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How To Be Funny Without Even Trying

Posted By Darren Rowse 16th of January 2010 Other Income Streams 0 Comments

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?

  1. Find the stereotypes surrounding your niche. What do you blog about? What do people assume about you because of this?
  2. Analyze the tone and structure of your past content. What do your readers expect from you on your blog?
  3. 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.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Great article Jordan, a real pleasure to read. I think it’s really important that bloggers put some personality in to their articles, and humour is definitely the best way to do that.

    BTW, as you know I’m loving the humour on your blog ;)

  2. I have found that my funniest posts or moments are when I am not trying to be funny, just making observations. But, when I attempt humor I fall flat. Trying to be funny at inappropriate times doesn’t work lol.

    Great post!

  3. Jordan its not only good to see you here at Problogger but also great tips for finding humor. The setting is as important as the joke in many ways.

  4. Brilliant guest post, Jordan. I definitely wish there were more blogs out there with an element of humour to them – would make the ‘blogosphere’ more interesting.

  5. I do believe in one thing …

    “If you make people laugh than they would love to hear you again and again.”

    That is the formula which I applied in my all get together.

  6. I suppose you could do stuff like that, or you could just pay a humor blogger like me to create the funny for you… :D

  7. Haha, about time you got on here! :P

    Great post Jordan, it’s a useful tactic, one that can be employed fairly easily. You don’t need to cause raucus laughter, just raise a smile out of somebody – in which case you’re doing better than 99% of the other bloggers out there.

  8. It is always nice to run across a bit of humor when reading through blogs. It is especially refreshing when seen from bloggers who are not regular “cut ups”. Little bursts of humor, give depth and “humaness”, to people we only know through blog posts.

  9. my friends say i have a natural talent for telling the corniest set of jokes in the planet… not exactly a complement but hey, it makes them happy. lol. great job Jordan. And I think my interview on you is very timely too ;)

    All the best,

    -Liane

  10. very cool,
    not a pro indeed ;)

  11. I try to throw in a funny quote from time to time, but I have one of those strange senses of humor that some people don’t get. I prefer to use movie quotes and see who can pick it up :)

  12. Umm. I’m not funny. I can’t be funny. Umm. But every once in a while I get a moment of brilliance where I’m like, I’d say that but it would be odd or unusual. So I decide to say it. Once in a while it comes off humorous. Other times it goes right over people’s heads. Perhaps I’m just a bit too sarcastic.

    Nice post.

  13. Great tips.. I think if you can make them laugh it shows you don’t take things to seriously.

    Helps people relax as they read, and want to read more.

  14. I don’t want this skill as i don’t want to look funny when I don’t want, but this is a resourceful skill, you can be rich I know that.

    http://www.dumblittleblogger.com/

  15. @Toya and @Brian: This is a very common occurrence, actually. Spontaneity is one of the forefronts because you’re not sending out any “signals” (like body language, speaking tone, etc.) that are revealing the surprise. Typically, when we purposely attempt to be funny, this spontaneity is lost and it shows when delivering humor to others.

  16. Jordan, I think I might need some of your coaching. haha

    I’m not a funny person by nature, but ask any of my friends… I have a quick wit. When I hear something I can imediately fire back with something way better.

    It’s being funny on my own that’s hard. haha

    Great post and congrats on two great guest posts in one week!!! (here and Teenius!)

  17. Jordan, I’ve found myself inserting jokes as I move along with my blog and you’re right, I’ve got a some funny responses. At first, I didn’t even realize I was doing it but now, it’s fun.

  18. I will say my humorous posts have been by far the most popular and most linked-to. But being funny is hard! At least for me.

  19. Absolutely agree with you Jordan. I mean it just puts a little bit of “Salsa” in your blog. That’s what we would call it in Colombia.

    I think a little bit of entertainment into a post or a blog simply brings down that wall of trust people normally build, which then helps people listen more.

    I know sometimes I just want to find something funny and I go to youtube they always have something.

    Now I’ll just have to go to not a pro blog…by the ways funny stuff there I saw the overnight failure video LMAO

  20. @Josh: You more than anyone should know how context plays such a huge role in humor. You’re blogging specifically for that purpose and everyone knows it. Being that’s the case, your readers are already expecting you to be funny – meaning you always have to stay one step ahead of them in order to effectively surprise ’em.

