Now the Hard Part

Using all this research, the assignment is to come up with humorous material for your monologue (or sketch) on golf. Remember that to be funny, the final line of the scenario must end in a surprise. Depending on the speed of the performer, four jokes a minute is maximum or two jokes plus one anecdote is average. So if the assignment is for five minutes of material, at the maximum you need only twenty one-liners, or seven anecdotes, or an assortment. The beginner writes just twenty pieces. The...

Whats a Premise

A premise is an idea, a conflict like deception that may be raised by details of a plot. A common trap for humor writers is to believe that a single joke can be the basis of a premise. That rarely happens. In the end it's only one joke. Woody Allen once wrote, I try to develop a long story with as many laughs coming as close together as possible. After I'm finished, I have a lot of jokes and comments, but as I look at them I find 90 percent don't meet my standards.

Writing a Reformed Clich for Print

Our paper carried the notice last week that Mr. Herman Jones is a defective in the police force. This was a typographical error. Mr. Jones, of course, is a detective on the police farce. Most newspaper bloopers, known as typos, fall in this category, but you can also write a reformed clich for print. In the summer of 1985, two Czechoslovakian tennis stars, Ivan Lendl and Hana Mandlikova, respectively won the US Open men's and women's tennis championships. The fact that they were both Czech gave...

What Do They Mean When They Say Humor is Written Backwards

The last line the joke is created first. Then the anecdote or setup is written to prepare the audience. For instance, in a play on words (POW) you might accidentally discover a unique literal interpretation of a clich or a reformed clich (which can happen just as easily when you accidentally make a whittle typing error). But creating setups isn't easy you might try half a dozen before the best one is apparent. Then you can spend hours changing words and whittling it down whittle by whittle....

Overstatement Going for Baroque

Humor writers get more recognition in print than in any other medium. Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded to three syndicated columnists who are outstanding humorists Russell Baker (1979), Ellen Goodman (1980), and Art Buchwald (1982). Even though there is no humor category, Pulitzer judges properly classify humor under Criticism or Commentary, and all three writers do both. Russell Baker is a master of literate humor. He is a natural cynic who sees the world as it is, instead of as it should be....

The Walled Off Astoria

Starting with realism, the humor writer tries to determine how far in any direction the truth can be exaggerated without destroying credibility. It's called good, better, best. A story about a prisoner who calls his companion a cellmate is good, calling him a bedroom mate is better, and calling him a suite mate is comedically the best of all. Realism is frequently funniest when it's exaggerated to the most extreme possibility. In math, 1 + 1 2. In humor, 1 + 1 11. This can be done by either...

Speakeasy

The strongest advice I can give is that the speechwriter must work directly with the presenter and not get the assignment from a third party. Writing and thinking are interwoven. You can't have one without the other. Writers must know the client's philosophy intimately in order to organize, fine-tune, and clarify executive thinking. I asked my secretary to find some good quotable quotes that packed some solid advice in them for today's speech and she came back with this little memo Dear Boss...

The Basic Rules

There are thousands of phrases that lend themselves to this simple truth construction. The basic rule is that the first part or first sentence is a clich . The second part (the punch line) is an unexpected interpretation that's realistically literal. Doctor I don't like the looks of your husband. Wife Neither do I, doctor, but he's good to the children. Boss to employee I'd thank you, Harrison, but, as you know, yours is a thankless job. Frank Modell As your mind gets more practice, your ear...

Does Giving Author Credit to Someone Else Add or Diminish Audience Appreciation When You Retell a Joke

Actually it may help beginners get bigger laughs, unless you do it every time. The audience respects famous comedians and is predisposed to laugh at something attributed to them. It's a fair deal. They get the credit and you get the laughs. When I encourage students in workshops to plunge immediately into active experiments, I use Woody Allen's story of how his father taught him to swim My father took me out into the lake on a boat and then just threw me overboard. It wasn't half bad once I got...

Lets Write A Paired Phrase

Following a misfortune, we have certain options. We can turn pessimistic and curse the frequency of bad luck, or we can be optimistic and consider that fate has provided a costly learning experience. This is the base for an aphorism a concise expression containing truth or wisdom. The comic writer is trained by necessity to see humor through woes-colored glasses. In this case we look for wit through paired elements, since we already have an obvious optimist-pessimist pairing. Our first effort...

What is Telegraphing

Generally, this is a sign of the beginner who gives too detailed an introduction, making the setup so obvious that the audience can anticipate the ending of the story. Jack Ellis, director of development (fund-raising) for Ohio University was being given a testimonial dinner. One speaker told the story of the carnival strong man who wet a towel and then squeezed every drop of water out of it. Then he offered to bet anyone in the audience fifty dollars that they couldn't squeeze out just one...

