Although even in the ER, there were moments of humor. Like when the doctor sewing up my son – upon learning my husband is a die-hard Red Sox fan – threatened to stitch the Yankee’s logo on Riley’s forehead.
I’ve decided to clue you all in on the secret to being funny, in person or in your writing. I feel perfectly qualified to educate the masses on this subject, since:
a) I watch a lot of sitcoms on TV,
b) I have published some humor pieces in national magazines and gotten encouraging feedback on my annual submissions to the Erma Bombeck humor writing contest, and
OK, ready? The key to humor is…drum roll please…the unexpected. That’s it. Right there. The secret to making people laugh, whether it’s in writing, on TV, in a keynote address, a sermon, a YouTube video, a first date, or whatever.
You know how sometimes you can see a punch-line coming a mile away? Like, say, any prison joke ever told, and every episode of “Last Man Standing”? I’m sorry, Tim Allen. That was rude. But true. Sorry! Still true. (Not that I’ve seen every episode. Just the 2 when the batteries in the remote were dead and I was forced against my will to watch them.)
The take-away here is: don’t go for the easy joke. Don’t go into the over-trodden men-are-clueless-and-unromantic/women-love-to-shop/teenagers-are-annoying territory. It’s been done. It’s FAR funnier to say you are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome due to being terrorized by your early-rising toddler. (This example courtesy of Monica Sakala, cast member of the Listen to Your Mother: DC show, in which she read: “Occupy Parents: Oppression by Toddler.”)
Another key to humor is absurd juxtapositions. For instance, saying that my 3yo is ill-mannered at mealtimes is not that funny. Noting that he showed up at the dinner table wearing nothing but a bike helmet and began snorting ranch dressing through his drinking straw is funny. And true. It’s also true that my 5yo introduced himself to our new neighbors by shouting “Bon jour!” while wearing a green leprechaun mustache left over from St. Patrick’s Day. Talk about making a strong first impression.
For more examples of funny, see:
Novelist @jenniferweiner ‘s tweets during “The Bachelorette.” (Funny even if you don’t watch the show, like me.)
This SNL skit, “Bein’ Quirky with Zooey Deschanel.” (Love Kristen Wiig as Bjork!)
Almost any episode of “Hot in Cleveland.” (I mean, Betty White, Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves and Valerie Bertinelli on the same show?!)
And this, slightly more cerebral, “Anne Geddes Baby Manifesto.” (Note the effectiveness of well-chosen phrasing like “billowing fat rolls.”)
So whatcha got, people? Lay some funny on me in the comments.