Releasing your inner dragon

Finding Your Funny Bone: How To Write Prose that Will Make Your Readers LOL

May 02, 2024 Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake Season 4 Episode 16
Finding Your Funny Bone: How To Write Prose that Will Make Your Readers LOL
Releasing your inner dragon
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Releasing your inner dragon
Finding Your Funny Bone: How To Write Prose that Will Make Your Readers LOL
May 02, 2024 Season 4 Episode 16
Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake

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Join Drake and Marie as they discuss adding humor to stories and why it helps with reader engagement.

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Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie as they discuss adding humor to stories and why it helps with reader engagement.

Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


Drake's Contact Details:
Starving Writer Studio:
Drake-U:  - Use RYID25 for 25% off!
Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

I need time to mourn or to revel or to be joyous or to be whatever.
I need that moment. So if it is this dark humor, let's say, like in that scene with the kid,
all the stuff happens with everybody so happy that the kid is not dead.
It allows the reader because remember, none of those people are real.
The jungle they're in isn't real. The kid isn't real, the river isn't real. None of it is real.
But the reader just lived through this intense moment of this kid almost dying
and him, you know, by the skin of his teeth being rescued. They need a moment to go.
thank goodness. I'm so happy this happened. Like, you know, that was really tense.
That was tough. And so I give them that. I allow it's not like I immediately, you know, have the guy who saved him go, I'm okay too.
I allow the reader to revel in the emotion of, wow, We almost lost this kid.
We didn't lose this kid. It's saved. We're cool. Everything's okay. Take a breath then. Joke.
Releasing your inner dragon.

So what's funny? Tell me a joke.

So, want to go? well, I'm. You know, this is going to be an interesting podcast for us because I don't I mean, neither of us are stand up comedians. We're not, you know, known for comedy. I don't think that you've written any comedy, as far as I know.


I mean, I've got things that are written that are comedies, you know, I've got the children's movies script has a ton of funny in it.

Obviously, the TV show that I had still never really pitched, but the entire thing as a comedy, that's the whole point of it, that litRPG that I'm writing I think is hilarious and my Baiter readers have thought it was hilarious. I just don't have a lot of time to work on it, so I don't know when it's gonna get finished.

But I've never studied writing comedy. Now, one thing that I don't admit very often, a long time ago, when I was just out of the Marine Corps, I actually started a sketch comedy troupe. So there is still on old VHS tapes comedy of me and my friends doing sketch comedy that I wrote, and then we perform and there's some funny stuff.

I mean, like my favorite skit that I still ever came up with is and I got it walking out of a Walmart and I wrote it by the time I got to the car on the other side of the parking lot. But, you know, when you come out of Walmart, there's always the booth. I mean, you don't I don't know if you have it in them, but here when you come out, there's always the booth.

And traditionally it's like the Girl Scout cookies. You want to buy some Girl Scout cookies or the Boy Scouts want to buy some popcorn or Hey, have you registered to vote or whatever? So in the sketch, there's a man and a wife coming out of the out of the store and they get hit by the Girl Scout. And the next booth is a Boy Scout.

And the next booth is, Have you registered? And the next booth is, you know, how's your air conditioning doing at home? And the next booth is, you know, whatever. And then they come to this booth, that's all rainbow flags. And you know, sparkles and all this stuff. And there's some guys in there that are just, you know, as as happy as you can possibly be.

And they're like, Hey, hey, hey, have you thought about going gay? And, you know, of course, the couple with the wife is like, whatever. And the guy is like, wait, I it I thought it wasn't a choice. And they're like, yeah, that's what we always say. And so they go over there and they've got like brochures on how to be gay and all this other stuff.

And so, you know, he's actually pitching I'm being gay. And the husband gets interested and he's like, Yeah, I'll take a brochure on this.

And his wife's like.

And his wife is like, the whole time, he's just like, Man, I really thought I didn't know it was a choice. I didn't realize, I love that skit. It's frickin hilarious. But what is comedy? I don't know. I've never really studied it.

But let's, let's pause there. So everything you've described up to now is right? The genre humor. Yeah. So. And now it is. It is the genre humor, whether it is satire or whether it is whatever this is, it's meant to be funny. It's the same as say, Terry Pratchett's books, which is satire, or Douglas Adams, which is satire.

They are part of the comedy genre. That's also what comics do, stand up comedians, etc.. It's it, but they're much like with our romance episode, there's a difference between writing comedy and adding humor to your work.

Right? Yeah. Obviously the Rainbow skit, which is what I named it, is a deliberate attempt at humor for humor sake. Yeah.

So and I think like that is one of the first things to discuss is that that difference because like with the satire writers let's let's talk about Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.

Two of our favorites.

So they're writing the comedy is very much part of the point, right? It is leavening with humor. The social commentary they're making. And if you if you're going to write satire, you kind of need to do that. It needs to be funny and it needs to make pointed, pointed social commentary.

Yeah, I well, I mean, the whole the whole Rainbow skit was the fact that me just being tired of everybody on a certain side, you know, claiming that it's just a choice and you can just choose not to do it. So it's literally obviously the whole point of the skit is against exactly what it says the world is like.

That's kind of the point.

Yes, exactly. And that's why I said so. You can you can either then do humor like that where you're making a thing that is not true as like the contrasting, you know, but you throwing it on its head and going like, okay, so if it was a choice does that meet, does that mean that straight people can choose to be gay too?

Because that's kind of what the skits highlighting.

And they got they got insurance and they had all sorts of different things that came along with it.


that's the that's the humor that it's it's like with it with Douglas Adams when the earth is being bulldozed and then it's like, no, why? Like what what help? And they're like, well, you should have filed for whatever blah at this. A because, you know, because you didn't we assumed everyone was fine with it and now it's just going to be destroyed.

Yeah, like the end. But I thought you were going with the line of, well, it's a hyperspace bypass. You got to build bypasses. Bypass is going to be built. Yeah, exactly. The government has done it to so many people that are like, I mean, that was the whole point of that moment is that in real life, bureaucrats don't announce what they're going to do to take your land and destroy your livelihood at home because they don't give a crap and they follow the barest of minimums, because that was the whole point where he's like, I went down there.

it was in the bottom of a five storey basement,

in an unlit,

unused, damp file cabinet room in the back of a broken file cabinet like falling behind the drawer.

