When I’m not writing humor, I’m thinking about the process of writing humor. That’s just the kind of humor nerd I am.
Recently, I co-created a contest for comedy writers called The Better Writer, Better You, Doin’ It With Mike Sacks Supreme Comedy Writing Contest. This contest was dedicated to helping comedy writers hone their craft.
During the contest, I received dozens upon dozens of questions on humor writing, from funny writers of all stripes. The questions were so good — and so finely focused — that I thought they were worth answering in a series of two pieces.
First, I want to address some of the best questions about the humor writing craft: How do humor writers generate funny ideas and turn them into humor pieces?
(In the second piece, we’ll turn to the mindsets and routines of humor writers.)
Now, let’s dive into humor craft!
“How often, percentage-wise, would you say, does the old proverb, “If I find it funny, other people will too”, live up to its name when writing humorous pieces? Or perhaps another way of saying this is, Is your bottom line, criteria for writing comedy, always, “If it makes me laugh that’s good enough”? Or is there another bottom line, criteria with which you use to determine how much of funny your writing is?” — J.C.
I think what you personally find funny is the single best heuristic for what to write in a humor article. Anyway, what’s the alternative?
And I would say, “If you laugh, others will too” is true more often than not. And by that, I mean that at least some other people will find your observation funny.
But there’s a caveat: Your ability to express a funny idea in prose will depend on your skill, on your level of writing craft. In working on your craft, you are working to get better and better at expressing your funny insights in a way that others find hilarious. When your observation falls flat, it is often because the level of humor craft required to express it was not there, not that the core observation itself was bad or…