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Shock Humour

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December 2009
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What is shock humour? It is a style of humour that is intended to shock and offend the audience.

 Some stand-up comics use shock humour to create a comic effect, relying on profanity, vulgarisms, even material that some might consider obscene. The topics of shock humour are frequently based on taboo subjects. As well, the humour device of lampoon and absurdity are often used.

Shock humour is often called “blue comedy.” It is comedy that is profane, risqué, indecent, and obscene. In the current pop culture, blue humour is very popular. Some popular blue comics include Robin Williams, Andrew Dice Clay, and the late Rodney Dangerfield. Many considered Lenny Bruce a great blue comic, and he considered all subjects to be the basis of a joke. 


“Religion to me is like a sanitary napkin—if it fits, wear it.”—Whoopi Goldberg

 “I know more about Bill Clinton’s penis now than I do my own, which says something about the media or just something really sad about me.”—-Jon Stewart

 “At my age, I’m lucky to get an erection. I’d be happy if a flag came out with a sign that said, “Hey, thanks for the opportunity.”—Richard Lewis

 Popular comedian and author, Jim Norton, uses shock humour in his bestselling book, “I Hate Your Guts.” He frequently uses shock and lampoon and absurdity to get laughs. Some of the topics he lampoons include Hilary Clinton, The Oscars, and The New York Yankees. Moreover, his language that is vulgar and profane.

 Shock humour can also involve “black comedy”, in which disturbing, sinister, sensitive, or taboo subjects, such as death, disease, war, are treated with amusement. The intention of the comic is to offend and shock the audience. The film, Dr. Strangelove, is a good example of black comedy.

 Popular stand-up comics use blue comedy. Their main comic device is the joke—and offensive, dirty, or even racist joke.


What do you call a rape victim who doesn’t call the police?

A good sport.

 Be careful when writing shock humour. Some will find it offensive. It is important that you know your audience and that your audience has some knowledge of your targets—such as authority figure, social group, celebrity, or topic. Write about what the audience can identify with.

 If you are going to write shock humour, be cognizant of social taboos. Your material might be obscene or in poor taste.

Tips for Writing Jokes

Writing a good joke requires that you use your imagination and creative thinking. It also requires that you stay informed about what is going on in the world. Here are a few suggestions on how to go about writing a good joke:

  1. Learn from blue comics. You can attend a comedy club, watch a blue comedy DVD or YouTube video. Read books on how to write comedy, such as The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter.
  2. Find your ideas. You can brainstorm for topics. Popular topics include current events, celebrity scandal, and vice and folly of political figures.
  3. Use exaggeration. Essentially, you can tell a joke that is based on truth by exaggerating the truth.
  4. Write about the absurdities of everyday life. What did you see or hear or experience that was amusing to you?
  5. Write about your own vices and follies. This is a safe way to get laughs.
  6. Write your joke using the setup and punchline formula. Basically, the setup explains what the joke is about. The setup is often a question or observation. The punchline is an unexpected or humorous response to the setup. It is what gets the laughs.

Next, I will write about sketch comedy and how to write sketch comedy.


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