So and that's satire writing. Now I haven't tried my hand at satire writing. I think I don't know that I will. I think you need to have like a specific message you want to send with it and then put your sense of humor around it. It's not really my it's not my genre, right. It's it's a it's a genre that I read rarely.

And and I don't think I'll write it like there are there are a few authors that I read in it because they are really, really good. But yeah, for the most.

Part, yeah. I mean, it's it is a way of thinking about the world. I mean, most of our really famous standup comedians that we love and we watch and we laugh and all of that, they're really just pointing out stuff that you've seen and you've dealt with. You just didn't see it in that way. You just didn't, you know, you didn't notice the stupidity of it because it was just a part of life.

And then somebody is like, Yeah, but think about how stupid this is, about how silly this is. And you're like, my gosh, that is silly like that. We actually do that. So, you know, that is that is one form of that satire where you're just you're calling out the stupidity of the world. That's the reason why I'm such a huge fan of politically incorrect humor.

And that's what I write is politically incorrect humor. I mean, take my and that's why I'm sad about and I, I don't want this to, we're definitely not political and we're definitely not you know, we don't discuss this stuff but it does make me sad that comedy has been kind of attacked by this.

I disagree with that statement because everybody who says comedy has been attacked and yet there's a Netflix special, of that person, doing their comedy.

So bullshit doesn't mean they're not being attacked. They're just getting over it.

It doesn't matter, because the thing is, there will always be people who'll be like, I hate this. I’m pretty certain there are people who call out Terry Pratchett I'm certain there are people who call out Douglas Adams. like and the internet just magnifies those voices. None of those people are stopped from producing comedy, and certainly that comedy is finding plenty of airtime, right?

So yeah, there's there's definitely been some people whose careers were made because people went after them, but they were nobodies. Literally nobody that nobody had ever heard of. The new guy that just hosted SNL, the he was. What was his name? He was hired by SNL, although.

It's not my humor.

SNL. And before he started, they fired him because they listen to his podcast and heard him say some things that they didn't find appropriate. And so he was hired and fired in like a two day span of time. And then because of that, he became national news. And a couple months ago, he hosted Saturday Night Live talking about eating crow. where I was going with that was the problem is is that humor and really stories in general.

But but since we're talking about comedy, humor gives us a comfortable way to talk and think about uncomfortable situations. So like my little Rainbow skit, I guarantee you somebody out there is going to be like, Drake is just picking on homosexuals. Like, Sure I am. But it's but that's not the joke. The joke is picking on people who think it's a choice.

You're missing the subtext of the humor. And so it's there to hope that somebody who has this mindset of, you know, gays are a choice and I hate them for that to go, wait a minute, maybe it isn't a choice. Now, will that actually happen? Who knows? But that's the point of it. That's what humor allows us to do in that context.

The politically incorrect humor. It allows us to discuss the you know, it's just like Chappelle trying to be canceled for transphobia because he has some trans jokes. But when you look at the actual jokes, they're actually for trans people. Some of them I don't know all of them. So I could be wrong on that. Don't it? Don't blow up the Internet and hate on me because I'm I don't watch all of Chappelle.

I've seen some of Chappelle. So he may have some things out there that I just don't know about. But anyway, that's the thing that politically incorrect humor should be doing, whether it accomplishes that or not, I don't know, but it should be trying to give you a more comfortable way to talk about an uncomfortable situation doesn't make better people.

Yeah and that's like all of our historic humor. Right? But I think that every writer can benefit from including some humor in their book. Now, there are varying degrees to which this is applicable. For example, if you are writing a tragedy, unless you're really good at dark humor, you probably want to go lighter. On the humor aspect. In my urban fantasy, I lean much more heavily into humor, leavening it with a kind of noir aspect of the urban fantasy.

Because I'm looking for those kinds of snappy internal thoughts that kind of humorous feel to it without it being a comedy.

Well, it's not just a flat out joke fest, but it's yes, it's most of us find humor in life. Most of us will laugh at things that just strike us as funny in the moment and any other situation it wouldn't be. And to anyone else in the world, it might not be. And so that's really the way I see your urban fantasy thing going, where it's just yeah, it's just more real life.

Most people laugh at the stupidity of their lives. Yeah. And so that's where I kind of see it.

Yeah. And it's, it's geared towards that kind of those kinds of humorous moments. Like at one point the, the characters say something equivalent to like you can I can go home to get magic fairy dust and I can get, you know I'll go on stage from here and I can get magical help from here. And she lists all these things and then she goes, And for everything else, there's MasterCard, like from the T.V. shows from the ad.

And it's just it's just that moment of like you've had all this list of like, you know, this thing that you've done. These things are priceless. And for everything else.

There’s MasterCard Yeah. And that's I do that a lot. I love playing on a lot of my culture is,

a culture, culture, a culture of humor. So if being Farley is a ton of, you know, our culture, our geek culture, you know, like there's an episode where they're hired by the church to go reclaim a holy artifact that was stolen.

The holy artifact is a limited edition. Comic-Con exclusive Chris Hemsworth Thor statue from Comic-Con. So it's definitely, you know, definitely culture driven humor, because when you actually get there and they, you know, you find out what they're with this holy artifact that they're going after is it's fine because you're like, they got that from Comic-Con.

That's it's, you know, there was only 50 made. That's why it's a holy relic, because it would be holy to us geeks, you know, that is a very holy relic to us. So it's definitely that cultural type of thing. Same thing with the for all that for everything else, there's MasterCard.

Now the problem with the problem with Second World fantasy, if you're doing full Second World fantasy, like our epic fantasy series is Magic Fall and so on and so forth is you can't pull on culture for humor. Not our culture. Or at least you can, but you can't pull on our culture for humor. Right. Right? So if you want to have humor in your prose in a full secondary world, you have to set up the culture so that there's a moment that you can pull on that where that contrast comes in and so that you can then make the joke.

