How to Write Funny Fast! By R.A.Murphy

Writers and Speakers often need to come up with humor quickly to meet a deadline or take advantage of topical material. Here’s how to do a fast funny…

To write jokes fast, focus on the essentials. A formula helps.

My formula for a joke is: Upset the Setup

What you’re shooting for is a surprising way of saying or doing something. We’ll laugh at almost anything if it strikes us as incongruous – outside our normal expectation.

To create humor, set up a norm, then turn it upside down. Show your readers a pyramid of bright red apples arranged so carefully atop one another in the cart. Then, when it’s least expected, don’t just overturn the cart. Instead, make the apples slowly loosen and, one at a time at random intervals, bounce down the pyramid, off the cart, down the street, out of sight.

To create humor, create an expectation and then meet it in an unexpected way. Here’s a two-step process to help you do it fast.

Step 1. Find Your Setup. The apple cart is your setup. When you’re looking for quick results, it’s best to start with a prefabricated setup. Use a cliché, a well-known phrase or a quote, one that your audience should already know. Because they know the cliché, they will have an expectation for how it should sound and what it should mean.

For example: here’s an old saw most of us have heard:

Give a man a fish; you feed him for a day

Teach a man to fish; you feed him for life.

Weighty stuff, now how do we make it witty?

Step 2. Upset Your Find. Here’s the surprise, the twist on the phrase that goes beyond just overturning the cart and makes us laugh. Your twist must be connected to the setup, that is, it has to logically follow, but it should do so in a surprising way. Here’s an example using our fish phrase…

Give a man a fish; you feed him for a day

Teach a man to fish; you…

— make an enemy of his wife forever.

How you switch the phrase depends on your audience or your subject or the point you want to make.

Say you’re speaking to a group of rabid environmentalists. Your twist might become:

Teach a man to fish; you…

— endanger yet another species.

Or maybe you’re writing for <b>Cat Fanatic Magazine… </b>

Teach a man to fish, you…

— make his cat almost grateful.

To Upset Your Find, look for connections that follow but not as expected. Brainstorm two lists. One should contain the words and ideas in the setup. Two should contain the words and ideas related to your subject, audience, or point. After giving this a good shot, go back and cross connect each entry in List One to those in List Two. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what pops up: several funny connections. They’re funny because they’re logical but not expected. There’s even a plus: this two-list technique is good for almost any type of idea creation.

I’ll leave you with an exercise to try on your own. Almost everyone over forty knows JFK’s famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” See what you can do.

Upset the Setup. Focus on connections. Look for logical but unexpected twists. Here’s a visual twist on IBM Founder, Thomas J. Watson’s famous admonition to help you remember:



Humorist and Comic Novelist R.A.Murphy writes and publishes R.A.Murphy’s LaffZine – Always More Fun LaffZine, the Free Online Daily-Weekly, where the focus is on story-based humor. Publishing jokes, cartoons, and satire; and featuring serialized comic stories and novels. For general audiences. On the web at: E-Mail: