Writing is one of those things which forces you to over analyse the most simple thing, communication. If you were sitting in front of me, on one of those rugs they have in libraries, and I was telling you a story then you’d end up pissing yourself. I know this because every time I tell anyone a story they suddenly become incontinent.
Apart from the mess, it’s so much easier to convey the right level of emotion when you’re talking to someone. You naturally put across the light and shade, you embellish the bits when you see their face light up and you become the character you’re describing. You can use body language, voice, accents, intonation, facial expressions, all of which are hard to transfer to the written word.
Why am I rabbiting on about this anyway? Well, humour is one of those primal senses that we’re blessed with. We often laugh at the way someone tells a story rather than the story itself. When you’re telling a joke, funny people instinctively know when to drop the punchline, but writing a joke is much harder.
You don’t want it to sound obvious, contrived or false because it won’t be funny. You don’t want to explain the joke afterwards. You don’t want to give too much information but you can’t give too little either.
I write romantic comedies because I genuinely find relationships funny. Stick a boy/girl, boy/boy, girl/girl, boy/horse, girl/lama (whichever team you play for) in a room and make them fancy each other and there will be comedy. It’s so awkward, it’s so tense and it’s so messy that there’s loads of scope. That’s just the way life is.
I laugh continually with people. All day, every day, something is funny to me and the challenge is then to take that instinctively funny moment and describe it in a way that makes it even funnier.
I’m a great fan of PG Wodehouse and Tom Sharpe but there’s a world of difference between the style of humour in each of them. PG Wodehouse’s era found humour in different ways to the seventies/eighties generation of Sharpe. Equally, people like Nick Hornby, Richard Curtis, David Nicholls write humour in a different way again. It’s more relevant to today’s world.
Being funny has changed from joke telling and clever word play into much more observational and situational humour. It’s more important now to paint a picture of real life and highlight the funny bits, rather than invent an exaggerated version of real life and ham it up.
I started by talking about how much harder it is to write funny than speak it. I think this is because laughter’s spontaneous, it’s a response and writing is a thought through process which strives to kill any spontaneity. However, I’m going to continue to write funny things that make me laugh at the time of writing and hopefully one day someone else will spontaneously laugh at it too.
Until next time…