Now that you can set up the culture, though, as a parallel to something going on here, which then has more impact when you have that humor, because they see what you're doing, they see that you're your para. Pratchett does that a lot, you know, and his stuff, because it is a secondary fantasy world, but a lot of his humor comes in the fact that we have the same thing, same thing with Douglas Adams.

Although Douglas Adams was set in our world as opposed to Terry Pratchett's this completely different world.

I would say that Douglas Adams was set in our world for about 5 minutes.

Well, I mean, he does destroy Earth in the opening chapter, fair point so, yeah, so I mean, I guess we probably should go through, you know, in the in the 30 seconds of intensive research that I did on Google, I did come up with a list of like what this person sees as the six types of humor, although we've already added one that's not on the list, which is pulling from, you know, some type of modern day culture or geek culture or whatever.

But we talked about satire. So satire is just, you know, basically making fun of reality in an augmented way. We talked about in your situation is not the MasterCard thing, but in what you were just talking about, about the thing. It's a lot of situational humor. So like in in one thing I had written, this one hero jumps in.

There's a child that's drowning who's with the party, and he jumps in and risks his life. And all this horrible stuff happens to him. And they finally gets him up on the riverbank and throws the kid on and everybody just piles onto the kid and all this other stuff. And the characters just lay in there because you're in his head and he's laying there and he's he's almost dead and he's staring up at the sky and he goes, I'm fine too, because no one is even paying attention to him.

So it's situational. It's funny, it gets a laugh, but it's not that if he was just walking down a quarter of a dungeon and just said, I'm fine too, that wouldn’t be funny because there's no you have to have the situation layered around it. Yeah.

The situation is funny. And then the in that moment you can hang a lampshade on it to make it funny.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But there's some other things that, that they have in here that everyone will know, like the self-deprecating humor.


So in my real life, I do a lot of self dep. So if you've read my any of my three creative writing books, there's a lot of self-deprecating humor in those books. I've always used self-deprecating humor my whole life. I think it's funny. And it also is a way of making sure that I don't ever feel too proud of myself because I'm constantly putting myself down in humorous ways.

And it's just a way to to I don't know, I just find it funny. I find it I find it more funding to pick on me than to pick on other people.

So I think self-deprecating humor has its place, but it also like it can. It's hard to get right sometimes because self-deprecating humor can come across as instead of being self-deprecating, being actually attacking yourself. So instead of being humorous, it's just like, I'm so bad. And then if you really do it wrong, like, I'm talking I'm not talking about you like the person out there.

I'm talking about the character in the book, the author writing it. Right, Right. If you really do it wrong, then it comes across as whining.

Actually, I was going even a step further. It's like self-deprecating humor because this is funny about me. And so I'm going to kill myself now and then, bang, you're dead. It's like that slips into that other form, which is dark humor. That's where I thought you were going. That's why I was laughing. It was like I like self-deprecating all the way to the point to suicide.

No, no, I was going I was going a little bit more like it. It can come across as just attacking yourself. And that attack can then also come across as whining.

Self-pity is not funny.

It's self-pity. And that's the problem. The line between self-deprecation and self-pity is very, very narrow.


And it's very easy to step on the wrong side of it. Yeah.

Well, that's so the entire thrust of the little RPG book that I'm writing is 100% based on self-deprecating humor, because I chose the main character is Drake. It's me. It's a 54 year old writer. They get sucked into a video game space, a virtual reality space, basically. And so and it's obviously not me, because the Drake in the book is way more of a buffoon and an idiot than I actually am.

But I'm having a lot of fun with it because it just lets me be very silly with how stupid this Drake character is in these situations. And you know, things that I actually wouldn't do in a real situation. But you know, it's a character. It's not this isn't an autobiography. This is a character of Drake. So yes, he's a writer and yes, he looks like me and has all the same kind of mannerisms or whatever, but he's an idiot, like 100%.

Although some people out there are listening. I was like, so it is an autobiography. And that is an example of self-deprecating humor. Yes.

And doing that wrong would have been something along the lines of and there are people out there who will absolutely think it's me, but it's not me. I'm not that dumb. Right. I would not be self-deprecating.

Like that would be getting defensive.

But so and that's why I say I like that the line is narrow and you need to be aware of it if you're going to use self-deprecating humor because I don't know. Nobody likes a whining character, right? Yeah, right. So I think one of the other things of comedy that one should talk about is dark humor, since we've touched on it.

So dark humor is the humor you find in the horror of a situation. So it's the times when you make a joke because it is a way of coping.

That is is exactly what it is. Yeah.

So it's like the one one armed man making a joke about losing his arm. You know, it's a it's a coping mechanism.

So there's a video that I watched recently. It's this kid who has no arms and he's talking to his father and he's like, Father, I don't get dark humor. What is dark humor? And his father goes, You see that blind man across the street? He's like, Yeah, wave to him.

Yeah, that's that's like I thought.

That is your that is your definition of because then the kid is like he looks in his arms and he goes, I, yeah,

yeah. But so

the higher stress your job is and the more the more it pushes you into inhumane things. Firefighters, cops, paramedics, people that see human tragedy on a regular basis, it every single one of them.

I mean, obviously there's always exceptions, but the vast majority of them have incredibly dark senses of humor. And it's not because they are, you know, careless people. They're doing a job, literally, that the rest of us don't want to do because they care so much. And we don't. It is a coping mechanism. It is how they can you know, go to sleep that night and wake up the next morning and then go see other tragedy and, you know, things that that I couldn't I was listening to a story of a guy the other day and he was talking about when he was first a paramedic, there was a bus crash that happened with a

bunch of school kids. And they were high schoolers. They were, you know, ninth, 10th graders. So 14, 15 year olds and he was describing the scene as it looked like, you know, some type of Ferris wheel had just sput kids out and random directions because the bus driver fell asleep. And like, it was a horrendous, horrendous, horrendous crash.

And and him talking about the death and dismemberment and everything that he had to deal with. But it was the first time being in a situation like that. And so everybody just ran out and was just grabbing whoever. And he ended up with this like 15 year old girl. And he just kneeled above her and he he froze up.