    @Rhys and @Blommi: You’re absolutely right… and I think the notion of having to be “hilarious” is preventing a lot of people in trying to utilize humor more in their writing. Just get a smile out of your readers, that’s all you need to do. It will set you apart so much more and give them an “experience” that will last in their memories.

  21. Josh:
    You more than anyone should know how context plays such a huge role in humor. You’re blogging specifically for that purpose and everyone knows it. Being that’s the case, your readers are already expecting you to be funny – meaning you always have to stay one step ahead of them in order to effectively surprise ’em.

    Rhys and Blommi:
    You’re absolutely right… and I think the notion of having to be “hilarious” is preventing a lot of people in trying to utilize humor more in their writing. Just get a smile out of your readers, that’s all you need to do. It will set you apart so much more and give them an “experience” that will last in their memories.

  22. Jordan, very nice post. Sometimes they come naturally, and others its a struggle, none the less, I try to have it somewhere within the body

  23. Couldn’t agree more adding humour can help visitors remember you.

    For example my brother keeps complaining to anyone who’ll listen about the day that I put Super Glue on his mouse – he just can’t let it go!

  24. I don’t consider myself a funny person yet, somehow, I’ve been able to make others laugh with some of my blog posts and comments on other blogs. I freely poke fun at myself or situations I’ve found myself in.

    Having a husband with a great sense of humor certainly helps! I learn from his example as well as the many excellent bloggers out there who turn the mundane everyday stuff of life into something to smile and chuckle at.

  25. Thanks for the much needed post. Beginning bloggers especially (and some seasoned bloggers) get into the trap of trying to sound too technical or “educated” on your subject matter. I would much rather read a post that might not be the best post in the world in regards to information, yet it was interesting and contained a good sense of humor.

    BTW, another great quote from Rodney Dangerfield: “It’s tough to stay married. My wife kisses the dog on the lips, yet she won’t drink from my glass.”

  26. good post Jordan, and you’re right about context.

    I bill myself as a humor blogger, and it puts a lot of pressure on me to be funny, which is harder because I’m billing myself as a humor blogger…and so on.

    but i know my audience, and i know they come back for teh funny, so that’s what i try to deliver. In fact, I just made a free e-Book available with my funniest posts of 2009 and the response so far has been great.

    The 2009 BryanAllain.comBlog Yearbook

  27. Good post. I always enjoy it when a blogger injects a note of humour into their posts – it proves they don’t take themselves too seriously, which is a very good thing in my book.

  28. I drop a lot of jokes and laughter around myself when I am in a company of some people, however I was never able to transfer that feeling for the “this-is-the-time-to-drop-something-funny” to my writing, be it a piece of paper, a song, or a blog post.

    Just 2 days ago, I was on a university lesson and there were like more than 100 people in the theater. The professor asked some guy in front of me a question about some electromagnetic features, I don’t quite remember what, and that guy replied with:”I really don’t know the answer!”. And then the professor looked at me and asked the same question again. I replied:”I totally agree with the colleague in front me!”. The whole room, including the professor and me too, started to laugh.

    However, I can’t manage to have something like that in my articles and blog posts…

  29. I’ve never really thought about the structure of comedy and what makes us laugh from a technical point of view. Jordan, being a stand-up comedian gives you access to the tools of the trade, the “how to play the game to make people laugh” techniques. Based on what you’ve shared, I’m thinking about what makes me funny.

    I have a serious side – maybe that’s why when I shift my facial expressions and change my body language slightly, people laugh. It delights me to amuse them, but I don’t do it on purpose. Sometimes I wonder, “why is everyone laughing’?

    I enjoy my own sense of humor. I would call it observational and contextual humor – I find things funny – maybe a dry wit? Interesting to think about, “Cheryl, why are you funny?”

    I don’t know really. I just seem to make people laugh. That’s good! I like that about me. Thanks for giving me something interesting to think about.

  30. My blog is intended to be a humor blog. There goes the element of surprise.

  31. I’ve tried to be funny on my blog just as a joke (to myself). I was new to blogging and really didn’t know or care what I was writing in the first place. Now I regularly post top-ten like Letterman posts and those happen to draw the most visitors.

    Now the only problem is coming up new material!

  32. I do think it is important to have some type of humor in a blog. Of course it needs to be natural. We can’t be serious all the time. I think when people show their funny side even if it is only once in awhile it shows they are human. great post!

