1. Megs33
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    Megs33 Member

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    Comedy when you're not that funny

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Megs33, Sep 19, 2016.

    Does anyone have a problem with finding that "sweet spot" of writing humor? I'm not deluded enough to think I could write comedy gold on the first go, but I'd love to hear what other people do to develop and refine their ideas in to something good.

    The reason why I ask is because the story I'm writing involves an MC who I want to have as a source of comic relief. He is a complete smartass who tends to shoot off his mouth before fully thinking through his actions, and he's going to get his friends in to some really awkward/difficult situations as a result. I've been kind of annoyed, because every time I write something from his POV, I'll re-read it and feel like the humor in the situation seems forced.

    Currently I'm just keeping a list of funny little quips that pop in to my head randomly, but I'm coming up empty on how to actually USE them. Suggestions?
     
  2. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well that all depends on what your MC is waiting for. Irony is a good way to go about adding comedic relief. Also bad taste jokes at the worst possible time work depending on the circumstances as a way to lighten a stressful mood a smidgen. Though it sounds like you are trying to write quick wit zingers with no real application, or they come off as rough and awkward. Irony might be a good way for you to go, as off the cuff only works in certain situations that will actually benefit from it.

    I use rough bad taste jokes in my WIP and sequel usually in high tension situations. Of course the MC and Co. are prone to blurting out something funny and crude or awkward at these points to make up for the fact that their butts are on the line. To be fair they are soldiers and it is kinda expected to have random little things like that crop up. And because it is kinda fun to add in the fact that they actually react to the jokes (most of the time) to show that they still have some sense of being, even in the roughest of spots. Though I have one that comes off as slightly awkward but it works because it is pointed at an alien trooper that does not have a sense of humor.

    Here is that instance as an example:


    “What is your story, slenderman”, Rhino asks the Lieutenant behind me as we sweep our designated area. Biting my tongue to keep from laughing at his odd choice of calling the Uldivarion.

    “Hardly the time to be swapping friendly chit chat, now is it Captain”, the Lieutenant says formally and somewhat flatly to him.

    “Sounds like somebody has his panties in a bunch” , Rhino snorts back at the overly professional Uldivarion. Damn it, straining to not release the roar of laughter trying to escape.

    “Not that is any of your concern the nature of my under garb, but they are not in a ‘bunch’” , the Lieutenant replies annoyed at Rhino’s jest. Good thing the room we were in was clear. Rhino and I lost it. Slapping the large man on the shoulder, as my sides split. Fighting for composure, and breath. We move on to the next room.




    I think ultimately what you need to do is work on trying out different forms of comedy with the character to see which fits them best.
    Good Luck, and all the best. :supersmile:
     
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  3. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    You know how they say the best way to learn a language is to visit the country and immerse yourself in the language, well comedy is like a language. The best way to develop your own brand of humour is to immerse yourself in comedy. Saturate yourself in sitcoms. Binge on netflix if you can. You'll start to pick up on the rhythms, inflections, timing and so on. From this you'll be able to construct a particular sense of humour for your character.

    I realize this isn't a quick solution. If you're looking for a shortcut to comedy gold I'm not sure there is one. But here's a suggested list if you're prepared to put the hours in. There are worse ways to spend your time.
    • 30 Rock
    • Parks and Recreation
    • Arrested Development
    • Black Books
    • Flight of the Conchords
    This list could be miles long. Chose these ones for their pacing and accessibility in terms of getting into them. But it might also be better to pick ones that resonate with your own sense of humour.
     
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  4. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    (Like pretty much everything in creative writing) humour is subjective as everyone has different tastes (/capacities to understand jokes?). Fortunately I'm the world's leading authority on what's definitively funny and what's not, so you can have the mods lock this thread after this response...

    Overall, I think you may be approaching it from the wrong direction. If you're keeping a list of quips, to get them into a WIP, you'll probably have to orchestrate a context where the joke will make sense; this means that you're contriving your story to serve your jokes rather than the other way around, which seems backwards if you don't believe comedy is your strong suit (as the title suggests; not a judgement call on my part). Not that I'm saying it's bad to have lines in mind, but (unless you're a stand-up comedian who has complete control over the conversation) you usually have to be patient and wait for the right context to come up organically. (And if you get analytical - consciously or otherwise - you can recognise context patterns, and then devise a joke based on that pattern, rather than having one specific line in mind. I think most people that come off as sharp/quick do it this way.)