He couldn't do anything. And so his who he called his mentor came up and was like, hey, go help someone else. I got this. And we're trying to tell the story without tearing up because, I mean, it's just horrendous. And so he said, you know, for 20 years after that, I thought that guy had saved me from basically just holding a 15 year old girl as she died.

She was in horrible shape. And he's like, I, I was so grateful to him, you know, because he was like 20 at the time or 19 at the time or whatever it was. And he's like for 20 years, I always felt that that was the case until I was at his funeral and that girl was there and he thought she was dead.

He thought for 20 years that that guy had saved him from, you know, happened to be that person that was there. And he's like, turns out and the reason why he never talked to me about it is he was saving her from me, like my in experience. And he didn't want to rub that in my face because, you know, obviously I became a better paramedic and, you know, all of that other stuff.

But the situation was so gruesome and so bad. And so, yeah, people like that to deal with that. Like, I don't want to be that person. I don't want to hold, you know, this cute girl as she dies So these guys all have dark senses of humor.

I don't either.

I don't either. But it does remind me your story does remind me of one of the darkest jokes I've ever read in a book. And that is in. That’s a segway for you. You did set it up for me. So that was. It's in Laurel Hamilton's early Anita Blake books. Now, Anita Blake is a necromancer. Okay, and this world is vampires and werewolves.

And Anita is a US Marshal because these guys are real and the law recognizes them and stuff like, it's a very interesting world. And, and she, she gets called in to a crime scene, and there's been and there's been a werewolf attack that's absolutely monstrous. It's ripped apart an entire family, like in pieces. And one of the cops who's kind of an asshole cop.

But, I mean, you know, he's an asshole, but he's still a good cop kind of thing. As Anita comes into the room, he's like, Hey, you want the hand? And he throws a hand at her. Like, it's like that. That's dark humor.

At the beginning of the movie Highlander, which is still one of my favorite movies. Thank God they only made one since There can be only one. But at the beginning of that one and only Highlander movie that they made when the cops are there in the parking lot and the guy's got his head chopped off, one of the cops does say, you know, real smooth shave.

Yeah, exactly. So that's it's that kind of it's also that that is also gallows humor. It's sometimes called gallows humor. Right. The humor in death. Right. Which is somewhat different from straight dark humor.

Yeah. But what it does is it diffuses the situation. It it's it it is a coping mechanism. And your readers are living through these moments or whatever. It's one of the reasons why Joss Whedon said, you know, and I don't know the exact quote, but it was something like Punch your characters, hit your kick your characters kill your characters.

But for God's sakes, when you're done, tell a joke. So it's just the moment.

It say for me, like I think that one of the things that I think where Marvel went wrong was they told too many jokes. And I think that you need to be aware of this. Like, yes, it is a coping mechanism. It does help the reader cope with being limits. If the moment is serious, if the moment is intense, if the character is learning a serious lesson and you follow that up with a joke, you don't just drain the tension out of it.

You remove everything that the reader is about to learn. And that's the problem with putting in that kind of marvel formulaic humor. It was fine when it was splashed here and there, but then it just became the whole movie.

How many jokes can I put in here? Yes, but that's the same with everything. We you know, we talked about using em-dashes. Are we talk about using fragmented sentences or are we talking about using repetitive words? They're all really powerful. When used at the right times. They're all weak is crap when you use them every other paragraph.

Yes. So as with everything in writing, you have to understand that these things have massive punch only because they're used sparingly, not because they are threaded. I mean, you know that that that kid joke where he's up on the bank came from the Genesis saga. No one would say that the Genesis saga is a comedy, right? Yeah, it is very dark and very bloody and very, you know, has a lot of death and pain and misery and everything like that.

But there is plenty of humor in it. It's just when it is and, you know, timed and used sparingly and everything like that. So it's not fiend folly or snurse. Yeah. Are comedies.

Yeah, exactly. So you need you need to be cognizant of like not cramming in all the jokes like be cool one or two helps diffuse the situation, cement the place and bring home the story, etc., etc.. But if you overload it.

And I think that the important part of that is so we talked about this last night in the writers room with some of the things that some people have read that I just wanted to kind of to hammer on this. You have to allow the readers time to experience what they're experiencing. So like last night, somebody did something and then immediately it was just gone.

They were just in something else. And I'm like,

I need time


mourn or to revel or to

be joyous or to be whatever.

I need that moment. So if it is this dark humor, let's say,

like in that scene with the kid,

all the stuff happens with everybody

so happy that the kid is not dead.

It allows the reader

because remember, none of those people are real.

The jungle they're in isn't real. The kid isn't real, the river isn't real. None of it is real.

But the reader just lived through this intense moment of this kid almost dying

and him,

you know,

by the skin of his teeth being rescued.

They need a moment to go.

thank goodness.

I'm so happy this happened.


you know,

that was really tense.

That was tough.

And so I give them that. I allow it's not like I immediately, you know, have

the guy who saved him go, I'm okay too.

I allow the reader to revel in the

emotion of, wow,

We almost lost this kid.

We didn't lose this kid. It's saved. We're cool. Everything's okay. Take a breath then. Joke.

Because I gave them the space to emotionally move through that scene as opposed to hitting them too soon.

But it was the same thing. I mean, with this one last night, it was the climax and the character has to make this choice between two things themselves in the world, and they choose the world. And then immediately it just goes into as like, Wait, I just made it because I'm the character. So now I just gave up everything that I've been fighting for, everything that I've been on the story for, I gave up for the world and then you just you don't give me time to mourn the loss of what I gave up.

You don't give me time to actually come to terms that. Yeah, but it is the right thing to do. And you don't give me time to come to terms with. What does that mean for my future now that I've, you know, everything that I was on this quest for, I just threw it away. It just immediately goes into this next moment and it's like, no, you're not giving you know, I love I've stolen this from you, but you talk about time to breathe, give the story, time to breathe.