The Computer Mind

It seems like a lot of work for one photo caption. It is. But before long, your mental computer will have a file of all the different possibilities that you can call up at a moment's notice. Do all those steps really become automatic Think of it like the moves Jimmy Connors has to make setting up for a tennis shot. As the ball approaches, Connors decides to move diagonally forward or backward, left or right. At the same time, he is getting his racket back, planting his feet properly while...

Testing One Two Three Writing Humor for Speeches

The Closest Most People Come To Humor Performance is when they're called upon to deliver a speech. David Brinkley commented that we may be reaching the point where there are more people willing to give luncheon speeches than are willing to listen to them. But that's only a joke. The fact is that speechmaking continues to be more popular than ever. In this electronic society, where so much information comes to us via radio, television, newspapers, and specialized newsletters, office computer,...

Simple Truth Exercises

Having read the above jokes, now you should be able to finish some on your own. Read the first part of each of the following clich s, and see if you can come up with a simple truth tag. To help you get started, the key word with the best possibility for a double entendre is in italics. Check your pay-off line with the ones suggested on page 64. 1. Every twelve and a half seconds, some woman in the US is giving birth. 3. My girlfriend was faithful to the end. 4. We never serve women at the bar....

Whats a Saver

It's a line used to save you from embarrassment when a joke bombs. Johnny Carson frequently uses, I knew that joke wouldn't work. (If he knew, why did he use it ) Others are That's the last time I buy a joke from (the president of the club). Or, When did you all become members of a jury Comedy writers have to prepare a fistful of savers for their clients. Your most dangerous time is when the fist is empty. There are also savers when a performance is interrupted by an unexpected event but no...

The Twenty Masks Of Comedy

He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. Raphael Sabatini Theater began in Greece with one actor in a variety of masks playing all parts. In humor, there are approximately twenty major and distinctive character masks. But each comedian can have only one. The paradox is that it must be a perfect characterization of an imperfect character. The character can be anything from an erudite scholar to a simpleton, a suburban yuppie, even a dope addict, a sexual deviate,...

Freelance Options

The mechanics of sending out freelance material for consideration by greeting card publishers is rather simple. Companies prefer submissions to be sent in batches of ten to twenty card ideas. Each idea should be typed in dividually on a 3x5 index card. Some will even accept handwritten ideas, but the writer looks amateurish doing it that way. If you want to be respected as a pro, look like one. On the back of each card, put your name, address, phone number, and an ID code number for each idea...

Canada

Miss Suzette, Comedy Writing Workshop, 33 Isabella Street 310, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 2P7, (416) 921-5288 Rhonda Hammer, Sociology Department, York University, 4700 Keele Street, North York, Ontario, Canada M3J1P3 Abbott and Costello 52,190 Addams, Charles 237,241 ad-lib 47,229 advertising humor 188 agents 295 Allen, Fred 137,152,160 Allen, Grade 196,198 Allen, Steve 42,101,113,185,194,201,292 Allen, Woody 2-3,16,30,34-35,40,108,133, 159,168,175,179,185,199-200,288,293, 297 ambivalence...

Mistaken Assumptions

One essential ingredient in drama is that the audience be kept in the dark about something. In humor, it's just the reverse the audience is clued in from the beginning, but one essential character is purposely not. In fact, if all the characters in a sitcom told the truth in the first three minutes, there would be no need for the other twenty. Examples are common one character tries to hide his true ability, a body is hidden in a trunk, someone is hiding in the closet, a married couple pretend...

Lets Write A Reverse

When school is out, there's always the tearing up of homework, screeching and giggling. You would think professors would act more dignified Paul Sweeney The basic reverse of students and teachers is a favorite humor subject, since it's familiar to all of us. So let's practice writing a reverse using that very subject. We'll use the beginning of the school term, when summer is over and mothers are obviously ecstatic about getting the house back. But because parents have guilt feelings, they need...

What Does Hiding the Joke Mean

This is the opposite of telegraphing a joke. Someone tells a story and the audience believes it to be a simple, true statement (followed by a short pause) they don't see the joke coming. That way, the surprise and the laughter are maximized. Ohio University was founded in 1804 and opened with a freshman class of twelve students. . . . And this year, eight of them graduated. Hide the joke is Bob Hope's favorite admonition to his writers. He once told Gene Perret, Don't write philosophy, write...

