Shop Forum More Submit  Join Login
So, it's been awhile since I've updated or giving any kind of writing tips on here. It's actually been a really long time since the latter, so I thought that I'd do something kind of like this. Now, this isn't a typical Writing Tips because this is more of a "my opinion" or "my formula" kind of thing, rather than the objective way of doing things. I wanted to write this down because I've been writing, or at least trying to write down some comedic work as of late. 

They say that "comedy is subjective" but that's not entirely true. What you find funny is subjective, but there are actually established rules and such when it comes to comedy. There are objective timings to getting things right, and there are decidedly wrong ways to do a joke. So, here's the logic that I use when I write comedy - for my scripts, for my reviews, for just about everything.

Principle 1: Misdirection
This is the first principle because it is the most important. The key to comedy is "surprise." Laughter is a natural reaction that we basically have when things don't make sense, when we don't know what to make of things, etc. Misdirection is the most direct way to get that target. What you essentially are trying to do is get the "that's not supposed to be that way" feeling.

However, it's not as simple as just constantly writing the last thing that the audience expects, or utter nonsense. It's important to establish a baseline of reality. You cannot violate an audience's expectations if they do not have expectations.  Role reversals are a very good way of establishing this. In my series, Growing Around, one of the very first jokes is this in its purest. A kid is asking "are we there yet" repeatedly in a car, with everyone bored with her. However, the punchline is that she's the one driving the car. 

Keep in mind, this is... difficult to do continually. You need to be aware of your audience's expectations of your own work. Eventually they'll start to expect the unexpected, and if you're constantly throwing in the same joke over and over again, they will grow numb to it. This is actually why the running gag works. The first few times, it establishes "the way things are supposed to go" and then when you end up violating it again, it gives that feeling of surprise.

This is also where the nonpunchline comes from. You set up a joke, but then you deliver basic reality. Sometimes it can be funnier to give the truth than a fanciful lie.

Principle 2: Establish a Baseline (and subvert it)
It's very important to control your audience's expectations. Before you tell any jokes, you need to tell the audience exactly what to expect. This will be a lie, if you're telling jokes right. In most cases, your baseline will be reality, But not always. In something like SpongeBob, for most of the jokes to work, we need to establish the relationship between SpongeBob and Squidward, for instance. The overall tone of the episode, and how things are going to go.

Principle 3: Exaggeration
A character that likes chocolate is not funny. A character that loves chocolate can be funny. A character dedicating their life and swearing fealty to a bar of chocolate because they love it so much is funny. Bigger jokes lead to bigger laughs. Just remember to keep it in character. You can push boundaries, but only that. Remember, if your audience has no expectations, they cannot be defied. Also, be acutely aware of the risk of flanderization. Use this sparingly. Don't keep trying to hit the next peak of the same character trait.

Principle 4: Folly & Catharsis
Seeing bad people get their comeuppance is deeply satisfying. At least in the states, we don't take too kindly to innocent people getting beaten up by life on screen. Characters should have flaws, and it can be very satisfying when they fall victim to their own flaws. However, take careful note of what you consider a "folly." The seven deadly sins are usually safe to use - arrogance, greed, lust, etc. However, some, like stupidity - might illicit different reactions among different audiences because they may not see them as a "folly." This is largely the reason why what people find funny is different.

Principle 5: Mockery & Parody
Whatever you target as a joke - character, piece of media, etc - you should make it your goal to make it look ridiculous. Emphasize its flaws, and shoot it with the spear of criticism. 

Principle 6: Karma & Irony
While it is funny if someone who does a bad thing gets comeuppance for it, the funniest thing that could happen is when their punishment walks toe-in-toe with their crime. It feels the most justified. Someone who mistreats their dog for instance, ends up swapping minds with a dog could end up being a very funny premise.

Principle 7: Truthful Observation
I do not mean "It's funny because it's true." When you're satirizing someone or something, putting truthful observations about them on display will always be funnier, and more powerful than just making them look or sound ridiculous. What you mock should mirror reality.

An example of this is having one character say "you're really quick to anger" and then the character they talk to explode into a fiery rage, saying "no I am NOT!"

Principle 8: Metaphor & Simile
If a character acts wild, have them literally act like an animal. Make things literal. Compare their qualities, their flaws to the world around them and make connections with their actions and intentions. Have how they naturally would act look ridiculous.