And that's what that is. It's not the story. The story's not real. It's the reader. The reader needs that moment to consume and to to go. And it's not like we don't want them to put the book down and do it. We want them to do it with the scene We want the characters to be that proxy for them.

So what you're really doing is you're having the characters take that breath, which is going to allow the readers to take the breath with them, and then the dark humor joke or the funny joke or the, the the tension diffusing joke or whatever, because we've we've allowed that to happen. So that's what I think you're that you're talking about.

It's one of the reasons why, you know, the trope from the eighties movies was the eighties one liners. But if you look at them almost every eighties, one liner and not all of them, obviously there was a bunch of crappy movies from the 80’s, but the ones that became memes and again, we didn't have memes back then, we just resaid the stuff that we said.

The ones that actually stuck were because of how well they were in the timing. Like one of my favorites that I've I've quoted a million times before was actually from a horrible, terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger movie called Commando. It's one of his worst and it really is just I mean, it's just a 1980s poor version of Taken. So they take the guy's kid and I'm an ex-soldier and now I'm going to kill all of you to to get this back.

And it's also a callback, which I love. So there's this little whiny little lawyer dude that he used to get information on where to go to kill some more people. And when he was there, he's like, Look, give me this information and I promise you I'll kill you last. And so the guy is just trying to buy some time.

He's like, Fine, here's the information. He's like, fine, he lets him go. But later in the movie, he runs into that guy again and he's holding him out over a cliff. After this intense scene. It was a very intense scene. And I remember what the guy's name was. I'm just you to Vinny's like, Hey, Vinny, remember when I said I'd kill you last?

He's like, Yeah, man. Yeah, man. You said I'd kill you. Kill me last. Yeah. And he goes, He drops him and he says, I lied. And like, I've I can't tell you how many times, especially raising my children, where it's like, hey, remember when I told you I was going to do this thing? I lied. And I always try to say it in that crappy Arnie accent, and it's always because they've done because in that case, the lawyer did something to screw him over, you know, he ratted him out or whatever.

I don’t remember exactly what it was. It’s been a long time since I've seen that movie. But it's so it's the same thing with my kids. It's like, hey, clean your room and I'll get all this stuff done. And then they don't clean the room. Or they do clean the room, but they clean it by throwing all their stuff into their brother's room or whatever.

And it's like, Yeah, no, no, this is not happening. You you really are the one that broke the rule are the bargain. So those those eighties one liners, the ones that stuck with us for decades, were because of their timing. Timing is very important. You know, all of that also.

I mean, there's a lot of humor in over an understatement. You know, like if the situation around you, what’s that meme of like flames around the dog, like everywhere. It's just everything's on fire. And he's like, this is fine.

Like. Yup.

There is there is humor in that kind of thing. And especially if you're writing a noirish book or a book with noirish flavor, the humor you want to use there is definitely understated. Yeah, You want to use that kind of subtle, low, understated humor for that, for that kind of feel. Because that's the other thing. Like you want to use dark humor in a book that has that kind of darkness.

It doesn't make sense to write a cozy fantasy and put in gallows humor. I mean, these two things are not the same. And like, if you're going to use slapstick humor, for example, there needs to be other slapstick elements. Then you need to be writing in a book that supports that kind of humor and so on. Otherwise it feels out of place.

Yeah, I mean, people people are going to hate on me on this. I'm just gonna throw it out there or at least I'll say it now. I might have the video guy cut it, but it's why I hate Ex Machina so much. That show should be I should be the target market for Ex Machina. I should be. I should absolutely love that.

Regardless of the or writing and everything else that's in there, actually writing is not necessarily bad. It's the storytelling that's bad, but that's a different topic. But why I really hate it is we have these these very serious, humorous situations. So more like being volley interjected with dick punch jokes. Yeah. Like there's there's situational comedy where, we got to go into this vampire slayer and we've got to do this thing.

And look, we did this, and now we're in front of the king and we're getting our reward. And while we're talking to the king and it's such a serious situation and one of the characters just punches the other one in the Dick and everybody laughs about it. And I'm like, That doesn't fit. You can't you can't take these two types of humor.

The more serious, dark humor and slapstick humor, they don't mix. And so the the show never landed with me. And again, I'm not saying that not going to land with anybody. It obviously has its audience. But that's the the biggest reason why after four episodes or whatever it was that I just like, I can't I can't do this anymore.

This is not.

I didn't even watch.

One. Yeah.

I read the premise and I was like, This is going to be slapstick humor. And with the best will in the world, I do not like slapstick, I don't like slapstick, and I don't like those who can can move things. You know, there's a hidden camera watching you. I don't like those, right? It's not my sense of humor.

Yeah. So I read the premise. I was like, there's going to be slapstick in it. Thanks, but no thanks. Not my.

Thing. They've done one or the other. Well, I mean, my biggest reason for bailing was and I get that the that the name of the show is Ex Machina, but my goodness. It gets tiresome because in the first four episodes, they all went the same way. They introduced the Big Bad. That was something that nothing could touch, nothing.

They always have the opening scene where there's like a party appears in front of this monster and the monster literally just blinks and they're all exploded into atoms and then halfway through the show, the heroes actually meet up with the monster or the villain of the Big Bad whatever, and they get their butts handed to him. And then at the very end, when all hope is lost, there's literally nothing to do.

They accidentally kill it every time they don't earn anything. And it's like, what? Yeah. And so it was just like I said, I get that you kind of have the show's name is Ex Machina, but deus ex Machina is not a good plot device and we've talked about that on the show before. Yeah. And actually I think we even brought up Ex Machina during that episode because it still bothers me in back then.

So yeah, mixing humor is really tough. It's tough to get that now. Again, it it, it can bring impact to things. So in snurse even though it is some silly humor, sometimes it is a movie for eight year olds. There are some dark moments, like there is some moments where you think, But I, I think that that fits really well.

It's sort of like, you know, in The Lion King, there are some moments that for a seven, eight year old that you are petrified, you know, from that movie. Not us, not at 40 or 50 or 30 or whatever, when you're watching that movie with your kids. But but definitely there and then the humor goes the other directions.