  33. I have never thought about it, sounds interesting :)

  34. seriously?? :) ehh! this is exciting! humor can attract a mass audience. Now it depends on various factors.

  35. Jordan your delivery on your blog is hilarious. Love the super exclusive e-mail list video. It’s shocking to see someone so honest about how ridiculous the whole make money online thing can be.

    You present the lunacy of the whole thing in a way that makes me want to keep coming back for more. The beauty of it is that it’s not just pure shock value that people are coming back for.

    It’s obvious that you put a lot of thought into what you want to put out there and provide valuable content. Congrats on the post.

  36. I wish you’d look at my series on How To Be Funny on my blog. I’ve been doing standup for 23 years, have been on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    While I agree with some of what you say, humor is very hard to write and there are many, many tricks to make it work.

    When people aren’t inherently funny? Cringeworthy.

  37. Forgot to mention I’ve also been on 10+ shows that only book comedians. Tour with my own group, Single, Married & Divorced and have toured the world doing standup for the USO and MWR.

  38. Hey, I’m happy I added your blog to my RSS, otherwise I would have missed this post! Thanks for this.

  39. Nice post Jordan. It gave me some good ideas on how to implement puns on my blog posts.

  40. Appreciate the tips. I need to inject more of my personality into my blog. Everyone always finds me funny (in person) and I’m not even trying. I guess I do point #3 very well. :-) I don’t try to inject humor in my posts because I worry about it not being funny. But with your clear structure I may give it a whirl. :-D

  41. @Suzy: I’ve read through your ‘How To Be Funny’ series and while I agree with some of your thoughts, I think we’re approaching this subject from two completely different angles.

    Your tips deal with creating a funny blog as its intended purpose (being a humor blogger), I’m teaching others how to add ‘funny’ into an already existing blog where it’s NOT its intended purpose (such as gadget reviews, cooking recipes, digital photography, etc.).

    There’s a VERY big difference here… and it stems right back to what this post is all about. Expectations and the element of surprise. If you’re *trying* to write funny as the end-goal for the audience, then yes, it’s very hard to pull off well. But if your readers aren’t expecting it in the context of what you’re blogging about, then I do believe *anyone* can do it.

    By the way, let me point you to a resource: Monster.com. Feel free to post your resume there. This is a comment section. Thank you very much.

  42. Great Blog Post…

    Jordon’s blog is hilarious (there is a link at the beginning of the blog post if you missed it)!

  43. Nice to see you rocking it here, Jordan. Problogger is still uncharted territory for me so I can understand that you want to claim it as soon as possible.

    The battle has been lost, but the war has only begun, my friend.

    P.S. good post.

  44. Fascinating. Of course, there are various branches of humor, which may be more deeply explored.

  45. Thanks for the great advice. I took it and wrote a funny, out-of-the ordinary post on my marriage blog. Over 2,000 words worth…and I’m already getting great feedback!

    http://www.engagedmarriage.com/household-management/i-love-my-wife-enough-to-shop-at-wal-mart

  46. An outstanding post even in problogger…
    again as I’ve said, you made me realize that you still have to have some fun blogging…
    this one elaborates it more specifically.

    As others said, I can also make people laugh without cracking any jokes but when I’m trying to, they’re not buying it and it really sounds corny.
    That’s my element of surprise, joking without an effort,
    or if that’s what you call it.

    Keep it up! Superb blogging!

  47. Timing is essential. If someone stumbles while walking, it is funny to say, “First day on your new feet?” However, it is not funny to say this twenty minutes later, when the stumbling has been forgotten.

  48. Thanks for teaching me how to be funny,not!!! Just kidding. Great read.

  49. Being a comedy writer I was a little skeptical of this article, but I think you made some great points and laid them out in a really concise manner. Great article, Jordan.

    I think Seinfeld said it best when he explained the comedic element of surprise with this analogy (I’ll paraphrase): It’s like you’re jumping a cliff. If the cliff is too narrow, the audience isn’t excited by your stunt. If the cliff is too far apart you won’t make the jump and again the audience won’t be entertained. But if the cliff is just the right distance, where it seems too far for you to make it but you actually can make it, then that’s when you maximize the entertainment value, ie you get more laughs.

  50. You are definitely right on about emotions being contagious! I just recently read about it in Daniel Goleman’s book “Social Intelligence.” Great post – very entertaining stuff, yet incredibly helpful!

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