    My first piece of advice is not to worry until you've run your writing past beta readers to see what they think of the humour. It's possible that the jokes only seem forced to you because you're re-reading and already know what to expect, when the bulk of humour typically involves something happening against the expectation (and there are heaps of ways to defy expectation). IMO this is the reason why explaining a joke usually kills it: when you put the logic in place, the joke no longer defies an expectation.

    If the jokes don't land for your betas, then maybe it's time to train your brain into comedy, and you'll become better and better at identifying potential jokes for your scenes as you write them. Given that most humour is about defying expectations (miscommunications, misunderstandings, homonyms, homophones, violating social norms, coincidence, irony/sarcasm, etc), this is mostly an exercise in lateral thinking. If the obvious way from A to B is the straight line, what other routes might there be? Or what if the straight line actually leads backwards to Z? You can look at any plot point or piece of dialogue and recognise the logical conclusion or response, but then you can come up with alternatives that aren't as obvious, but still make sense in some way (or make very little sense if you're into surreal humour). It will seem forced initially (so maybe you've already made a good start if your humour actually does seem forced), but the more you force it now, the less you'll force it later. You'll start seeing those patterns I mentioned earlier without even realising it. It's all about practice because it is something you can learn. There's even a kind of joke called an anti-joke: people know they're being told a joke, so they expect the unexpected... which means the expected then becomes the unexpected (e.g. Q. What happens when you drop a black hat in the Red Sea? A. It gets wet.) - and if the audience doesn't get the humour, their response can be funny for the comedian :D

    Apart from defying expectations, I suppose the other main branch of humour comes from laughing at others' misfortune (schadenfreude) - to varying extents, we naturally find that funny for whatever reason. I think this underpins a lot of the more recent humour, in the style of Ricky Gervais and Flight of the Conchords (not that they aren't witty at times too). It doesn't have to be brutal pain; it can just be social awkwardness. Like maybe your MC makes a joke that doesn't land with the other characters, then tries to explain it to them, and the fact that they don't find the joke funny (because it's been explained) is itself funny, because it's awkward for the MC. (That could also be a way of 'hanging a lampshade' on your original gag not being funny, if you aren't confident that it is: hedging your bets :))

    For what it's worth, when I write (or do most things), I constantly think of "funny" things as I go, so I often just stick them in. It's a scattergun approach: if I throw enough out there, some will land. But when I edit, a lot of them come out again. They're too obvious, they're just not that clever, they're hackneyed old lines, they don't match the tone of the scene, they're so abstract that I wouldn't expect anyone else to follow the line of thought that led to them, etc. If only I edited my posts here that rigorously...

    (Oh, and a final thought: your character is a 'complete smartass', so does he crack wise for others' amusement or his own? That might govern the type of jokes he'd make, and the type of responses to them that you should write/that he'd expect.)

    Anyway, hope something there is of use :) Happy to critique your efforts if you like, otherwise good luck!
     
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This isn't an issue for me because I'm absolutely hilarious.

    I think humour has to be natural. As the scene plays out a joke might occur to you, but if you're thinking of the joke and then engineering the feed-line... it probably isn't going to come off well.
     
  6. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    I believe this is an example of irony that was mentioned earlier :p
     
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  7. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    I'd agree with this. I don't consider myself funny but I do say some funny things in the middle of conversations as it comes to me. I don't walk around thinking "this'll be hilarious I must find a way to put this into conversation" as even in real life it seems contrived and forced and you can come off looking a bit of an ass. So I approach comedy in writing the same way. If I'm writing dialogue and something strikes me as funny I will include it. Just like everything else comedy is subjective and some people will find it funny and others won't. As long as you find it funny and it's consistent with the character then its all good.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that "quips" are probably a mistake. Humor is, IMO, better when it's part of the situation. And that may mean that a comic relief character is also a mistake; I think that the humor is better if it comes from different characters at different times.

    As a not-that-hilarious example, I remember some of the Buffy characters visiting a club for vampire wannabes. Angel, a "good guy" vampire, says, in his usual grumpy and humorless way, something like, "These people have no idea what vampires are like." And one of the wannabes passes, dressed precisely like Angel. The humor is in puncturing the image of Angel, who is often treated as mysterious and terribly terribly cool.