But, you know, when it's been so long as I've seen The Lion King because my kids are now in their early twenties, but I do remember, like the scene where the hyenas get get the kids and they're going to eat the kids. Like that's some serious stuff. I'm pretty sure I remember the scene where the brother kills the father.

Yeah, because the only reason I remember it so well is because how many times you see cat memes where there's one cat hanging on to a tree and the other one's back them and they do that soundtrack. It's like, Brother, save me. So I I've seen at least a dozen different memes with that. But yeah, I mean, there's some dark, dark that the humor.

But you wouldn't call the Lion King or snurse a dark comedy or whatever. It's it's still for kids. It's still a children's thing. It so it can have impact when you use it because they do go pretty dark in those moments. Yeah. And I think those have the dramatic impact.

I agree. But it's also like on the topic of humor, it's funny, like if I think of you've seen the movie Platoon, I assume, okay, so Platoon had I mean, it was dark. It was dark from start end, right? I mean, it was it was there was very, very little humor in it. It was basically just a fest of darkness.

But it then spawned knock of humor onto it, like movies that were based on it, that made fun of the dark moments in Platoon, which is also a different kind of humor. It's like taking that darkness and saying like, you know, you can put too much drama on this and basically, like overdramatic the size of and through that overdramatic situation, you reach humor, then it's like an excessive overstatement of the of the moment.

Yep. Yeah. So the only thing we didn't talk about today is kind of what is the key to writing a joke or writing humor. Now, obviously, with situational humor, with satire, you know, they have to have their place. But to me, I think the biggest lesson that I ever got, because I haven't studied writing comedy, even though I write it because I don't consider myself a comedic writer, although like I said, one of the very first things I did as a writer was write sketch comedy.

But it was just for us and we just did it. It's about setting up something that is one thing and then turning it on its head that it goes a completely different direction. So it's you set up an expectation, I see where this is going, where the story's going, where this joke is going, and then you come at it with something that is completely unexpected.

And that's where a lot of that humor comes into. And it can be subtle. The kid on the bank, you know, from the thing I wrote, you're not expecting him to go, you know? yeah. No, I'm okay, too. You know, he should be right along with the rest of them. They're like, my God, I can't believe you almost died.

You know, I'm so happy you're alive. All this other stuff, he. He literally just risked his life to save the kid, so obviously he felt that was important. And so for him to come back and and say something like that is unexpected. Yeah. So that's where a lot of that humor comes from. It's sort of like in your urban fantasy where it's a serious situation, where are we going to get this stuff and go and get this stuff from here?

I get that from so from there I get this stuff in there and everything else there’s MasterCard. it's not an expected thing to come out and have happen. You know, we're not going to we're not expecting to reference a credit card commercial meme. So that's really the heart, in my opinion, of comedy. Comedy is about giving, you know, setting up an expectation and then coming at it from a completely different angle that wasn't seen.

And that's where you find the humor, where you don't find humor. And we're in Vegas, so we go see stand up comedians. We just went not too long ago. And this is not you know, we're not talking about Dave Chappelle or, you know, Bill Maher or whatever. We're talking off strip in a small nightclub in downtown Summerlin on that, you know, above a bar that holds 12 people.

These are not necessarily what you would consider. And this is what they're still doing. They're paying their dues and all of that. But I love watching these comedians. But some of them, that's as far as they're ever going to get. They're never going to get any further. The show that we watched this last time, the only comedian that wasn't funny was the emcee.

And that's sad because you see him like five times. So he comes up, he does like a ten minute set. He calls the guy up, he comes back, he does like a five minute said. He calls the next guy up and then 5 minutes that and so on and so forth. And it's like after the first one I'm like, Yeah, you don't need to come back to the stage, dude, you're not funny.

And the biggest problem was not that what he was saying wasn't funny. It was obvious, was very, very, very obvious where the joke was going. And then the joke landed exactly where you thought it was going to land. And when that happens, that's when you get the. Yeah, you don't. You're like, okay, yeah, it's funny. I saw what was going on, but you don't get the you know.

You don't get a full throated belly laugh from giving somebody exactly what they expected, which is also the problem with a lighter Marvel joke. You could see the jokes coming because you had seen so many of them.

And it can even be not even just when we about the unexpected. So I'm a huge fan of sketch comedy, obviously. I used to write it so pretty much every sketch comedy show has got me hooked except for Saturday Night Live. It's not funny, or at least it wasn't for decades. For whatever reason, it's starting to get funny again a little bit.

But Key and Peele was one of my favorite shows of all time. I love that show and probably my favorite sketch on there because there's a lot of racial stuff on there. So we're not going to talk about it here. But one of them was their post-apocalyptic zombie sketch where it was a zombie outbreak. But one of the funniest things is so key and peele are running, and this is even the joke of the sketch, but there there's there's another survivor that's fighting for his life and it's Kevin Sorbo.

And just having Kevin Sorbo in a sketch with Key Peele right there is so unexpected and so funny. And if you don't know who Kevin Sorbo is, the joke's not going to land. But he was Hercules in that really campy Romero. Hercules and Xena and all of that. He also was in Andromeda, the sci fi thing that he was on.

Yes. Where he was the captain. And then he immediately gets killed. Like he gets eaten by zombies. Like, almost immediately. The gist of the joke was when, you know, now it's just Key and Peele like they were with this group of people. And then everybody gets killed with them and they have to run across this thing and they start running.

And like, we're not going to make it. We're never going to make it through that many zombies. And like, we have to try and, you know, I love you, man. I love you so much to let's just go. And they take off running and they don't get attacked at all.

I've seen this sketch.

They're like way like they were walking down the street and there's this old zombie couple in the in a broken down car with a broken window and the the old man zombies, when they when they walk past him, he's like and he locks the door like, okay, just embrace this zombie. Yeah. The joke is.

yeah, all the zombies are white and he's white suburban. Right? Then they like, no, I'm not. It's like.


Even in undead.

There’s a husband and wife zombie and they're walking with their kid zombie and they go and the kid starts to run after the two Key and Peele. And the parents like, and they grabbed the kid like, no no no, not that one away from them.

