Can You Learn To Be Funny?


A while back Plamena (if you have a link to your page let me know, your profile isn't coming up when I click your name) asked me in a blog comment if I thought you could learn to be funny in your writing.  The question stumped me a bit.


I use a lot of humor in my writing.  And based on the feedback I've received from crit partners and contests, I'd venture to say it's the bread and butter of my voice.  I tend to stick to the sarcastic, ironic, and self-deprecating variety as opposed to slapstick, but it's always there.  So did I learn to do that or is it just who I am?

My guess is that I just picked it up from being around funny people.  My parents have a very sarcastic style of humor and my husband is hilarious.  No one close to me really takes themselves too seriously.  Plus, it's just how my mind works.

Anyone remember the Friends episode with Chandler and Jill Goodacre stuck in the ATM booth?  I'm including it below if you want a laugh.  That is how my internal dialogue sounds much of the time.  So it's not a wonder that many of my characters end up with a tendency to self-deprecate.  Or maybe I just have a major self-esteem deficiency, which is also entirely possible.  :)

But I do believe that some people are just naturally funny.  You can tell by reading blogs.  Tina LynnAmber Murphy, and Frankie Diane never fail to make me laugh, and you know they aren't forcing it, they're just funny chicks.  (By the way, if you haven't checked out Frankie's Vampire Diaries recaps/parodies, you're missing out on some seriously funny stuff.  That girl can make me snort iced tea through my nose.)   Then, Jm Diaz and Sierra Godfrey both have the gift of sarcasm.  My guess is that all of this shows up in their writing.

But what if writing humor is a challenge for you?  There is nothing worse than someone trying to be funny and  falling flat.  So can you change it?  Could serious Jack on Lost ever become sarcastic Sawyer?  I don't know the answer.  My guess is that it would be tough, but if they hung around each other long enough, they could pick up each other's style.  So my best advice would be to surround yourself with humor--read author's who have a humorous voice, watch comedic movies and tv shows, get a feel for what works and try some of it out.

But also make sure that this is what you really want.  There is nothing wrong with not having humor as part of your voice.  I could never write heart-wrenching literary fiction with beautiful, evocative prose.  It just doesn't come naturally to me.  I'd end up inserting dark humor and romance at inappropriate places.  So I try to play to my strengths.  Evaluate what yours are and embrace those.  There is room in the world for all variants of voice.

So what's your opinion?  Can humor be learned?  If so, how?  What are some of your favorite funny authors?  How would you describe your own voice?


**Today's Theme Song**
"London Bridge" - Interpreted by the always funny Bowling For Soup  
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)