The Oral Clich

Here the ear transmits to the mind the most familiar interpretation of each word. Actually, here is one of the most popular words to use because it sounds like hear, hair, and hare. Just by mixing them up, you can concoct simple combinations like An adolescent rabbit is a pubic hare, and Hair yesterday, gone today. Try reforming words using homonyms from one subject group (like fish names), just for the pun of it. Did you hear about the Norwegian who brought his harpoon to Israel because he...

Rules for Playing the VIP Game

There are five basic rules for lampooning celebrities 1. The person must be well known. 2. The person should be controversial. People who do the most good or bad are humor's who's who. Dan Quayle, Madonna, Mike Tyson, Jose Canseco, Nancy Reagan, Jimmy Swaggert, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Kennedy and Princess Diana (who plays Dallas in the Palace) are just a few examples from a long list of personalities whose activities inflame large groups of supporters and opponents. An empty cab drove up and Madonna...

Quiz Show Mcs

Quiz show MCs have a longer tenure than any other stars on TV. Some have been doing the same show for twenty years, and the ones who last are experts at humor. Many of them started as comedians, like Groucho Marx, Jan Murray, and Richard Dawson. What they all have, says Mark Goodson, is a sense of assurance in dealing with contestants, skill as a technician, intelligence, and the ability to say the right thing, make the right quip. They are expected to be funny. Like talk show guests, carefully...

Whats the Secret of Timing

In his book Make 'em Laugh Life Studies of Comedy Writers, Dr. William Fry, Jr. quotes Herbie Baker on timing There are no rules. Timing comes from experience waiting for the laugh, knowing when to come in. You get a feeling that the timing is right. When to start telling the next joke. When performers start out they step on their own laughs. They don't wait long enough, or worse, they wait for a laugh to die down completely, then have to start building all over again. The trick is to create a...

Antonyms

Paired antonyms generate a lot of humor material because opposite words are the simplest form of reverse. The first keyword starts you in one direction the antonym flips you in the opposite. When Saturday Night Live was having a bad season, critics were quick to dub it Saturday Night Dead. The more double entendre antonyms you can put into one-liners, the more likely you are to reach a wider audience, since each person gives the words his own interpretation. For instance, trade terms are only...

Now You Do It

The standard reverse should now be easy to spot. After you've seen three or four, you should be able to finish the last line of the following reverses. Compare your best effort with a pro's version on page 110. 1. A woman walking down the street with her dog passes a bum sitting on the sidewalk. The man looks up and says, You've got the ugliest pig I've ever seen. Why you drunken bum, says the woman. It's not a pig, it's a dog. And the bum says. . . . 2. A bum walks into the doctor's office...

Humor Newspapers

Carsaf, Gagaloglu, Mollaffenari, Sok. 30-32, Istanbul, Turkey Girgir Alabala , Alaykosku Caddesi-Cagaloglu, Istanbul, Turkey Just for Laughs, Anne and Jon Fox, Editors, 22 Miller Avenue, G, Mill Valley, CA 94941 Krokodil, A.S. Pianov, Editor, 101455, G.S.P., Moscow, A-137, Bumazh-nyi Proezd, Dom 14, Moscow, U.S.S.R. Possum County News, Poor 01' George, Editor, P.O. Box 2572, Owens-boro, KY 42302 Poultry, Jack Flavin, Brendan Galvin, and George Garrett, Editors, P.O. Box 4413, Springfield, MA...

Understatement Taking Your Tale From Between Your Legs

There is an alternative to obscene language. It's called understatement. This is one of the higher techniques of humor writing because it's so difficult to carry off effectively, without the point being lost in subtlety. Both understated realism and understated shock material cater to the audience's imagination and intelligence, encouraging them to complete the script using their own words. Then, who can complain Saw this commercial on TV for Ex-Lax, it says, Works while you sleep. That scares...

Three Prerequisites

There are three strict prerequisites for a reformed clich to be funny. 1. The take-off cannot be obvious it must be a surprise. 2. It must be, at least, mildly outrageous it's all in good pun . 3. The original clich or title must be immediately familiar to the audience. The Rite of Spring exercise, for example, would earn few laughs from the non-musical or even those who know Stravinsky's symphony as Le Sacre du Printemps. A time-honored rule in comedy is to never do more than three jokes on...

The Intellectual

The most successful erudite character in contemporary humor is Woody Allen. He carefully dressed and looked like a student even with a tie and jacket he would purposely wear running shoes. Allen played the mascot of the intellectuals for twenty years. His humor is based on the incongruity of his appearance and his material the mousy physical look that ridicules a secret sexual prowess, the very antithesis of aggressive dominance that is the character of Shecky Greene, Jan Murray, and Jack...

Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered Triples

If peanut oil comes from peanuts and olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from Each Joke Structure Has Its Devotees the one-liner Bob Hope , the epigram Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks , the anecdote Buddy Hackett and Bill Cosby , free association commentary Richard Pryor and Robin Williams , word association George Carlin , the insult Don Rickles , working the audience Steve Allen , and dozens of combinations of the above. But the triple is one format that all humorists use and...

Anecdotes and Fillers

The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, has been running The Funny Bone, a joke column, in their Sunday magazine for more than thirty years. It uses subscriber joke contributions exclusively. Readers not only like the jokes, but take great pride in seeing their names, and those of their friends, published. Once when the column was possibly going to be dropped because it required too much staff time, readers protested so vigorously that The Funny Bone was kept, and continues to be one of...

Names

Every ethnic group has names that encourage a smile. A grasshopper walked into a bar and ordered a drink. My god ' said the bartender, a talking grasshopper. You know, we have a drink named after you The grasshopper looked at him in amazement and asked, Irving Funny American names are short and frequently have a double entendre. Most male comedians purposefully take short names, more often than not a nickname Woody, Soupy, Henny, Bobby, Shecky, Mel, Billy, Joey, etc. Female humorists names are...

The Aggressor

Leonard had an arsenal of below-the-belt insults which he machine-gunned at celebrities, especially if they were in his audience. After Leonard's death, Don Rickles became show busi-ness's merchant of venom. Here are three of his little digs that went to market To Frank Sinatra Come right in, Frank. Make yourself at home. Hit somebody. To Dean Martin You're Italian, right What the hell do we need Italians for Oh, yeah, to keep the cops busy. To Sammy Davis You should...

Malaprops

Malapropisms are twisted language innocently spoken by a dolt. They were the format of Burns and Allen's act for more than thirty years. Today, entertainment columns are big users of celebrity witticisms, and publicity agents, when they can't find something positive to say about their clients, may credit them with reformed clich wit that turns into malaprops. In the 1940s, movie mogul Sam Goldwyn was quoted in the entertainment columns so often with examples of mistaken grammar that the classic...

Shtick

A comic says things funny. Tonight, I will prove that I am a juggler Just As You're Obligated To Know your audience before you write material, it's just as obligatory to know your client speaker, stand-up, skit performer or juggler and his or her character. That's because humor doesn't go into a character, it comes out of a character. A character needs a trademark, a predictable point of view which does not change. If a performer doesn't have an individual style...

Humor Magazines

Cartoon World, George Hartman, Editor, P.O. Box 30367, Lincoln, NE 68503 Cracked, Michael Delle-Femine, Editor, Larken Communications, 535 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Croc, Patrick Beaudin, Editor, Ludcom Inc., Edifice Plaza Drummond-ville, 5800 Avenue Monkland, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H4A 1G1 Humor Magazine, Edward Savaria Jr., and Suzanne Tschanz, Editors, P.O. Box 41070, Philadelphia, PA 19127 Intra-Tent Journal, Rick Greene, Editor, Sons of the Desert, P.O. Box 8341, University City,...

Shock Therapy

The frenzy of modern communications makes it more and more difficult to get attention. Advertising research claims nearly one thousand ads vie for our attention each day, so our attention span gets shorter. When future generations open today's buried time capsules, they'll feel positive that every major decision in our lives was made in thirty seconds. They could be right. If Moses brought down the Ten Commandments today, Dan Rather would probably broadcast the news this way Today, in the...

Whats a Topper

Getting an audience laughing from a dead start is like pushing a truck stuck in the snow. It takes a great deal of effort and luck, and you can't start off by just gunning the motor you'll end up spinning your wheels. First you've got to rock the truck audience back and forth carefully until the wheels catch. Then, when the weight is going forward, you've got to keep that momentum going with split-second timing. If it works, you're home free. A topper is that second effort, and writing it is an...

Softcore and Hardcore

It's easy to be prudish and say that hard-core expressions aren't funny, they are just intended to shock. But it's much more accurate to say that the decision of whether to use soft-core ass or hard-core asshole is determined by the character of the performer and of the audience. There are three reasons why professional writers will work very hard to avoid hard-core words. 1. The soft-core word can be just as funny when it is the definition rather than the shock of the word which sparks the...

How Do I Test My Humor

You need an audience, and it must be an audience receptive to humor. If you can't find a comedy audience, try it on another humor professional writer or performer. Don't walk up to a stranger and ask, What d'ya think of this The only thing worse is to try it on your friends, your spouse, your parents, or your children. They are too subjective, too critical, and, instead of just relaxing and enjoying it, they turn into pseudo-analysts. Only one out of every ten...

Transposition

The question is not whether shock words should be used, but when. The borderline of good taste in humor is as subjective as sex between consenting adults. However, humor has so many forms, it's easy to avoid words that might offend the audience. There are as many euphemisms for hard-core words as there are for a man's penis I call mine by its God-given name 'Vesuvius,' remarks Robert Wohl . Another device is transposition, as illustrated by the following story One doctor to another I've got to...

Exaggerated Numbers

Math is logic, but when there's a lapse in logic, it's ludicrous. I want to live to be a hundred, because you rarely read any obituaries about people over a hundred years old. If there's anything instinctive about humor writing, it's being able to answer the constant questions When is exaggeration excessive, and what's the right balance of reality and distortion It's the same instinct news editors use daily to determine what is news Their answer I know it when I see it. Exaggerated numbers are...

Introductory Remarks

Nothing helps you to be a better listener than knowing you're going to be the next one called to the podium. And then a little humility helps I was flattered by our toastmaster's introduction. The hardest thing for a speaker to remember is not to nod his head in agreement when the toastmaster praises him. But not too much humility. The audience gets suspicious of those too pious. Golda Meir once said to a colleague after an introduction Don't be so humble. You're not that great. Even an...

The Usage Blunder

English teachers like to collect and publish student spelling and usage errors perhaps it's some compensation for the daily pain they must bear without baring. While these examples are, purportedly, a result of ignorance, humor writers are frequently inspired by the double entendres crafted by a fool. For her birthday, she asked her boyfriend for designer genes. The girl was affluent in both French and Spanish. Three classes of professors compromise the teaching staff, and faculty are chosen as...

Humor Periodicals

Reprinted with permission from the International Society for Humor Studies, compiled and edited by Don L.F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287. A Propos, Marko Ganchev, Editor, The House of Humor and Satire, P.O. Box 1352,1000 Sofia, Bulgaria, East Europe Cahiers de Recherche, Nelly Feuerhahn, Editor, 39, rue Ste Croix de la Bretonnerie, B23,75004 Paris, France Canard Enchaine, A. Ribaud, Editor, 2 rue des Petits-Peres, Paris 2e , France Humerus,...

Imagination Is Funny Taking the First Step

The First Step In Humor Conception Is Imagination. It's called What if the two most important words in creativity and the only stimulant a humor writer needs to get started. Imagination is intelligence having fun, writes George Scialabba. Look at a clear glass ashtray. What do you see If you can see beyond its ordinary function, humor writing may be for you. The humorist sees what is logically illogical, perceiving something in a way no one else at least in the audience has considered before....

The Basic One Liner

If you had a hundred different professional cartoonists and you gave each the same caption Why such a long fez, Abdul , you'd get one hundred different illustrations, but not one would be any funnier than the other. In fact, readers could do almost as well visualizing this cartoon for themselves it would have two Turks, one with a regular fez and the second wearing an extra long hat. What else is needed In single-panel illustrations and comic strips, the one-liner is still the meat and potatoes...

Single Panel Cartoons Verbals The Last Word

If there is any one question cartoonists are asked every day it's Where do you get your ideas One cartoonist who tried to answer is Dana Fradon, a New Yorker cartoonist for over thirty years. He told Lenore Skenazy of Advertising Age, that the ideas come when I'm sitting behind a desk, usually with a New York Times in front of me, a piece of 17x24-inch paper, and I just start free-associating. I'm skeptical. I'm not a cynic, but I am pessimistic. Fradon loves to pounce upon the hypocrisy of the...

The Next Giant Step Reverses

The Term Reverse Has Many Definitions in humor writing. Some define it as the device of adding a contradictory tag line to the opening line of a clich . I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it. Some writers define it as a situation in which the outs take over from the ins. I have a job at the local radio station. I get in my car at rush hour and report on helicopter traffic. Joe Bolster Other writers combine it with the old switcheroo, a concept which takes a standard humor bit...

Simple Truth Punch Lines

Here are just some payoff line possibilities to the Simple Truth exercises on page 62. How do yours compare 1. Every twelve and a half seconds, some woman in the U.S. is giving birth. We've got to find that woman and stop her. Girl Of course. Did I ever charge you 3. My girlfriend was faithful to the end. Unfortunately, I was the quarterback. 4. We never serve women at the bar. You'll have to bring your own. 5. Why was George Washington buried at Mount Vernon Because he was dead 6. Cleanliness...