And then they then the guys reach this like block body of like people of color having like a rave type thing that's like, yeah yeah yeah that.

Was, that's the joke of the skit, but again for fans of geek culture Kevin Sorbo is kind of an icon of the B movie world. So to have him show up in a Key and Peele skit that you're just you're not expecting, it's that unexpectedness that makes it so funny.

Unexpected things, things that aren't things that surprise you in in a humorous way is the key to writing humor. It's a lot like doing a plot twist. You still have to have that kind of setup, but then you must surprise me.

So in Fiend Folly in my head, Excalibur. His voice is Nathan Lane's voice. So he's a very famous gay actor was in, you know, tons and tons of different things. I looked him up in the Birdcage.

I know he's in the Birdcage with Robin Williams. So in my head, that's it. But the actor, obviously on our budget, we're not hiring Nathan Lane. Although I do have one sketch in like season five, where at the end of it I don't remember exactly what the lead up was to it, but at the end of it something happens and Excalibur either gets knocked out or whatever, and then we go to a real bedroom and Nathan Lane wakes up and he's like, What a weird dream.

I was a sword. And that's it. Because and, you know, this is a joke for me, although it would still be funny, you know, people would still get it, I think. But it's just me. I wrote that because in my head, I've always given Excalibur Nathan Lane's voice. It's just what it is. So I would and were never going to afford him as an actor.

But maybe if, you know, by season five we have the budget where we can hire him for a one shot 30 second moment where he can just go, I was a I was a sword with a penis hilt, you know, And then that's it. It's just I think it would be hilarious. So it's that it's I think that's the key to a lot of humor is the unexpectedness of it.

That's where the joke comes from. Yes, you can have a message. Yes. You can have, you know, all this other stuff that we've been talking about as far as especially like with satire or whatever, where we're trying to make a political point or a social point or religious point or whatever. Really, it's the same thing. It's storytelling at the heart of it, in my opinion, storytelling is about trying to make people better.

That's what humor should be trying to do. Yeah, that's why. Well, there's a huge difference between racial jokes and racist. And I think that is has been lost in a lot of today's climate. One last story and this gets into that because I think this is a great example of that. So I'm famous enough that when I'm at something like a Comic-Con, I have a queue, not a huge queue.

It's not a Brandon Sanderson queue of people waiting for an hour to see me. There's five or six people at any given time, you know, to see me. But that does mean that I need to kind of spend 60 seconds to 2 minutes with somebody and then move them along so I can talk to the next person. And this is a couple of years ago.

It was before the shutdown, but I was talking to a couple fan of mine. It was a husband, a wife. They were black. And for whatever reason, we started talking about the subject that we start talking. I was just the expense of Comic-Con and mainly hotels with the last couple of years. Before then, me and my wife have been staying at a place now at Comic-Con, you're not going to anything less than 300 bucks a night.

I mean, it's just stupid, expensive. And we found a place within ten miles of Comic-Con. It was 60 bucks a night during Comic-Con. This place was a crap hole. Like, it was horrifyingly, terrifyingly, disgustingly bad. But this was early in my career, and, you know, Starving Writer was was a lot more pertinent than it is now. And so I, I'd mentioned that to them.

I was like, yeah, we're paying 60 bucks a night. And they're like, my goodness, that place must be horrible. I was like, Well, I mean, it has one amenity that's actually kind of cool. And they were like, Really? What is it? And I was like, They have really nice exfoliating towels, which is funny. But then he set me up because he says, How exfoliating are they?

And I said, When me and my wife checked in, we were black. And of course they laughed and we laughed and then they left. And then there was a white couple behind them and they stepped up and they were like, you could tell they were just mortified. And they were like, I can't believe you said that to them.

Like, And I was worried. I didn't know what I had said. I thought that, you know, maybe I did say something stupid or whatever because I'm prone to do that. And I say, What are you talking about? And they were like, Well, that racist joke you told. And I'm like, that's that's not a racist joke. There's nothing racist about that joke.

It was just racial. I mean, that's it. There's a difference when a racial joke and a racist joke when I was writing Fiend Folly, one of the things that I told the other people that were writing on it with me was, here's the way I feel about it. If, first of all, you're never going to make a joke that doesn't offend somebody like, that's impossible.

I've probably offended people just in this podcast. It's just impossible. However, if you a joke that the vast majority of the of whatever it is in that sector that you're talking about, either the the race or the sex or the demographic or the country or the the culture, the interest you're picking on, you know, D&D geeks or whatever, whatever it is, if at least the majority of them are laughing with you, you're golden.

It's just the way it is. If none of them or few of them are laughing with you, then you're attacking. And that's really where I draw my line. I'm not saying that's right, but I'm saying that's where, you know, because I do write a lot of politically incorrect humor. And so I feel like if I'm picking on white people or straight males or gay males or black people or women or geeks or jocks or nerds or whatever, whatever I'm picking on if how I'm picking on them, the vast majority of them are going to be laughing with me.

Then I'm good. I'm fine with that. I'm not being offensive. I'm not being attacking, I'm not being anything. So I think those are the two sides of it. On how I think about comedy one Try to do the unexpected because I think that's where the comedy comes from. And then to make sure that if you are picking on anybody or anything, make sure the vast majority of whatever that group is that you're picking on is going to be laughing with you.

Yeah. And so, you know, and actually I thought they were talking about, because.

What you don't want is you don't want people who are not in that group to be laughing at that group because of your.

Job. Right. Right.

That's that's the mean part. That's the part where comedy is not funny. Well, I suppose it's funny to somebody, but those people are me.

Well, the funny thing is it also depends on so much so that the couple that said, I can't believe you said that joke, but I actually thought they were talking, not because we had just came down from a teaching and at the beginning of that class the room was filling up and this black guy came in to the class and, you know, he's just a nerd.

He's just socially awkward. And, you know, he's now in this big room of crowded people. And you could tell he was just uncomfortable and had nothing do with that. He's just, you know, we're nerds, we're geeks. We we don't want to be around a lot of people. That's who we are. That's our people. And so the fact that he was black was irrelevant.

