A Guest Post by Jordan Cooper Not A Pro Blog.
Ok, so I lied. You’re going to have to try. But not too hard. I promise you.
You must have heard the saying “laughter is contagious”. Scientists have actually proven this to be true! Just as any other human emotion, we tend to mirror the feelings and reactions of those around us. Haven’t you ever found yourself laughing at something solely because your friend was cracking up to the point of tears? I rest my case.
The joy of bringing laughter to others is one of the most natural traits we all have in common. The feeling we share, both as the recipient as well as the teller, is equally as strong. Those that do it best are seen as highly attractive, a pleasure to be around and almost addictive like a drug. You see jokes are commonly passed from person to person virally, one after another with everyone taking part in each side of the equation. This is why humor can be the most effective weapon in a blogger’s toolbox to create highly shareable content.
I know what you’re thinking: “but Jordan, what if I’m not a funny person?”
Nonsense. If you can laugh, you can make people laugh. Don’t count yourself out just yet. Writing humor is not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination. As long as you know the basic tenets, the fundamental laws of all humor, anyone can do it. What exactly makes something funny?
The Element of Surprise.
Jokes are like magic tricks. They are meant to purposely misdirect you so that the climax cannot be expected. All facets of humor do just this. Presenting information that will cause others to make assumptions of fact, then turning this belief, reversing it on its head to show a contrary view. The difference between good humor and bad humor is based on how effective the surprise is.
Take a look at the following joke. Can you identify the misdirection and the reversal?
“My wife met me at the door the other night in a sexy negligee. Unfortunately, she was just coming home.” – Rodney Dangerfield
Context, Context, Context.
Closely conjoined with the element of surprise is the context in which such humor is displayed. Consider this the “where” factor. How come a quippy remark uttered by a co-worker can bring upon so much laughter in comparison to the professional comedian you see later that night on television? This all comes down to context.
In the first instance, the purpose of your occupational environment is not for cracking jokes, but for serious work. There’s no requirement for anyone to be funny. In fact, it’s probably even looked down upon. This now gives “Dave in Accounting” the proper setting to lay out a one-liner and achieve maximum surprise. No one is expecting it.
In the second instance, a professional comedian is sought after specifically to make people laugh. It’s in his or her job description. When taking the stage (or TV set), the environment has been set up where the audience already is aware that a surprise is coming. They’re expecting it. The comedian must overcome this by use of even more misdirection. This skill is what separates them from “Dave in Accounting”.
The less your audience is looking to be “tricked”, the less effort it takes in order to trick them.
How can you utilize surprise and context in your blog and be funny without even trying?
- Find the stereotypes surrounding your niche. What do you blog about? What do people assume about you because of this?
- Analyze the tone and structure of your past content. What do your readers expect from you on your blog?
- Present the same information in a different way either by being the stereotype fully or being against the assumption altogether.
Experiment with it. There’s no magic formula. Don’t try so hard. Remember, you don’t have to be hilarious.
Working with the notion that your context is not inherently based around being funny (like a humor blog), you should be able to pull off the surprise necessary to illicit laughter and amusement from your readers. Whether it be biking or hiking, cooking or scrapbooking, photography, techonology,or anthropology… there is a chance for you to stand out in a niche that doesn’t expect humor at all. It will make your content memorable, inspire others to share it and more importantly, giving you the joy of bringing laughter to your readers.
Jordan Cooper is a 13-year veteran professional stand-up comedian who showcases his sarcastic humor with videos and written rants about blogging, social media & marketing at Not A Pro Blog.
One of my favorite ways to make people laugh is by being overly sarcastic. This works pretty well and it’s a lot of fun too.
hmmm, i think you can change the title into something more interesting.
– how to be funny without being stupid
– how to be funny and stupid
@Dustin: I just finished reading your post… I think you were able to put a lot of your personality into it and you didn’t get *too* sarcastic that it made the piece into a complete farce. The pictures definitely helped very much show the tone of the article.
My only criticism would be your sentence structure. Don’t get me wrong, you’re a *great* writer… but remember, humor comes best when brief. Copyblogger had an article up last year about “why stand-up comics make for great copywriters”. It’s because of this concept.
If I were to suggest anything for the future… cut down on the length of your sentences. Feel free to keep in the descriptive language & adjectives, but display thoughts in short bits. Concentrate on this and I think the humor will be much more effective.
@Nate: Nice reference, sir. I use the “cliff” analogy all the time in my comedy classes. The difference though when writing humor as a small subset of a niche, the distance between cliffs shifts remarkably. The definition of the optimal “jump” is much shorter than it would be elsewhere.
By the way, I see you’re from Portland. Do you happen to know Richie Stratton, a comedian from there? (he’s a friend of mine who I actually worked with last night)
Great post, Jordan! I think there should be more humor in blogging. Although my own blog is as dry as the Sahara.
I am a true believer in being spontaneous with humor. I once told a joke to a few people in a Sunday School class, I thought would get me banished from the church. I just blurted it out – you know, without really thinking first.
After I finished the joke, they were crying with laughter. It was just one of those spur of the moment things, but it “worked”.
I’m glad to see you here on Problogger, Jordan. You have now made it, and will have to change your blog to NinjaProBlog.com. Your Adsense account will now bankrupt Google.
Indeed sir, I do know Richie Stratton. I think he is one of the best comics in Portland. I know him a little better than he knows me. Last time we met up at a show he called me Jimmy. Ah well.
If you’re ever in town you should look up the Curious Comedy Theater (curiouscomedy.org). It’s a comedy theater modeled after Second City, and we feature sketch, improv, stand up, and any other type of comedy (as long as it’s good).
Can you figure a post on how to be sarcastic? I am so slow at picking it up that I have decided to master sarcasm :D
Not sure how to go about yet …
I tend to have a sarcastic but funny personality, sort of like Seinfeld.
This is definitely a good way to begin being funny. As a musical comedian myself I can say that it’s much easier to get an audience to laugh in a music venue (where they’re not expecting it) as opposed to a traditional comedy venue.
Though I love the challenge of making people laugh who are expecting it. :)
I never thought to make readers laugh, I feel like an idiot who forgot the purpose ,…. but I think necessary to make post funny when boredom
By far the best post I’ve read today. Keep it up. I’m sure I’ll read a lot more of you in future.
Wonderful post! I enjoyed it greatly, and stand in awe of those funnier than myself. Thank you, thank you.
I just finished my site!
Im just one big funny guy lol.