humor writers what it takes to succeed. And even if we never earn a dime from our work, at least we’ll have the joy of knowing we made some people laugh. So for all of you aspiring humor writers out there, here are some tips right from the mouths of a handful of pros.
Humor is Like Math
According to one successful humor writer, humor is like math – not everybody gets it! This is to say that different people have different senses of humor; not everyone finds the same things to be funny. One of the hardest things for aspiring humor writers to come to grips with is the fact that as a general rule, only a small percentage of readers will find their work funny. Most others will finish a piece and say something like, “oh, that was nice.”
If you’re the type of person who never gets any laughs, perhaps you shouldforget about being a humor writer. But if your sense of humor is shared by even a small handful of people you know, then there are others out there. Stay true to that sense of humor and find a way to hone it. In the end, a finely-tuned sense of humor is more important than the number of people with whom you share it.
Watch for Overkill
A typical mistake of inexperienced humor writers is to try and make every other sentence a joke. Not only is it difficult to fire off one good line after another, it also tends to destroy cohesiveness and make your writing harder to follow. A good humor piece of 500 words should probably contain no more than five or six jokes.
Real Life as a Source
It’s been said that the reason we find things funny is that there’s an element of truth to the matter. If so, then one of the greatest sources of funny material is real-life experience. One humor writer suggested that young authors always carry a pen and a piece of paper, jotting down a few notes every time they observe something humorous. Keeping a running list of those notes gives humor writers a well of new ideas.