Principle 9: You can have it, but/However
A character that never achieves their goal can get quite boring, but we don't necessarily want a comedic character to obtain that selected thing. A comedy protagonist can have the thing, but it should always come with the price tag of "however." You can have this money that you've been looking for, but it's counterfeit and now you're on the run from the police. You can have a day off from work, but it's not going to be enjoyable in the least. 

The one exception is the end of the story. If the character would have/should have learned their lesson, then you can let them have it with no price tag.

Principle 10: Absurdity
Sometimes the best way to violate your audience's expectation is to completely violate the rules of reality or common sense. Do something so outrageous or over-the-top but it can't help but get an audience reaction. Use this very sparingly, and NEVER use 100% absurdity (defiance of all reality) as the first joke in an episode. You can have a character in an absurd, but realistic position at the start of an episode.

Principle 11: Intertwine/Splice
Take a look at any joke you have. I can guarantee that it can be made funnier. You can do it by intertwining more jokes with it, or splicing big jokes into a bunch of smaller jokes. The Simpsons' famous "Aurora Borealis" scene isn't just one joke. It is many jokes.
      1. The house is bursting into flames, but Skinner doesn't seem to care, or at least has a major underreaction.
      2. Skinner makes up a ridiculous lie that couldn't possibly be true.
      3. Chalmers goes on and on about how ridiculous it is.
      4. Chalmers ends up believing the lie.
      5. The two of them walk out of the house, with Skinner nonchalantly telling his mother that the burning house is "just the northern lights."

If you've only told one joke at a time, you haven't told enough. Take the machine gun or shotgun approach, rather than the the pistol approach. Make things funny on multiple levels, for multiple reasons. Bury hidden little jokes in the big jokes, etc.

However, make sure that these are different jokes and that you're not telling the same joke over and over again with the same set up or set piece.

Principle 12: Hide the Setup
The best kind of jokes come up when you weren't even expecting a joke. You can get the best results by putting the pieces of a joke in a nice, reasonable area - somewhere where people expect these pieces to be. Don't draw attention to your setup. Draw attention to the punchline. If surprise is the most potent tool for comedy, the funniest jokes come from when people weren't expecting them.

Imagine a character at a funeral scene, and for the past few minutes things have been really somber. They're about to talk about what this person meant to them. They walk up to the microphone, set it off, and just let loose a long, lingering fart. If you weren't trying to make a somber piece, then you've probably succeeded in making everyone laugh.



And that's all I got.
  • Listening to: Runaway Train
  • Reading: 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die
  • Watching: Rugrats Pre School Days
  • Playing: Pandora's Box.
  • Eating: tuna sandwich
  • Drinking: Iced tea
Add a Comment:
 