POW Is a Play on Words

Where Do Jokes Come From Well, funny things do happen to us every once in a while. If we're extroverts, we dramatically recount the bizarre features with exaggerated overtones. We get laughs. And we think we're pretty funny. But professional humorists can't wait for absurd things to actually happen. They have to produce every day, so they create what they can't find. They do this in one of two ways by rephrasing old material, or creating new humor. There's no such thing as an ad-lib a term...

Talk Show Hoststhe Mouth That Roars

For over thirty years, Johnny Carson was a role model to everyone in the talk show business. It took several years of training before Jay Leno was ready to replace Carson as the host of The Tonight Show, which disguised a lot of hard work by twelve writers and fifty production personnel. His gags on current events kept his show fresh and kept his writers among the best-read magazine and newspaper subscribers in the world. Talk shows in general have fallen on hard times. Many of the hosts not...

Joke Writing Services

A joke can be used by hundreds of local disc jockeys all across the nation, even if they all broadcast on the same day. Most jocks need all the help they can get, according to Andy Goodman. On the air, they're short order cooks. They spin the music, read the news, spit out sports statistics, give the odds on the weather, and try to interpret traffic reports. During radio drive time, humor is a welcome companion and helps to relieve road frustrations. But imagine how difficult it is for those...

Paired Phrases

To be most effective, paired phrases must be parallel equal in grammatical structure and rhythm. Some need an introductory setup line most do not. But they all have a simple declarative statement that's craftily repeated by reversing the order of the last few words. The result is an aphorism, almost lyrical in its repetition and valuable because it's easy to remember. Two of our greatest gifts are imagination and humor. Imagination compensates us for what we are not, Humor compensates us for...

Greeting Cardshumor In The Mail

Great Poetry And Sentiments Like This have been incorporated in American greeting cards since the 1870s. When telephones became popular there was fear in the greeting card industry that such brief missives would be one of Ma Bell's first victims. Au contraire Letter writing is down, but greeting card sales continue to skyrocket. Forbes estimated that half of all personal mail is now preprinted greeting cards. You can't put a phone call on the mantle, says Henry Lowenthal. There is great debate...

Newspaper Humor

Journalists call it the toy department the editorial page of a newspaper. Reporters dream of getting there and doing their own columns. If the editorial column is the land of Utopia, wrote Ed Cohen, then the humor column is its capital city. While the political, medical, business, and fashion columns are respected, studies show that a newspaper's two most popular editorial pieces are both humorous the editorial cartoon and the humor column, in just that order. Columns are soapboxes for clever...

Communicate

Greeting cards are a form of interpersonal communication. They must convey an intimate thought from the sender to the receiver. Slant the point of view for women because they buy 85 percent of all cards with the exception of Valentine's Day cards when the male-female ratio is closer to fifty-fifty . Greeting card companies are aware that when it comes to a wife, mother, sweetheart girlfriend or boyfriend , we don't want to look cheap. Some recipients habitually look at the back of the card...

California

Walter Askin, Art Department, California State University, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032, 213 343-4031 Bob Basso, Denny Dillon, Mark Lenow, UCLA Extension Program, Beverly H ls, CA 90210 Jim Birge, University California Irvine , Irvine, CA 92715 Saundra McMillan, Radio TV Department, California State University Long Beach 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90815, 213 985-4251 Jim Richardson, Sonoma State University, 413 Furlong Road, Sebastopol, CA 95472, 707...

Funny Words The Spark Plugs of Humor

IN His Play The Sunshine Boys, Neil Simon wrote about funny words. One of the main characters, Willy, says to his nephew Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know what makes an audience laugh. You know what words are funny and which words are not funny. Alka Seltzer is funny. You say 'Alka Seltzer' you get a laugh. . . . Words with 'K' in them are funny. Casey Stengel, that's a funny name. Robert Taylor is not funny. Cupcake is funny. Tomato is not funny. Cookie is...

Overstatement

Turning realism into exaggeration is easier to understand if we think of it as a transition from sense to nonsense. Bert Williams, one of the first black comedians, used this as his stock story on racial discrimination A black fish-peddler climbs up a seven-thousand-foot mountain to sell fish to white folks. One day, after he gets to the top a white man says, No, we don't want no fresh fish today. So the black man goes down the steep mountain, nearly losing his life in a landslide. He no sooner...

Why Work So Hard

This seems like an unusual amount of labor just to create a few one-liners. Well, it is and no humor writer will deny that the work is laborious, tedious, time-consuming, and frustrating when it doesn't come out right. Like most creative people, humor writers spend a lot of time gazing blankly out the window looking for the right figure of speech. And just as you're about to find it, your spouse will come up and say, As long as you're not doing anything, take out the garbage. Now let's put a...

