Amy Koko | Humor
The creator of the blog Exwifenewlife.com and author of There’s Been A Change of Plans, A Memoir on Divorce Dating and Delinquents in Midlife, Amy Koko’s funny and inspiring insights have been read online on Huffington Post, Bravo Personal Space, Divorced Girl Smiling and More.com. She also authored How To Write It Funny, which gives lessons on humor writing. A writing teacher for more years than she cares to admit, Koko has hosted workshops and retreats on writing and getting stories out of your head and onto the page. She’s also the mother of “four mostly well adjusted kids” and a labradoodle named Reuben who will only eat cat food.
WRITE IT FUNNY LESSON 1
“My God You’re Brave.” Not only is this my favorite line from my absolute favorite Meryl Streep movie, Out of Africa, it sums up what you are about to do here, because let me tell you something about writing funny, it’s a serious and scary business. Unlike the stand up comedian who has the luxury of reading her audience, you don’t. She can see that a room full of old people just dropped off by the assisted living van, is not going to find her bit about anal bleaching funny, and use a different routine. You, as a writer, have no idea who is reading your material. Now I personally find anal bleaching hilarious, but your fifth grade science teacher who heard you had a book out and couldn’t wait to read it because based on your performance in class, she was sure you would end up selling Mary Kay or something, may just think you’re gross and as immature as you were back then, when you kept giggling at the word gonads.
Know this: There will be people who do not think you are funny. That will hurt. That will make you second guess yourself. You will say to yourself, “Maybe I’m not funny,” and pour yourself a big glass of Chardonnay and think maybe you should take that job with that medical transport company writing about how to get grandma across country in one of their luxury vehicles. And then, your email dings and you see “Just read your book and I want to say thank you! I am laughing my ass off and can’t wait to read more!” and you will feel like you just won an Oscar. So get used to it. Some people won’t laugh, but oh, those people that will… THAT’S what keeps us putting it all out there.
Still with me? Okay then, we’ve decided you’ve got the stomach for it, so let’s get to work. Now I know what you are going to do, you are going to go to your computer, pull up a new blank document, and stare at it for a moment then ask yourself, “Okay, what’s funny, what’s FUNNY?” Step number one in this short but sweet training course: Don’t ask yourself what’s funny, ask yourself what ISN’T? Now, the possibilities are endless because guess what, the funniest shit is the boring, mundane stuff we see and do every day. That is what people can relate to, we all GET IT!
For instance, see the blog example below, where I write about seeing a wounded bird walking on the side of the road. We’ve all seen this right? I mean we have all seen a wounded animal on the side of the road, and we want to stop, but then we think about our fabric seats and how we could not afford the leather, and be honest, the thought of a bloody animal in your car is very gross and so generally we feel bad, but we keep on driving.
Upon seeing the bird dragging his wing…
I knew I had to do something but what? I called my sister V in NYC, who has two rescue dogs and spends more money on these two dogs than I have spent on my four kids college educations.
“OMG I just saw something horrible.”
“Dont tell me! I don’t want to know! Stop right now!”
“It has nothing to do with mom!”
“I dont care, I dont want to know.”
“Okay I won’t tell you.”
“Hey, I was just wondering, what would you do if you were driving down the street and saw a wounded bird walking with a broken wing?”
“OMG! Put him in your car and take him to the bird sanctuary in Indian Rocks Beach. Hurry. Wrap him in a sheet and get him over there!”
So here’s the thing, I do have a sheet in the car, from that time I had to bring a dripping, rotten turkey breast back to Publix but do I want to jump out of a car and try to wrestle a big, wild, person sized bird into it? After I get him into it do I put him in the seat next to me or in the back? What if he starts pecking me in the eyes while I am driving? What if he starts pulling my hair out, which is already having trouble holding it’s own? Also, what if I am late for my botox appointment. Dr. C is leaving for his vacation home for thirty days as of tomorrow. In 30 days my forehead will be down by my nose. It is a real quandry I am in.
Here is an every day occurrence that has now become an event. With the use of dialogue and imagery, I have created a scene, I like to think a funny scene that most of us can relate to. Maybe not the botox part (please don’t judge) but the thought of a big wild animal in our car, possibly pecking our eyes out.
So, again, when you sit down to write something funny, think of the mundane. That is some funny shit. Your ride to work, your wait in the carpool line at preschool, your trip to the grocery store, all really good stuff.
All the upcoming exercises will build off of this one. Come up with 3 situations you encounter every day that have the possibility of becoming a funny narrative. When thinking of what will work, picture them in your mind and jot down what you tend to think about while you are in these situations. How do you feel when you are in these situations? What is going on around you at the time? Are you alone or with others? You should have 3 hefty paragraphs at the end of this exercise one of which we will use to construct a humorous piece of writing.