The Creative Spark!

Write Comedy or Cry?

I’m prepping to write part two?the last part? of the comedy articles. But truth be told, I feel down-spirited today, ready to burst into tears. Not a funny bone in my body.

You see, an article series I labored over for weeks?my tongue-in-cheek magnum opus?got scrapped without a penny payout.

But I face the task of helping you crack the funnies. At least, in your essay anecdotes or your public speeches. And your corporate presentations and your everyday conversations and even your inner self-talk.

And many charismatic CEOs preen themselves on their sense of humor. After all, who doesn’t love a comedian? Plus, right now, grooming you into a comedian counts as my key task.

So, should I write comedy or cry?

Write comedy, of course! Just gulp back a Red Bull and crack open Joe Toplyn’s book Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV.

You see, Joe made millions laugh with his wise cracks?jokes spoken by the likes of Conan O?Brien, Jay Leno, and David Letterman. And comedy is a natural remedy for pity parties. (Mine included.)

So, let’s get ready to crack some Voice Magazine jokes to cheer us all up. Playful payback time!

But, as examples, I’ll use last week’s Voice Magazine joke plus I will craft a new one using the same topic sentence. Let me now present the jokes:

Joke 1: Last month, the Voice Magazine reported a readership of 10,000, a record high. That means that all of Balzac’s undergrads had at least one identifiable school mate: Dear Barb.

Joke 2: Last month, the Voice Magazine reported a readership of 10,000, a record high. The announcement came the same time that Balzac had its newsstand vandalized.

Side Joke 1: When you lack the Balzac Chronicle and the Drumheller Times, we’ve got you a surprise.

Tip 1: Quicken the joke. Toss out words until you get the shortest joke possible? without reducing the funniness. I started Side Joke 1 above with the words “When you are at a lack of the Balzac Chronicle….” But I tightened it to tickle you.

Tip 2: Put the giggles at the end. Put the funniest word at the end?the surprise that sparks the giggles. With Side Joke 1 above, the words “Balzac Chronicle and the Drumheller Times” might make people laugh too soon. You disagree?

Tip 3: Put the Dull Stuff at the Start. In the topic sentence, put the dull unimportant stuff at the front and the big guffaws at the end. Pull the same trick with the punch-line. In Joke 1 and Joke 2, the topic sentence starts with “last month”: dull, boring background.

Tip 4: Clarity counts. Do add words if it makes the crack clear.

Tip 5: Make the punch-line a surprise. don’t signal the punch-line joke in advance. don’t take Joke 1 above and say “Balzac’s lonely undergrads… have one identifiable school mate.” The word lonely not only makes the joke too obvious, but also signals in advance the crack “one identifiable school mate….”

Tip 6: Parallels make perfect punch-lines. Repeat some of the topic sentence wording within the punch-line?wherever it makes sense. When you get to the very last sentence of this article, notice that the sentence’s words “scraps your…” and “crack a…” have a kind of parallel structure. So, try taking some of your topic sentence wordings and repeat them in the punch-line.

Tip 7: Sounds count: consonants, alliteration, and assonance. Use consonants b, p, d, t, k, and g as often as possible. They are the foremost funniest letters. Also, repeat vowel sounds and repeat consonant sounds to please the crowds. In Joke 2 above, “Balzac had its newsstand vandalized,” there is a repetition of the “a” consonant along with some of the funniest consonants: b, c, t, d.

Tip 8: Blow it out of proportion. Exaggerate your numbers, for instance. Was a Voice readership of 10,000 an exaggeration? An underestimation, my friend?grossly underestimated.

Tip 9: Details using funny letters. Use details that spark the senses. Try to combine these details with consonants, alliteration, and assonance. For instance, referencing “Balzac Chronicle and Drumheller Times” spells out precise names of magazines while sprinkling in some funny consonants and alliteration: Balzac Chronicle. K‘s crack me up. (K‘s are technically the funniest letter of the alphabet.)

Tip 10: One, two, blimp break!: the rule of threes. Make the third part of a list of three the funny one. Make it a surprise or an unexpected twist.

Tip 11: A touch of ambiguity. don’t make your funny overly obvious or direct. Add some mystery. Joke 1 above references Dear Barb. Part of this crack referred to the Voice catering to lonely and isolated students, but I didn’t state that outright; I left that implied.

So, what did all the joke tips teach me?

don’t cry. When the editor scraps your magnum opus, crack a sally.