:iconspacebreakdown:
spacebreakdown Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
It's clearly called the "Steamed Hams" scene, but I like scrolling through this journal because it's interesting. So have it your way.
Reply
:iconshinypiece:
ShinyPiece Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Your journals are just as enticing as your vids. :^)
Reply
:icontaz2300:
Taz2300 Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2018
This is a great read Mr. Enter. Just curious, what cartoon or anime moment would you consider one of your favorite examples of each of these Principles of Comedy? 
Reply
:iconchristhehedgehog3599:
Great advice! I'll try to keep that in mind whenever I write comedic narratives.
Reply
:iconthelad1985:
thelad1985 Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2018
Your overthinking it lad - if it makes the audience laugh t works - family guy prove that at the end of the day
Reply
:icontaz2300:
Taz2300 Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2018
Not really. Did you even listen to this? Also going by family guy now, they go against many of these princi
Reply
:iconnovemberblues-nb:
NovemberBlues-NB Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2018
Just because Mr. Enter wrote it, doesn't make it law, a lot of the things he writes are very flawed and you probably should take it with a grain of salt.
Reply
:icontaz2300:
Taz2300 Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2018
“I don’t like this guy therefore I refuse to even accept that he may have a point”
Reply
:iconsharkboyyyy:
Sharkboyyyy Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2018
Please take off the fanboy glasses and read through Mr Enter's scripts and then his idea of good writing. l see then why he's truly an atrocious writer.
Starting with also the fact that he told a former fan to go fuck themselves over a few simple inoffensive questions
Reply
:icontaz2300:
Taz2300 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2018
As usual you’re too pathetic to the point of continuously bashing him
Reply
:iconsonicjoe731:
SonicJoe731 Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2018
:thumbsup:
Reply
:iconjediuser:
Jediuser Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2018
Watch Bob's Burgers, it's comedy gold! (Also, the animation is better than most adult cartoons). 
Reply
:iconbaffleblend:
BaffleBlend Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
What I've always been curious about is; what makes something still funny on the second viewing, which inherently means the audience knows what's coming?
Reply
:iconazureacestarburst:
AzureAceStarburst Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
Good stuff, lad!
Reply
:iconinfinitegears:
InfiniteGears Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
A y thanks for the advice, definitely will be useful for personal projects!
Reply
:iconwanderer619:
Wanderer619 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
:clap:
Reply
:iconwillfire-z-tiger:
Willfire-Z-Tiger Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
You should do writing tips more. These tips are great.
Reply
:iconj-555art:
J-555ART Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
Nice tips!
Reply
:iconavikaw:
AvikaW Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
Don't underestimate the appeal of well-placed anti-humor. Take the famous "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke. Contrary to what many believe, it's not dark humor. The punchline is meant to be taken as literally as possible. It crossed the road because it wanted to cross it. The humor comes from the way the "punchline" subverts expectations. The listener expects a clever pun or some other form of standard humor. What they don't expect is for it to basically build up to something intentionally obvious and unfunny. One of these anti-jokes might be hilarious if they're strategically placed after a series of regular jokes. Expect another joke, build up to another joke, then deliver the anti-joke's "punchline".

Fun fact: The oldest known joke is this Sumerian fart (and possibly adult, depending on your interpretation) joke from around 1900 BC: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."
Reply
:iconjediuser:
Jediuser Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
The Simpsons' famous "Aurora Borealis" scene isn't just one joke.

Yeah, that's from '22 Short Films About Springfield,' right?
Reply
:iconmacgyver644200:
Macgyver644200 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
These make sense, though I have a principle of my own: frugality.  Basically, don't spend more than you have to on a joke.  Don't spend five words on a joke when one will do just as well and don't emphasize a joke more than you have to.
Reply
:iconlunchymunchies:
lunchymunchies Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
Family Guy and South Park could learn a lot from this.
Reply
:iconcrookinari:
CrookiNari Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
Really? I feel that South Park is pretty good in that regard. It says what it wants to and then immediately cuts to the next scene.
Reply
:iconlunchymunchies:
lunchymunchies Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
Family Guy as people keep pointing out has their jokes go on way too long. Almost every modern (season 9+) South Park episode has this running joke that they keep trying to shove down your throat. Like how in the Cock Magic episode, they keep making puns where they refer to roosters as cocks, and it's like "Okay, we get it." Or the Nascar episode where Whatshisname keeps referring to his wife as has muse and his flame, or the episodes after they started doing season arcs where Cartman keeps saying his girlfriend and all women are funny and smart, or the drone episode where people keep talking about how it's weird for women to not shave down there, and then saying but they never saw Whatshername's public hair, and then that woman saying it's perfectly fine for women to not shave down there, or the Scientology episode where they have people get stuck in closets and keep saying they won't come out of the closet, and I could go on and on, and it feels like the writers are masturbating themselves, and it's like "OKAY! WE GET IT! I GET IT, TREY PARKER!"
Reply
:iconcrookinari:
CrookiNari Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
To be honest, I don't find myself bothered by the kind of thing you're talking about, but to each their own.
Reply
:iconlunchymunchies:
lunchymunchies Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
It's not that I'm against running jokes; it's just...okay, South Park massively changed its humor from the 1st 8 seasons, especially the 1st 4. Episodes from seasons 1-5 had way more jokes and to a lesser extent, 6-8. And the jokes themselves are different. There used to be a focus on gag humor. Remember Cartman trying to flashback to 1776, singing Come Sail Away, getting crucified, and the Rob Schneider joke? Those are 4 running jokes I love, but the show doesn't do anything like that anymore. The main focus of the show was just "make people to laugh", so episodes had lots of jokes and wacky ones, but the creators have changed and think gag humor is dumb now, so episodes now have fewer, much smaller, more mundane jokes that I just don't find funny. Instead of hilarious ones like Cartman trying to flashback to 1776, we now get things like Kanye West asking his girlfriend if she's sure she's not a hobbit and then making a kissy sound at the end of each phone call, or a guy repeatedly saying "long story short", or an episode where people just talk sarcastically, and it's like "Are these even jokes? What is funny about this?"

