The Art of Writing Comedy part 1

by The Editor, JTP

Comedy has often said to be more difficult a genre to pull off than most others. When it comes to writing, I certainly agree – comedy and horror are such… “personal” genres that they are seemingly impossible to make universal and thus impossible to make accessible. I do not claim to be an expert on comedy writing, but I wanted to offer some topics of discussion. Let’s highlight some essential things that comedy can have:

Slapstick
Does slapstick work in writing? I’m going to say no. Unless the piece you are writing is a script for film or stage performance, slapstick is hard to pull off because, well, it’s physical humor. It’s meant to be seen rather than read. True, the imagination can more than visualize physical comedy in written form but is it really that funny? Can it ever be hilarious? Better yet, can slapstick and physical humor really live up to its visual counterpart?

I’d wager it rarely does. But I slapstick was invented in physical performance. Translating it into a written medium just kills the joke. It would be like reading the play-by-play results of a football game without ever seeing it. Not as exciting. Slipping on banana peels is funny. Reading about banana peels, and the adjectives and verbs that come with slipping on it is not.

Farce
Farce works better than slapstick in written form. Physical comedy written in prose is by nature absurd, and thus perfect for farce. Improbable situations are always funny. Mistaken identities and near-misses make for the most entertaining of plot points. For a writer who wishes to write farce, the key objective should be creating something “unlikely”. Perhaps that is what is wrong with plain slapstick – it is far too likely or real. When it comes to books, a pie in the face doesn’t translate as well as a man pretending to be a woman.

(Check back for more on this topic later in the week. I’ll explore puns, satire, non-fiction, and more!) – JTP

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2 thoughts on “The Art of Writing Comedy part 1

  1. wittythewu says:

    I can appreciate your breakdown of different comedy styles. As a comedy writer myself, I understand how hard it can be to write something humorous. Often times I just type whatever I find amusing without trying to pinpoint “why” it makes me laugh. Anyway nice post!! I really like your writing style. Keep up the good work.

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