Other Benefits

One delight of the reverse is that it can be used in innumerable ways to make a point, not just tell a joke. It's an excellent technique for speeches and essays. Two competitor manufacturers were attending an industry association outing at a mountain resort. They were roommates in the same small cabin when they heard scratching outside the door. One went to look, came back and started to put on his running shoes. What's the trouble asked his roommate. There's a giant bear outside, the other man...

Newscasters Sportscasters And Weather Forecasters

Newscasters are always seeking humor, because TV news is constantly under attack for presenting too much violence and tragedy and not enough good news. Reporters who know how to utilize humor find their segments generally make the exit story for the evening news. Successful sportscasters have to be loud, knowledgeable, accurate and carry a big shtick. Some, like Joe Garagiola and Bob Uecker, make more money off-the-air as speakers and TV guests than by announcing play-by-play action. Since they...

Print Clichs

Because the sound difference in reformed homonyms is so subtle it's necessary to see many alterations in print. That's why they're so popular on signs and graffiti. But spoken aloud, these homonym clich s will only earn you groans for an outrageous pun. I know a transsexual who only wants to eat, drink and be Mary. Here are a few examples of the thousands of reformed homonym combinations that work best in print. A zebra is twenty-five sizes bigger than an A bra. Celebrity in snowstorm talking...

Understatement

Subtle humor isn't underrated, it's just understated an effective humor device because it encourages the audience to participate. The British believe that the underclass overstates and the upper class understates. Humor writers are classless they use both techniques. Understatement's most famous practitioner today is Woody Allen, whose own humor was influenced by S. J. Perelman, a master of the art. Allen's understatements start out very realistically and are frequently non sequiturs. If...

Fractured Clichs

Another homonym device is split-reforming, which separates one word into two to get a surprise double meaning. The 86-year-old lady was being interviewed by the quizmaster on TV. You look wonderful, he said. Yes, said the old lady, I've never had a sick day in my life. The MC was astonished. You've never been bedridden even once he asked. The old lady said, Oh, many times, and three times in the haystack. The most common category of splits are words that begin with the letter a such as alone,...

Fortune Cookies Leave Em Laughing

The climax of a meal in most Chinese-American restaurants is the award of a free fortune cookie, tiny paper missives inserted into crisp moon-shaped cookies as they were being baked. The interesting fact is that they are unknown in China, although a few Chinese historians believe they were originated under the name Chien Yu Bing by revolutionaries during the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644 A.D. who used the brittle folded cakes to pass secret messages. No, one of them was not Help I'm a hostage in a...

Paired Sentences

This technique consists of two paired phrases, but used in separate sentences, generally by two different people. Instead of a take-off on a clich The world may be your oyster, but you have to crack the shell to get it , the responder's wit comes from the ability to reverse the order of the words and toss them back in the originator's face. Telegram from play producer to George Bernard Shaw Send manuscript. If good will send check. Shaw replied Send check. If good will send manuscript. A...

Whats With This Crazy Shtick

It's unusual for a famous performer to have more than one character it's also dangerous, because audiences like to stereotype humorists. Stereotypes are a shortcut to thinking and the audience gets confused if a performer changes characterization in mid-act. Rarely do established comedians, in films or theater, play characters that are opposite to their personas. The most successful movie comedians Bob Hope, Eddie Murphy, Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Lewis are those who play every part the same....

The Anatomy of Humor The Threes Formula

Business Insurance Humor

THREE'S NOT JUST A CROWD, IT'S A HUMOR FORMULA Six Criteria, Like Ingredients In A Cake Recipe, make up the essentials of humor. And with few exceptions, the absence of any one ingredient so disturbs the formula that the humor is not only less funny, but in danger of complete failure. Whether the humor is a one-liner, a lengthy anecdote, or a three-act theatrical piece, these same six elements consistently appear. Although there's no absolute prescribed order, in this arrangement, the first...

Energize

After all the advice and demographics are finished, somebody still has to sit down and write the copy. What sells a greeting card is the tag line, not the art. True, the art has to be adorable, even cute, to clue the reader that the message is whimsical. But once you've accepted the fact that greeting cards are the biggest zoos for anthropomorphic animals, most illustrations seem trite, sentimental, and borax. According to researcher Marcy Brown, many card...

Dos and Donts for Triples

There are a number of rules specifically geared to the number three. Tension is important in humor structure and a triple helps build tension, but be wary of too much of a good thing. 1. Never tell more than three jokes about one subject at any one time. 2. Don't spend more than three minutes on any one theme. 3. Three themes of about three minutes each are optimum for a ten minute stand-up monologue. 4. Three minutes is the best length for a skit. 5. Don't use more than three voices in a radio...