And we still get things like Randy giving birth to a 12ft turd, but the wacky stuff is much fewer and farther between than it used to be, and even that is unenjoyable to me now because it's not even done the same way anymore. They've changed the way they do tone. When they did stupid shit before, the tone did not take it seriously at all and treated it like it was stupid and like it was just a dumb, cartoon show, but now when they do stupid shit, the tone is that it's playing it with a straight face and taking it completely, dead seriously, and that context completely changes it, and I just find that juxtaposition does not work at all.
Reply
:iconcrookinari:
CrookiNari Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2018
Of course it's changed. Matt and Trey grew older and their sense of humour changed. They now maintain that the earliest seasons are their least favourites, and in retrospect it's not hard to see why. They decided they wanted to tackle more serious subjects (of course, doing so in a manner that if it was any more tongue in cheek it'd poke right through), and I honestly like the show's different approach to things. While other shows will take serious themes and play them funny, South Park will take funny ideas and play them seriously. It's deadpan on multiple levels and I love it. There have been so many times where I find an episode or scene will convince me it'll play out a certain way but then it's about something else altogether. Going back to the Cock Magic episode, when the boys are going to the underground Cock Magic match I thought: "oh ok, it's a cockfight". When you then see roosters playing Magic the Gathering, I burst out into hysterical laughter.
There certainly is a dumb fun to the earlier seasons, but I do believe it got better as it went on. Granted, I didn't watch most of it during its initial run, watching the entire show for the first time early last year, so I have absolutely no nostalgia for it whatsoever and a much more recent memory of the show as a whole. Also, many of the examples you've listed tend to be generally among the least popular episodes, but what show doesn't have a few duds per season?
Reply
:iconlunchymunchies:
lunchymunchies Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2018
What do you think of American Dad? In the South Park VS Family Guy flame war, I've seen a lot of people say "American Dad is better than both shows!"
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconzutheskunk:
ZuTheSkunk Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
I can't say I like the idea presented in number 9. It's this kind of mentality that gives us Butt Monkeys and cartoons where a character keeps on failing each and every time no matter what he tries to accomplish. It's tiring and disheartening, whether it's played for laughs OR for drama.
Reply
:icontaz2300:
Taz2300 Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2018
Actually a Butt Monkey character can be written well as long as said butt monkey can either come out on top since they’ve earned the reward like Rocko From Rocko’s Modern Life or have the punishment when it’s well deserved like Daffy Duck
Reply
:iconldejrufffan:
LDEJruffFan Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018  Hobbyist Artist
This is so good it hurts
Reply
:iconzexoguy:
Zexoguy Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
You've definitely giving me some things to consider.
Reply
:iconnintendrone1567:
Nintendrone1567 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018  Student Traditional Artist
Character dynamics are also important. Clashing personities can create the best humor in many situations.
Reply
:iconcrescentdream15:
CrescentDream15 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
You pretty much got the gist of how comedy is supposed to work. I personally don't think chocolate is that funny, at least 87.5% of the time. Also, here's that mention of "farting at a funeral" again... =P
Reply
:iconlittle-bookwormdkm:
Little-BookwormDKM Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
We know why 6 is afraid of 7 but why did 7 eat 9







Because everyone needs 3 squared meals a day.
Reply
:icondokuganryu15:
dokuganryu15 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Playful Kiss: Faint The puns are strong with this one. 
Reply
:iconlittle-bookwormdkm:
Little-BookwormDKM Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Because the other version of the joke might land me in a bit trouble.
Reply
:iconmabelgleeful01:
MabelGleeful01 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
Great advice! I really needed help with this and I find your view on comedy interesting. So good job!

Btw, I dunno if you have time to answer, but I have a couple questions. I wanna create a character who is a tomboy. But I'm having trouble making her tomboy trait her dominant and/or only personality trait. I was wondering if you could give me any advice about how to write a character like this. How do I make sure my character doesn't have a dominating character trait? Especially an annoying and cliche one like this?

