Writing Humor When You Don’t Feel Funny

Every week for 15 years I faced the terror of writing my humor column for three papers. Often, my brain was devoid of anything fresh or funny.

Usually the morning news provided an idea or two. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger once announced, “Gay marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

My kids were often sources of great material. One day middle schooler Paul commented on the weather, “Dad, I think Mother Nature has PMS.”

Question it all
But when I am at a complete loss, I ask “What if” questions. Take any topic and ask…

What if it were bigger or smaller? What if it were a different color or shape? What if it were upside down or inside out? What if it were younger or older? What if it were faster or slower? What if it were lighter or heavier?

More complex: What if it was invisible? Edible? Inanimate? Immovable?

What if it were the exact opposite? Or if it ran in reverse? What if it came with instructions or, even funnier, without them?

Would it be funny made into a TV show? A pop song? An epic movie like Lord of the Rings?

Tweak an existing concept
I also wrote a humor column for Rev. magazine for ministers. One day I asked myself, What if pastoral searches were conducted like a TV game show?

“Hi, I’m Howie Mandel, and welcome to Steal or No Steal. Tonight, board members can trade in their small-time pastor for a chance at a big-time mega-church pastor. . . .”

I followed the show’s format as the search committee chairman hoped his case contained mega-mega church pastor Rick Warren rather than Rusty Nale, pastor of the First Non-Denominational Independent Community Family Center in Moose Breath, North Dakota.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a column to write and I’ve got nothin’!

James Watkins is the author of Writing with Banana Peels: The Principles, Practices, and Pratfalls of Writing Humor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *