Funny When?

When to use humor in your writing.

Levi Weinhagen 12.11.2012

Whether you’re writing for internal communication, pitching something to a client, or making something for public consumption there will come a time when you wonder if you should use humor. The answer is a very qualified yes.

Comedy is a fickle mistress. She can lure you in subtly. Everyone around her is smiling and asking for more. Everyone wants to be her friend. She looks so natural and simple and seems to fit in almost everywhere.

But if you get too close or spend too much time with her things change. You realize you didn’t know her as well as you thought and now everyone looks confused and annoyed by what you’re saying and doing. Worse still, you thought comedy was your best friend and now you’ve offended everyone, lost your job, and comedy is nowhere to be found.

Before you start a relationship with comedy and certainly before you take comedy into your work you must ask yourself an important question. And you must answer honestly.

Q: Are you a professional comedy writer?

YES! If you answered yes to this question then you can do pretty much anything you want with comedy. The two of you are in a monogamous relationship and you’re both consenting adults so have your way with each other. Sure you’ll offend and annoy sometimes but that’s all part of your image so just run with it.

As a professional comedy writer you should probably stop reading this right now and go write something funny. Seriously. The world is so tense and stressed out right now there has never been a greater need for comedy. You’re like doctors at the beginning of modern medicine. (Obviously that’s not true. It was a hilarious joke. Go ahead and use that hilarious joke in your comedy writing and send me half of the million dollars you make from being so hilarious.)

NO! If you answered no to this question then you and comedy probably shouldn’t become much more than acquaintances. You’ll see each other from time to time, acknowledging one another with a simple nod of the head. Every once in a while you’ll end up together coincidentally. Maybe you’ll even have a nice conversation. It may feel like a friendship is blossoming. But remember, you’re friendly not friends.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have funny elements in your work. Finding moments to not take what you’re doing too seriously can be incredibly helpful and compelling. If you have a sense of humor it would be wasteful not to make use of it on occasion. But keep in mind that it is a sense. You likely also have a sense of taste but if you are holding an event or trying to impress a client, hiring a chef or going to a restaurant is usually the best course of action.

If you need something overtly funny made or done hire someone who already has a long and complicated relationship with comedy. Hire a professional comedy writer. There are a lot of very funny and talented writers who will work for far less than they are worth. And word on the street is that comedy writers are now as important as doctors.

Levi Weinhagen is a Co-founder of Comedy Suitcase and the host of the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast.

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