Or how did you write Molly? I know she isn't a tomboy at all, but I was wondering that, too. And I would think it kind of ties in with my first question.
Reply
:icontambry161:
Tambry161 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
While I am not an experienced writer or anything and I am not sure if this is the advice you need, but here it is:
Hobby =/= personality.
Take, for instance, AppleJack and Rainbow Dash from MLP:
They are both tomboys, sure, but AppleJack is more mature, more hard-working and is more family-focused while Rainbow Dash is more interested in motivating others, flying fast, being a Wonderbolt, etc.
Same can be said for Lynn (who is agressive and competive), Luna (who is laid-back and "cool") and Lana (who is energetic and quirky) from The Loud House. When it comes to them, it's also interesting to note that all of them are tomboys in different ways: Lynn likes sports, Luna likes rock music and Lana likes mechanics and gross things.

So, what is her personality? Is she rough and agressive? Is she laid-back and calm? Or maybe you can give her stereotypically "feminine" character traits - you can make her gentle, motherly, etc - I don't think that will make her any less of a tomboy.

Show how your character interacts with other characters - her friends, family, etc. 

I hope this helped you, at least a bit. Sorry, again: ...not a experienced writer.

P.S Sorry if you don't like MLP or The Loud House. I just felt like the characters from those shows were good examples.
Reply
:iconmabelgleeful01:
MabelGleeful01 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
This might help me out, thanks so much ^^

Also I love both those shows. Rainbow Dash and Luna are the best XD
Reply
:icontambry161:
Tambry161 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
You are very welcome, glad I could help. :aww:
Reply
:iconnuclearzeon2:
Nuclearzeon2 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
Good journal entry. I loved when you talked about running gags.

I remember Doug Walker said in the commentary for his Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog review (about the "Of course!" running gag) that you can only make a running gag funny three times, and after that you have to do a new spin on it, and I agree completely.

I was really annoyed when I watched Nostalgia Chick's review of Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, and she ended up playing that damn "How could this happen to me" song no less than eight times.

It's also why memes like "Arrow to the knee" or, more recently, "Zendaya is Meechee" get old so quickly. In fact, wasn't not overusing a joke the main moral of the SpongeBob episode "Ripped Pants"?
Reply
:iconwhypipo:
whypipo Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2018
Lindsay admitted she does not look back fondly on a lot of her NC videos.

It is interesting how Ripped Pants predicated meme culture.  I never follow memes myself, so I can never tell which ones are current and which ones are outdated.  

I still like that Enchanted Christmas video(though the "worse then seven holocausts" line is a bit wince-inducing)
Reply
:iconzutheskunk:
ZuTheSkunk Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
One example of a joke that's repeated multiple times with very little change and still managing to be funny is what YouTuber Caddicarus did in his video about video game cheats. When giving examples of cheats he thought were particularly dumb, after showing each one he said (with big bold letters shown) "It's F**king Dumb", with that phrase getting cut off more and more with each example.

It's funnier in the video itself than when explained like that...
Reply
:iconwhypipo:
whypipo Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2018
Oh god yes I love Caddy, he has some great running jokes.  
Reply
:iconraccoonbrova:
RaccoonBroVA Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
Thank you for writing this! It's a common misconception that comedy is entirely subjective. There's a lot more inner workings going on then one would realize.
Reply
:iconavikaw:
AvikaW Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
A lot of it is, though. Especially jokes/ premises that could be considered cultural in-jokes. A joke that would be absolutely hilarious to an American, for example, might not even register as a joke to a Brit or a Brazilian. Also, funny adult jokes might not register as jokes, or adult, to a child.
Reply
:iconpsychobeef28:
PsychoBeef28 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
Like this?

"What's the cheapest cut of meat?




Deer Balls.

They're under a buck!"
Reply
:iconreviewer2016:
Reviewer2016 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2018
Also make sure that the satire feels less of a personal view, that way the joke feels less like family guy.
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:iconmrenter: More from MrEnter


Featured in Collections

Journals by Ecclytennysmithylove

Mr. Enter by princessbinas

Written Pieces by MaireadMalesco


More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
October 10, 2018
Link
Thumb

Stats

Views
16,051 (1 today)
Favourites
97 (who?)
Comments
54