Gut Rumbles

August 06, 2005


I once took a creative writing course in college that involved a mini-seminar on "The Theory of Humor." I was fascinated by what I learned. The guy teaching the class walked into the room, said hello, and fell right on his ass.

People laughed.

He got up and asked, "WHY did you laugh when I fell down?" That's how he set off on his quest to explain the theory of humor. That man knew what he was doing.

Humor, comedy or whatever you want to call it involves two essential ingriedients. First is SHOCK! You didn't expect it. You laugh to relieve your nerves and also to thank Bejus that it wasn't YOU busting your ass on that banana peel.

The second is SURPRISE, which is much akin to shock, because any good joke never telegraphs the punch line (and why do you think it's called a "punch line?").

I like to play with words and I believe that I can write some amusing stuff. I MEAN to do it when I do, too. I remember those lessons I learned in that class, and they work.

Don't telegraph the punch line. HAVE a punch line. SUPRISE people with it. Slip on a banana peel yourself, if it gets some attention. Make it funny.

There IS a science to it, whether you believe it or not.


years ago I was teaching a dry subject in an AirForce academy. I had a hard time getting and keeping the attention of the class. One night I cut a piece of foam rubber the size of a brick and painted it to look like a brick. The next day I acted pissed and through it at a window. Broke the ice and everything went well. But it was a hard act to follow and news got out I was a nut. Had to keep coming up with something different for every class.

Posted by: GUYK on August 6, 2005 08:02 PM

I believe that humor is a survival skill. It has to have evolutionary value. (Something like "Survival of the Funniest")

Posted by: Suz on August 6, 2005 09:22 PM

Chicks dig it when you make em laugh, but I have lost track of how many I have made fart or pee or spray out a mouthful of liquid.

They're cute, but they're kinda messy.

Posted by: Bane on August 6, 2005 09:30 PM


As a fellow Journalism major and former news editor, I agree: humor is the hardest thing to write. Period. If you can write something that makes people laugh, then you are damn good. Because it's not easy.

As for the post above, that guy deserves a gold star. Because the 2nd best thing you can do to a woman is make her laugh...

Peace out.

Posted by: BJK on August 6, 2005 09:35 PM

Not to toot my own horn here, BJ (that's your job) but I don't think it's hard at all to write funny. I have to be mad when I want to write something serious. Well, kinda.

I am amazed by joke writers who can come up with jokes for clients, sometimes several at a time, for their monologues (Jay Leno) or whatever.

Now, that's a skill.

Posted by: Bane on August 6, 2005 10:03 PM

Some writers have it, and some don't. I keep coming back to the writers who have it. I keep hoping I'll learn something.

Posted by: oregano on August 6, 2005 10:56 PM

Good humor is like the pitching of Greg Maddux.

Posted by: Chris on August 6, 2005 11:43 PM

"There IS a science to it, whether you believe it or not."

Believe it or not, Isaac Asimov published several joke books. In Treasury of Humor(sorry, can't figure how to link here), he tells 600+ jokes and limericks and describles how to tell them. He describes the science of telling jokes much like you do. The SHOCK in the punch line Asimov describes as a change in perspective; the more radical the perspective change, the funnier the joke(with exceptions of course).

Asimov was a funny, brilliant man. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Posted by: Russ on August 9, 2005 11:04 AM
Post a comment

*Note: If you are commenting on an older entry, your
comment will not appear until it has been approved.
Do not resubmit it.