The interesting thing about comedy writing is that what’s funny to one person can be entirely unfunny to the person sitting next to them. And although you can dissect it until you’re blue in the face, there are ultimately only two kinds of humour:
Funny humour and unfunny humour.
Something works or it doesn’t work, and all the tea in China doesn’t change that to any great degree. Although my eternal banner cry of ‘Content and Context’ often sheds an illuminating light on material.
Running a comedy writing workshop, like the Moon Hut one I delivered in Falmouth yesterday, reminded me again why I enjoy the company of other writers. We’re like magpies, picking up snippets of life experience, ideas and associations, and then assembling them together in our creative nests. (Too many bird analogies? Fine. I’ll stop here.) Writers speak different dialects of a common language, seeking to create, interpret and reinterpret the worlds (inner and outer) that we inhabit. Humour – and in this case, the art of joke writing – offers a range of models and techniques for squidging those ideas together in a variety of shapes.
Over the course of the day, we looked at what jokes are for, where material comes from, old jokes, corny jokes (I hold my hand up), offensive jokes, easier routes to jokes, topical jokes, cartoon jokes and, here and there, how that same toolbox relates to writing fiction.
The same objectives are there, whatever it’s writing humour or dramatic fiction:
– To keep the reader hooked until you’re ready to deliver your own punchline.
– To entertain, challenge and enlighten.
– To take the reader or audience on a seamless journey where you, the writer / performer, are always at the helm. Even when, and perhaps especially when, it doesn’t seem that there’s anyone at the wheel.
So my thanks to all the Moon Hut event participants who tuned up yesterday. You helped me appreciate what I do in a fresh light, gave me a glimpse into other people’s creative processes, and let me take you on a little journey of my own. And it was funny too!