Friday, January 8, 2010

Fiction Friday: Writing Humor

Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant, who is perhaps most famous for once having a mammography machine catch fire with one of her breasts clamped in it, and is the author of a dozen or more books on humor and comedy has identified 8 types of jokes:

1) Cliche -- take a cliche and use it in an outlandish way. The best example I can think of is "Coyote vs. Acme" by Paul Simms, which is a legal filing by Wile E. Coyote against the Acme Company for $17MM for selling him faulty products.

2) Comparison -- this is much like the metaphors and simile exercises we've done in the past on Fiction Friday here at the Chronicles. For humor, though, these analogies take a left turn. I once saw a list of similes constructed by teenage writers and this one stuck with me: He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

3) Definition -- Ambrose Bierce was the king of this. Example: Quotation: the act of repeating, erroneously, the words of another.

4) Exaggeration -- in "Twas the Night Before Solstice," James Finn Garner offers a politically correct version of the Clement Moore poem:

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
Dreaming of lentils and warm whole-grain breads

5) List of Three -- where one doesn't fit: "The butcher, the baker and the Wall Street derivatives broker."

6) Misdirection -- Where you think a story is going one way, and it hares off in a completely different direction. Old Joke #10 is a great example of this.

7) Motto -- My motto is: Anything that looks like a raisin should be kept covered, preferably in a good dark chocolate.

8) Observation -- Any of the My Little Town entries fit this category, but especially the first one.

If you want to know more about writing humor, go visit Leigh Anne!

Last Month's Winner:

Steven G --

The best Christmas present I ever got was a private lesson in humility.

Back in the late eighties, my younger sister developed breast cancer just after turning 30. This followed on the heels of a bad divorce where the ex got the house so she could keep her teacher’s retirement. After just having a breast removed, she was frail didn’t look well that Christmas. I had just bought my first camcorder and couldn’t wait to show it off and film the annual event at our parent’s house that morning. I found myself awkwardly avoiding aiming the camera at Cindy all day. I was selfishly embarrassed for myself because I had no clue how to deal with her situation. During the few precious years that followed, I learned to film her, without a thought of my own ineptness.

The best Christmas present I never got was the first year she didn’t show up.

Next Week's Prompt:

Using one of the options listed above, construct a one or two line bit of humor.


  1. That sure was some way to attain celebrity status! Approve the cliche suggestion. A lot of possibility there.

  2. Thanks for the mention, Miss Raisy!

    Amen to more humor in our lives in 2010!

  3. Excellent! I laughed out loud at the comparison one. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  4. I'll give it a try.
    Thank you,

  5. I wanted to leave a message for Steven G. I clicked on his name here and got his profile but no way to get to him.
    May I leave it here?

    The first time I read it I misread never for ever. So, I'm saying WTF.
    I reread it and saw my mistake. So you're no longer the biggest a$$ in the world.

  6. >> Using one of the options listed above, construct a one or two line bit of humor. <<

    When I received the Raisin Chronicles award, I was so pleased I felt I was floating -- like Sully on the Hudson. :-)

  7. Great ideas! You've convinced me. This is the year I lighten up and let myself go. Now there's a contradiction for you from someone who wants to shed about 15 pounds.

  8. Excellent guide. Serious and hilarious. Jeanne.

  9. I like your motto about 'raisin'. Reminds me of a quote from Paula Deen (and I paraphrase): "If your body is fat, decorate it."

    But seriously, did that lady really have her ta-ta's stuck in the mammogram machine when it caught fire? That would've been a sight!

  10. I had to add one of my fav's:

    Last week, we took some friends out to a new restaurant and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket.

    It seemed a little strange, but I ignored it; however, when the busboy brought out water and utensils, I noticed he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket, then looked around the room and saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets.

    When the waiter came back to serve our soup I asked, "Why the spoon?"

    "Well," he explained, "the restaurant's owners hired Anderson Consulting, experts in efficiency, in order to revamp all our processes. After several months of statistical analysis, they concluded that customers drop their spoons 73.84 percent more often than any other utensil. This represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour. If our personnel is prepared to deal with that contingency, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift."

    As luck would have it, I dropped my spoon and he was able to replace it with his spare spoon. "I'll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip to get it right now." I was rather impressed.

    The waiter served our main course and I continued to look around. I then noticed that there was a very thin string hanging out of the waiter's fly.

    Looking around, I noticed that all the waiters had the same string hanging from their flies. My curiosity got the better of me and before he walked off, I asked the waiter, "Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?"

    "Oh, certainly!" he answered, lowering his voice. "Not everyone is as observant as you. That consulting firm I mentioned also found out that we can save time in the restroom."

    "How so?"

    "See," he continued, "by tying this string to the tip of you know what, we can pull it out over the urinal without touching it and that way eliminate the need to wash the hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 76.39 percent."

    "Okay, that makes sense, but if the string helps you get it out, how do you put it back in?"

    "Well," he whispered, lowering his voice even further, "I don't know about the others, but I use the spoon."

  11. Hope to join in next week..
    thanks for the supportive comments as late. Life has been a bit rough around the edges here lately. Don't know how people do multiple kids!

  12. Jeanne you always set the hardest exercises! I'm just (shhh) not funny....

    Still, it's a very interesting post, even if I'm too pathetic to come up with anything!

  13. I don't ever want to get started telling humorous stories- I told them over 35 years as a salesman!

  14. I have been thinking about this all day, but need more time...funny post starter! My boobs might explode the whole department before I got my bra off, or so hubby says :)

  15. I had to read that twice. Well I am glad she continued to show up.

    Love Renee xoxo

  16. I enjoyed that as well. And the spoon joke. Groan. And I laughed, of course.

  17. I came up with one for next week. What do I do with it?

    No, no, don't say it. That's why the angel is at the top of the tree.


    My motto is: Stand up and be counted. Don't just be a number.

  18. Damn. I don't have a motto. I need a motto.

  19. My motto is: Stand up and be counted. Don't just be a number.

  20. My motto: The best revenge is massive success

    Misdirection: I used to tell this one to Ryan when he was little:

    Once upon a time there was a little boy and he blew up.

    List of three: Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the U.S. Constitution.

    Definition: Humor: the universal enemy of boredom and pain

    Comparison: I've never seen a pair of blue jeans love a woman's figure like the ones my wife wears.

  21. Jeanne- You are a hopeless corn ball- but you're my corn ball!

  22. Jeanne? A hopeless corn ball?

    Well, that tears it, my friend Buf!

    So this ones for you, Sir Gregory, Master Chef E, and the hostess with the mostess. I love the way the leftover epilogue of a Saturday night Cabernet can loosen the tongue of a Sunday evening prisoner of boredom.

    What I meant to say earlier was,

    "I've never seen a pair of blue jeans love a woman's ass like the ones my wife wears".

    So there.

  23. Great look at the essentials of humor. I'm too much of a sucker for the list of three: whenever I write a lengthy piece, I inevitably have to go back through and prune it down to one list every couple of paragraphs (instead of, regret to admit, sometimes three lists per sentence.)


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