Letting Comedy Ferment
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Writing comedy is a challenge that is made even more daunting in the fact that humor itself is completely subjective and impossible to define.
In the “How To Make Webcomics” book, our chapter on writing outlined a few frameworks for comedy — tried-and-true constructs that can be used as a general funny-idea generator.
But, in looking at several webcomics by Webcomics.com members, I keep seeing the following mistake:
You’re not pushing hard enough
Several of you are working so hard to get to the Funny that once you reach it, you’re so releived that you immediately collapse.
But getting to the Funny just isn’t good enough. If you want to stand out, you need to get to the Funnier.
Here’s a thought on that…
I’d like you to experiment with the following process.
Write a joke to your best ability.
Let it sit for one week.
Return to the joke and re-write it with the following in the back of your mind:
- You did not conjure lightning. The gag you wrote, as it stands, is not funny.
- This isn’t a joke; it’s the framework for something better.
- In re-writing this joke, you may not arrive at the same punchline (or, if you do, you may not use the same set-up to that punchline).
- Don’t let yourself off the hook.
At a certain point, you might just realize the following:
- The writing comes a little easier. That’s because, I believe, your subconscious mind has been hacking away at the problem.
- Your original gag really wasn’t that funny. And you can see it much more clearly now.
- Improving the gag doesn’t feel so much like tampering with something precious the way it did when you first wrote it.
This is a much slower way to write, and to be sure, you may want to establish a pattern in which you’re writing first drafts on Monday and then addressing last week’s drafts on Tuesday, etc. But I’d like to see if this approach has any verifiable results in those of you who would like to improve their humor writing.