    Not that hilarious, but my point is that the humor came from a humorless character, and not in the form of a spoken joke.

    Terminator: "I'll be back." Humor. But the character is humorless. The situation is unfunny. The humor comes from the contrast of the very conventional line and the viewer's nervous-giggle knowledge of what it means.
     
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  9. Megs33
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    Megs33 Member

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    It's funny, when I ask a question that perplexes me, the answer always comes down to the lowest common denominator of getting entrenched in and learning more about the subject matter. If there's an easy formula to follow, your efforts are going to be "meh" at best. Great suggestions, thanks!
     
  10. Megs33
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    Megs33 Member

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    Ahhhh good point. I'll keep my list active, but for my own benefit rather than for use in my story. I'll let it give me insight in to what goes on in his head based on the way he phrases things, words he uses, etc. Then if something comes up naturally that seems right, I'll pop it in.

    Great question about the "why", too. That will really help me figure out some direction. Go figure, the best way to answer my question is really by asking more questions. I'm sensing a theme here...
     
  11. Nicola
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    Nicola Member

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    Comedy TV shows are a goldmine for all set-ups, you can adapt any scene and say similar things. Even if you were naturally hilarious, trying to come up with good jokes would take weeks and still be hit and miss. That's why they need dozens of professional comedy writers for one show.
     
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  12. Crybaby
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    Crybaby Contributing Member

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    My advice, watch comedy shows.
    Ricky Gervias, for me is a genius but there are many other shows you can take a look at for inspiration, like Nicola said in the post before me.
     
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  13. Crybaby
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    Crybaby Contributing Member

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    :superlaugh:I remember that scene and it was funny.
     
  14. NoGoodNobu
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    NoGoodNobu Senior Member

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    This is absolutely unhelpful, but I personally find myself hilarious. I still laugh over my own jokes--whether it's a witty exchange of dialogue or just a description of a situation or action.

    I think my point is that I write what I think is funny, and I'm usually aiming for an audience with a similar strain of humour. I don't find all forms of comedy funny, and if I were told to recreate that sort of humour I don't personally enjoy in my writing, I would fail. Miserably.

    When I'm writing, I write in little jokes to myself (or occasionally a friend I know will be a reader).

    I feel like it should make you laugh before you expect your audience to chuckle.

    I sincerely apologize for being so unhelpful.

    ( >人<; )
     
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  15. Crybaby
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    Crybaby Contributing Member

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    True and you make a valuable point. You have to go with what comes naturally. Some people think their not funny when others find them hilarious. I'm hilarious...verbally. I make people laugh all the time but thinking about it now I wonder if they are laughing at me rather than with me?
    Oh well, who cares. :superlaugh:
     
  16. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    I tend to this sort of thing too (my guys are also soldiers), for example in oa scene i've just written the team encounter this arrogant bandit

    "I am Ivan , of the Weston Rude Boys ..."

    a few minutes later having blinded him in a knife fight Blade (my MMC) "looks like you are no eye van now"
     
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  17. Gawler
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    Gawler Contributing Member

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    Comedy gold is comments that are unexpected. A joke you have heard too many times stops being funny. It would help if the MC has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth, something that I have a habit of doing at times. For example, talking to a female worker and she says. "I don't get all this social media, I told someone the other day I have never been on Space Book." Immediately without thinking I responded. "So you prefer to be on My Face." I made a fast retreat after that one as it dawned on me straight away that it came out a lot differently than it was meant too.
     
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  18. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    yes it happens to all of us

    my boss in a meeting about grant allocation " Richard has the larger package so he'll need Caroline, and may be Sarah, to handle it, Pete's is also pretty substantial but we know he can pull it off on his own" By this point everyone else in the room was biting on their knuckles and not making eye contact.

    Thing is though although that really happened I wouldnt write it into a book as it sounds contrived and unlikely

    ETA : thinking about it that was also the meeting when without thinking I told Caroline , " I wish I could have you all to myself" I meant in terms of her proffesional capacity, but I didnt realise it sounded less proffesional until everyone else at the table broke up laughing
     
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