Does Sick Humor Make Us Feel Better

Morbid humor appears after every tragic situation. Once upon a time, when the banker in the three-piece suit slipped on a banana peel it was funny only if he got up. Today, someone will make a joke out of it only if he breaks his neck. Within hours after the Russian nuclear accident at Chernobyl the airwaves were filled with such humor as Question What has feathers and glows in the dark Answer Chicken Kiev. Within the last few years, there have been sick jokes on Senator Ted Kennedy He's the...

Associations as Warmups

A humorist's funnybone is like an athlete's muscles or a singer's vocal cords. They work best when they're warmed up first. The same can be true of lovers, but that's another book. Writing teachers insist that students do fifteen to thirty minutes of brain-stretching exercises each morning to clear away the fog. Robert Orben warms up writing twenty-five one-liners inspired by the morning paper. Then, he gets to work. Others like to imagine funny captions to news photos. Art Gliner, famous...

The Rube

This country boy humorist, tipping back in a cane bottom rocker on the front porch of the general store with a hound dog at his feet, is a consistent hit with rural audiences. They feel comfortable laughing at some yokel less intelligent than they are. There have been few costume changes in a hundred years, except that the wide-brimmed farm hat has been replaced by a tractor cap and the fiddle's been replaced by a harmonica. Patricia Leimbach, at sixty, is to the farm belt what Joan Rivers is...

Why We Laugh Theories of Comedy

Despite The Fact That Humor Plays An Important Part in our lives, there isn't a lot of literature on the psychology of comedy. Over the centuries, philosophers have devoted only a small portion of their logic to understanding what laughter means, why we tell jokes, and why we do or don't appreciate other people's humor. Circa 500 B.C., Aristotle studied it and Socrates debated it. In the 1800s Darwin, Hobbs, and Bergson wrote papers on their humor theories. In the twentieth century, Freud,...

General Marketing Information

For single-panel cartoons, The New Yorker is the most prestigious place to be published, but the odds against the freelancer are very high. The editors have first option on the work of forty to fifty contract cartoonists. The editors also supply their artists with gag ideas and sometimes even change the caption after a cartoon has been submitted. Despite this home team advantage, they still look at over 2,500 professional submissions per week. Only twenty cartoons per week are published....

Humor Newsletters

Behrens, Editor, 26 West Harris St 'SCAD, Savannah, GA 31401-4354 Belch and Fart, Marcia Blackam, Editor, Box 6342, Terra Linda, CA 94903 Benedicta, Reinhold A. Aman, Editor, Maledicta Press, 331 S. Greenfield Avenue, Waukesha, WI53186-6492 Bits and Pieces, The Economics Press, Arthur F. Lenehan, Editor, 12 Daniel Road, Fairfield, NJ 07006 Carolina Health and Humor Newsletter, Ruth Hamilton, Editor, 5223 Revere Road, Durham, NC 27713-2370 Comedy and Comment,...

Is a Topper the Same as a Running

A running gag sometimes called a combo is a line that comes early in a monologue and then is repeated as a payoff line for jokes scattered throughout the piece. The Russian-born comedian Yakov Smirnoff uses this technique in several of his stories. Soon after I came to America, I went to Tennessee. They are always checking your hearing there. They keep saying, Now, you come back. You hear I can hear. Then a farmer played a practical joke on me. He told me to milk his bull. Now when you milk...

Do Humor Writers Have a Common Psychological Profile

And this profile doesn't make a pretty picture. The average professional is serious, almost solemn. In a room, they sit in the back so they can see the world in front of them. They read voluminously, and are interested in a wide range of subjects. They're intelligent listeners, and have a good ear for incongruous language and actions. That's the good news. The bad news is male or female comedians probably had an unhappy childhood, came from a large family, weren't die oldest, but more...

Introducing the Three Rs of Humor

You Are About To Learn To Write Funny. You can learn this creative art for your own personal enjoyment or for financial gain. In either case, you'll find your humor has tremendous value. I call it the three Rs of humor. Skillful use of humor can create respect, cause your words to be remembered, and earn you great rewards. There are three ways you can attract attention 1. You can legitimately achieve some outstanding accomplishment. Humor offers all three opportunities, because humor isn't...

Comedy Writing Secrets

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Melvin Helitzer is a former Madison Avenue advertising agency president who left a Clio-award-winning career in 1980 to teach journalism courses, including Humor Writing for Fun and Profit, at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. That course is now so popular that it boasts a signup list a year in advance, and each student has to audition to become one of the few selected for each class. Helitzer has written for newspapers, magazines, and commercials for the award-winning ABC-TV...