5 Tips on How to be Funny When you’re not Funny

When it comes down to it, comedy is all about relating to one another. It’s about the human connection, however frail or thin. Where language and race diversify us, we have laughter in common. Now writing comedy is one of the hardest things someone can do, but hopefully through these 5 tips I can help you better understand comedy, and natural humor should follow.

  1. Humor is subjective. If there is any advice I can give to someone writing comedy it is this, know your audience. Considering that humor can be dark, offensive, light-hearted and even dry, it caters to everyone’s tastes. That’s what makes comedy great, it can reach everyone in some form or another. On the downside, a joke that will work for one crowd, may not work for another. Just because your friends don’t find something funny, doesn’t mean that it necessarily isn’t. The hard truth is ‘the line of comedy’ is something we set within ourselves, so winning over everyone is like winning the lottery. Once you can understand your audience, you’ll have a better chance at making them laugh.
  2. Self deprecating humor. Everyone can do it, and it works. Gabriel Iglesias makes fun of himself about being overweight, Daniel tosh pokes fun at his sexuality, and Louis C.K constantly talks about the demise of quality in his life. When we make fun of ourselves, we are connecting everyone around us with a common fact; A common hero to root for, or an enemy to hate. It is this technique that binds the audience together. It shows humility within yourself and shows your vulnerability. And if your lucky, people will be able to laugh at your problems, and you’ll be the one with the the biggest smile. Find out what you don’t like about yourself, and use it. Make your weakness your greatest strength.
  3. Draw from your own life. From ‘Seinfeld’ to ‘Louie’ it’s no doubt that we find humor in our daily lives. Finding a parking space in a crowded parking lot and someone swiping in at the last second, the awkward silence before the last grab of the last slice of pizza, smelling a fart in an elevator with only you and another person. You know it’s not you, but you’re sure as hell not going to bring it up, and accuse a total stranger. We are able to find these common things funny when they aren’t happening to us. Think about a time when you were taking out the trash, and the bag broke. That sucks. It’s a dirty, it smells, and it prolongs the chore. I saw this same thing happen to someone when I was driving by his house, I chuckled and said, “that’s sucks”. I found this funny because I’ve been there, we’ve shared this experience, however awful,
  4. Rewrites, and Second Opinions. If you don’t find a joke funny, feel free to rewrite it. I can’t tell you how many times a joke has benefited from rewriting it. Different points of view will also show the joke in a different light. Asking for help from a friend, or even a partner to help you write gives you different aspects on comedy. People think differently and someone else reading your work may find a way to better articulate your particular brand of humor, or they may not get it entirely. You’ll be able to work this out in rewrites, and then you can decide how to proceed once you’ve seen every draft. Remember, even the most popular late night shows have a large team of comedy writers.
  5. Exaggerate. Exaggeration can take a joke to ridiculous heights. They can turn a situation from dark to silly. This is often how dark humor is shown, like in the movie ‘Heathers’. It is used in many jokes, but it’s most commonly found within satire and parodies. The best thing about satire is that you are poking fun at a base that people are already familiar with. The audience’s background knowledge of the material sets an even ground for you two to find ‘the funny’. Exaggeration like a nice spice. It’s best when it’s sprinkled on sparingly. With too much exaggeration, people may not be able to tell if your actual exaggerating, or just crazy; And Too little exaggeration may just go unnoticed.

I’d like to tell you there is some magical recipe to be funny, but humor is always evolving; Whether it’s in the eyes of a person, the scope of the country, or a couple decades in the past, humor will be ever-changing. You have to be present-minded. You have to run with the waves of laughter as they come and go. Most importantly, you have to keep trying because what may be right for you, may not be right for some. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and what do you have? A sub-par closing statement.

Trenton Nesbitt

I love writing about comedy. When I'm not doing that, I'm writing short comedic skits at my website:

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2 thoughts on “5 Tips on How to be Funny When you’re not Funny”

  1. Nice summary! I can imagine if someone who isn’t naturally funny regularly attempts to write comedy and funny things, it would certainly change their outlook, personality, and sense of humor over time. I think it’s an interesting and great skill to have.

    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad you liked the read. Comedy is always a really interesting subject that I feel many people in the arts don’t take seriously enough.

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