Monday, April 29, 2013

7 Tips to Writing Humor, from author J. D. Smith


Today I get to welcome author J. D. Smith to my blog. Having recently landed on planet earth he has written an invaluable new guide book, Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth: Being a Collection of Hilarious Essays, Poems and Ponderings about the Human Species. A species worth much pondering perhaps, and a source of much humor too. J.D. takes readers through a satirical tour of the peculiarities in our world, providing fresh and sharp wit to issues like wearing black, bestiality, and rejected menu items from Disney World. A seasoned traveler, scholar of four degrees, award-winning writer, and a contestant on "Jeopardy," the author proves smart is the new funny. Thank you so much for joining us J.D, and for sharing your:




7 Tips for Writing Humor


  1. Ideas can come from anywhere at any time, so try not to get in their way. Looking too hard for subjects and angles might make you freeze up and focus only on the same topics that other people write about, like the stereotypical differences between men and women. See what comes from your life as you live it and as you watch the world around you. What do you notice, obsess about, find absurd? What makes you cringe? That’s where your ideas come from.

  1. Have something to write with and write on at all times. Ideas can slip away as easily as they arrive, so you want to catch them when you can. If you can get away with using a grease pencil on bathroom tiles while you’re showering, by all means do so. Carrying a notebook everywhere works for a lot of people, but there is more than one way to rock. Sometimes I travel light and write ideas on the back of receipts tucked into my wallet.

  1. Don’t censor yourself. Others will be all too happy to do that for you—not that you should let them. You can always edit later, and in all likelihood you will, but when you’re writing the first draft you need to shut off any voices in your head besides the funny one. Don’t worry about what your second cousin, your third grade teacher or the school board might think. If you’re writing humor you probably aren’t running for office anyway. Some of the biggest laughs come from edgy and scary places, and ignoring them means passing up a lot of opportunities. Besides, some people have wider tastes than we give them credit for.

  1. Sound like yourself. What’s the point of trying to write like Dave Barry or Ian Frazier or [insert name of your favorite funny writer here]? That box has been checked, and imitation would just deliver more of the same. The world hasn’t heard your voice yet, so put it out there and see what happens, and learn as you go along. You may be an observer, a storyteller or a satirist—or some combination of all three.

  1. If you have a point to make, let it arise from the humor. Starting with an obvious point of view and trying to hang a joke on it amounts to second-rate preaching. Lenny Bruce had things to say, but at the end of his career (and life) he came off as more angry than funny.

  1. Laugh first, analyze later. When humor works—your own or someone else’s—take a little time to figure out what makes it work. What surprising contrasts arose in an article, story or script? Were shifts of logic or word meaning involved, or did the humor come from a character’s actions? And those are only a few questions you might ask. Don’t try this on a first date unless your companion is a fellow comedy nerd.

  1. Don’t expect to make everybody laugh. The sense of humor varies greatly from one person to another, and it largely involves factors beyond your control: culture, language, amount of education, and whether someone is a dog or cat person. Even the most successful writers and performers can’t get a laugh out of certain people. Making nobody laugh, however, is a problem. Then you may need to rewrite. 
Thank you J. D., and for readers who want to know more about the book:

Find it at: http://www.amazon.com/Notes-Tourist-Planet-Earth-Collection/dp/098496441X/

Author Lands on Planet EarthLaughs, hiccoughs and exclamations of “What the?” await
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Some questions haunt humanity on a daily basis, or at the very least make it scratch its collective head. Why shouldn’t one wear black? Who is emitting the most greenhouse gases? How can one sound halfway intelligent at an art gallery or survive a poetry open mic?
With the delightful peculiarity of an outsider looking in, award-winning writer J.D. Smith seeks to answer these questions and more in Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth: Being a Collection of Hilarious Essays, Poems and Ponderings about the Human Species (Cassowary Press, March 2013).
In this collection that includes LOL-worthy selections in poetry, prose and pieces that no genre could even hope to encompass without undergoing elective surgery, J.D. proves that smart is the new funny, humanity is endlessly amusing and the world would be a better place without mimes.
Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth is a conversation-starter that answers the questions you were too afraid to ask—or didn’t know existed in the first place: What do zombies like to eat besides brains? Or what will a seafood menu look like 40 years from now (minus all the seafood)?
Readers also gain useful knowledge like whom to blame for Global Warming (Clue: She is musically androgynous and has a penchant for wearing meat), and what not to say at wine tastings. Throughout the book, J.D. makes environmental issues like climate change funny, because they’re true, a task seldom attempted, and certainly not by Al Gore.
Deemed funny by people currently residing on both coasts of the United States, London, the West of Ireland and Sarajevo, and a musician who is afraid of clowns, Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth is based on research in several world capitals, the bars of eight time zones and a distressing number of degree programs.
J.D. SMITH, a seasoned traveler and award-winning writer, has published three collections of poetry, one collection of essays and one children’s book. His work has appeared in AlimentumThe BarkGastronomica, the environmental ezine Grist and the Los Angeles Times. His one-act play “Dig” was adapted for film in 2011. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and rescue dog.

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