Monday, July 4, 2016

Make 'Em Laugh!


July means more Camp Nano, and another short story!  This month's category?  Comedy!

Yes, comedy.  My worst nightmare.  That sounded oddly dark, but it wasn't meant to.  It's really hard for me to write funny things on purpose, so I'll be struggling through this challenge and hopefully come up with something that doesn't make people roll their eyes and close the book.  

So what's the first step to writing comedy?  Knowing what kind of comedy you're writing.  There are multiple different types of humor, not all appeal to everyone, and some are easier for certain people to write.  Now that I've said that, I will attempt to define these different forms of comedy in the clearest way I know.  

#1.  Slapstick
This is what most people think of when comedy is mentioned.  Full of puns and funny jokes, banana peels and trap doors, it might be the easiest to write.  If you are looking for a good example of this type of humor, watch any children's cartoon from the 60's or 70's (The Pink Panther comes to mind).  Of course this kind of humor has to be perfectly timed or you're left with everyone giving you funny looks.  If you have one character acting as comic relief, this is a good style to grant this punny soul, especially if you're focusing on the lighter side of comedy.  When you're describing slapstick, keep the vocabulary short.  This humor might have a knack to it, but you don't need to swallow a dictionary.  Unless, you know, that one character likes long words but can't pronounce them properly.  In which case, charge ahead.  

#2.  Deadpan
This form is also known as "dry" humor, and is a personal favorite of mine.  I find it fairly easy to write, and it usually manages to at least make me smile.  Deadpan is probably most recognizable as sarcasm, which when done well can be hilarious, but when done badly can be extremely mean and hurtful.  That being said, be careful how far you take your sarcastic character.  Another way to portray deadpan is to describe something unusual or funny in a totally normal and even voice.  This is difficult when writing, as many times your reader has more control over the tone of your character's voice than you do, but it is possible to pull off.  I have found that long words tend to add to the flavor of this form of humor, making it rather the opposite of slapstick in that regard.  Deadpan is certainly not for everyone, and there are people who are not as skilled at recognizing it even in everyday life.  They may read your story and not find anything particularly funny, or they may take sarcasm as a compliment (all the better for them I suppose).  Don't feel let down, just go find another reader.

#3.  Satire
Satire is difficult to master, but extremely effective once you have.  In a brief definition, satire is taking a serious and well-known point or problem and representing it in a ridiculous or belittling light.  Gulliver's Travels by Johnathan Swift is a perfect example of satire.  His Lilliputians represent the English Whigs and Tories, only they divide themselves with low heels on their shoes or higher heels.  We would regard low and high heels as insignificant details, and certainly nothing to start a war over, but that is exactly the point that Swift was trying to make.  Do not watch a cartoon of this story to learn about satire, as there is none whatsoever in any version I've seen.  Read the actual book.  Satire also takes the form of exaggeration and sarcasm.  Again, Johnathan Swift.  In 1729, he published A Modest Proposal, an essay discussing a solution for poor parents who cannot feed themselves or their children.  You can read it for yourself online through Project Gutenberg, but be warned, it is extremely morbid.  Satire, like deadpan, can be taken seriously in the wrong hands.  Unlike the other forms of comedy, however, it is not so much a hilarious read as it is an eye-opening one.  

#4.  Dark Comedy
Often using deadpan in it's presentation, dark comedy is the morbid side of humor, and when done well can either be revolting or relieving.  Joss Whedon, directer of Marvel's Avengers series, sums this one up perfectly: "Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke."  Now this joke doesn't have to be complicated or precarious, it can be as simple as a man asking for a slice of pizza before he's executed, or Iron Man wondering if everyone wants to go to Shawarma after he's been scared back to life by a giant green gamma monster.  One of the things I like about dark comedy is the way that you feel relief after reading it.  He might be a gargantuan, hideous, space monster, but hey boys, he looks a lot like Alex when he needs a Snickers!  Dark comedy lifts a weight off your shoulders, but in a slightly twisted way.  

#5.  Surreal Comedy
Surreal comedy is a form of humor that doesn't try to make any sense at all, and only exists to make us laugh.  This is not slapstick, as slapstick can have quite a lot of sense in it.  Surreal comedy is totally random, and has no rhyme or reason behind it.  For example, this:

Another good example would be the entire Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.  This is a lot of fun to write, because anything can happen at any time, and for any reason or no reason.  

I hope my definitions and explanations have helped.  If I have missed a form of comedy or haven't been clear on one of them, let me know in the comments.  Have fun writing your funny stories!

Oh and for a funny 4th of July pick-me-up:

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