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November 2009
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Developing Your Sense of Humour

 How can you write funny material if you don’t have a sense of humour, or you don’t know what makes other people laugh? You cannot. You need to have a sense of humour to write funny material, and you need to know what makes you laugh and others laugh.

If you have a sense of humour, you have the ability to experience humour that is the ability to laugh. Having a sense of humour is the ability to perceive, relate, or experience a funny person or situation in a way that makes you laugh or enables you to be amused.

Here are 12 suggestions on how to develop and maintain your sense of humour:

  1. Learn to laugh at yourself and your follies. In other words, don’t take yourself too seriously. Seek out humour in your mistakes, and then learn to laugh at them. As well, you can often find humour in most negative situations or events.
  2. Observe the world around you. What do you see that is funny? What sorts of people behave in ridiculous ways? What did you hear that was absurd or nonsensical? What did you read that was amusing or made you smile? Make note of it.
  3. Change your mindset or perspective. You can learn to see humour in most situations, events, and people just by changing your perspective. Seek out the absurdities of life. For instance, there is humour those who commute to and from work. People often rush out the door after a long days work, speed off in their cars, only to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for an hour or more, until they get home. There is humour in this daily ritual.
  4. Socialize with funny people. Humour is contagious. Seek out people you who have a sense of humour and associate with them. Ask yourself, why did I laugh? What content made me laugh? Often, the incongruity of something will make you laugh.
  5. Collect humorous material. Start your own humour library of funny movies and books. You can also clip out and save funny newspaper clippings, stories, anecdotes, and comic strips. From today’s newspaper, I clipped out a funny Cornered comic strip. In the comic strip, the psychiatrist is sitting in the chair interviewing the patient who is lying on the couch in the doctor’s office. The doctor says, “It’s called doctor-patient confidentiality. In layman’s terms, you’re paying me to keep mouth shut.”
  6. Learn to tell a joke. A joke needs a setup and punchline. It also must be timed just right. Make note of the reactions of others. Ask yourself, what makes them laugh? What doesn’t?
  7. Attend a comedy club. You will be able to see stand-up comics in action. Make note of their language, style, content, and tone. Make note of what makes you and others laugh.
  8. Watch funny moves and TV shows. Watch funny movies, such as “The Wedding Crashers” or “Knocked Up.” Two funny TV shows to watch are “The Office and 30 Rock.
  9.  Read funny material. Start by reading good joke books. Read novels that have a reputation for being funny. If you enjoy ribald humour, a good book to read is “Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth. Other good writers are Stephan Leacock and E. B. White. Find out the names of humorists who write newspaper columns, and then read them. Read columns by writers who have a sense of humour, who see the world from a different perspective, from a perspective that goes against public opinion or conventional wisdom. In Toronto Globe & Mail, Margaret Wente often writes a personal essay that is amusing or funny. In the Toronto Star, Rosie Demanio frequently writes about topics in which you can see the amusing or funny side of things.
  10. Keep a journal or notebook. When you see or hear or read something at is amusing, funny, or hilarious, write it in your notebook or journal.
  11. Listen to recordings of the great stand-up comics, such as Woody Allen, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor. Ask yourself the following: What is so funny? Is it the topic? Is it the tone? Is it the style? Is it the visuals? Is it the content?
  12. Study humour. Attend a course on how develop your sense of humour. Learn the different humour devices, such as irony, farce/absurdity, satire, and exaggeration/overstatement.

If you follow these suggestions, you will develop your sense of humour. You will also find new ways to make yourself laugh and others laugh. This knowledge will enable you to write funny material. And if you don’t believe me, well…”Lighten up!”


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