He was just a nerd. And in a social environment. And he's awkward like all of us are in this culture. And so you could tell he was trying to, like, figure something out. And the only place that were like three or four seats alone was up front. And so he came up and he sat in it. And I think there were four seats empty, and he sat in the third one over.

So there was a seat between him and a white guy sitting next to him. And then he picked up and he moved over one. And then after another few minutes he picked up and he moved over one and he was looking at me like this. I'm so sorry. It's like, don't worry about it. I don't like sitting next to white people either.

And it's like, so some things you can pick on certain things about certain things like because if that was reversed, I couldn't say that it wouldn't be funny, whereas that is funny. So it also depends on a lot of that situation.

I mean, a lot of it depends on history, right? But the recent history has not been black people suppressing white people. It's it it has been the other way around. So the joke lands, Right?

Exactly. Yeah. So, and, but my, my rule still stands. The vast majority of white people laugh at that joke like a whole The whole audience at Comic-Con is almost I mean, it's 90% white. So the room had the room held, I think 600 people time. There's probably 500 people in the room at this point, and 480 of them are white.

So everyone laughed. it's it's like being self-deprecating. You could make the joke because you're white as well. Like, you know, because you're part of the group that you're picking on right?

Yeah, it is a it is you are right. That is very close to being self-deprecating. It's just self group deprecating.

It's self group deprecating. They like a black guy can make it can make that kind of joke about black people.


But a white person can't because then you're not being self-deprecating. You're being me. When a black guy does it, he's being group self-deprecating, which is funny.

But I one of my jokes about sketch comedy has always been, if you're black like Chappelle, you can have your own sketch comedy show. If you're a Hispanic, like Mencia, you can have your own sketch comedy show. If you're white, you can have a cartoon that's a sketch comedy show like South Park or Family Guy or any of the other ones out there.

But you can't actually do it. You have to do it through a cartoon. And I have fiend folly. Yeah. So I think.

I think that's a fair point to end this on with your humor. You've got a wide variety. Keep it in tone with your genre and your set up. Try and keep that tonal note of the humor. The same. It does lie in the unexpected, the set up, and then with the humorous twist and, you know, make sure that whoever you're making the joke about, they're laughing with you.


I do have one last thing to to talk about. Add to this

humor is very subjective, even more so than just what we do normally, which is 100% subjective. Subjective. So

I would love to see the world

remember that. I mean, Jimmy Carr, like him, hate him. He's a very brutal comic. He's he's a shock comic. So he says things that are I, I think he's funny.

I would never do his type of comedy. It's too close to being mean and I'm not a mean person and so I don't do it. However, he did have something on video that he released not too long ago, within the last month or two that I loved and thought was hilarious. Somebody asked him, So if you ever offend somebody with your comedy, would you ever publicly apologize for he and he said without even has they said, yes, absolutely.

100%. Matter of fact, I've already practiced what I would would do. And because he's up on stage and he's just doing audience stuff and he's like, if I ever say a joke that offends anybody immediately, that next day I'm going to come on to the news and I'm going to, you know, where my because he always wears a suit anyways, Like, I'm going to wear my best suit and I stand up in front of counter or that camera and I'm going to go, I'm so sorry.

And he said, And then of course, people would be like, Wait, you don't mean what you say. That that doesn't sound sincere. And then he said, No, I'm going to say, wait, you mean I can say something that I don't mean? Now you're getting it. And then he leaves that's what comedy is. It's it's it's you're just you're just trying to enlighten the world, to look at things differently so that we can have these tough conversations and hopefully get better.

You know, I've said this my entire life, it's really hard to kill somebody that you are different than if you're laughing together. Much easier to kill them if you are just screaming at each other. But if you're laughing together because of your differences, you know, because we have differences. And that's why, like I said, I like politically incorrect humor.

And I think we need it because it makes us who are different in a room together, laughing at our differences so that then we're like, Yeah, but it's cool because we have this thing that's weird to you and you have that thing that's weird to me and it's funny and let's go out for a drink like it's really hard to hate somebody that you laugh with.

And I really dislike that. There's been a change in that, but it's also made it your heart isn't right. It has also fueled it to become more and more popular. But that's kind of human nature. The more society says you can't do something, the more society is like really hold my beer because I'm going to go do that thing that you tell me I can't do.

So I get it, you're right. But still, the hate against it is still there. It's just fueling it to be bigger than it was before.

Yeah. Got to remember, the internet is a is a is a place of.

It's a megaphone.

I think voices that are I mean, I hear voices that say all the wrong things all the time. Right. And I mean, I know that this is not what normal people think and say and do and act. This is the Internet escalating a minority of voices. This is what it is.

So it's also it's not only a megaphone because you're 100% right on that. But there's there's another side of it that I don't think people give enough credit to. It is a connector that has never happened before. I mean, you know, I grew up in rural Louisiana and there was, you know, this white supremacist, racist dude delivered across the street, but he didn't know any other white supremacist races like he was it so he could stand on his front porch and scream all he wanted with the Internet.

When he screams, he's got buddies on the Internet to scream with them and it allows them to call. He can

meet them. He can meet them, the one of him that's in the next town and the one of him that's in the next town. And the one of them is. And now they're a group of a thousand. Yes. Instead of just a thousand random idiots that are in random cities. And that city can just ignore because they're an idiot.

Now they're they have found each other. They can conspire together and kind of churn their own ideas within each other and feed on each other. And so, yes. Right. Not only does it make those thousand voices seem like a million voices, but also it gives them the ability to actually come together when they didn't that ability in the past.

So it is two fold.

It gives them all permission to be being because they're like, well, there's other people like me, so we're fine. Really.

Yeah, because normally when you have that one guy in a small rural town that is an idiot because of society just not engaging with that person, they know instinctively that they've got to kind of tone it down if they're going to, you know, have any success in their society, have any type of friendship or any type of human companionship or any type of contact with anybody or go grocery shopping or whatever.

So, yeah, So I think it's twofold because everybody talks about how it's a micro megaphone and it is 100%, but I don't think people give it enough credit for connecting.

Also, it connecting it is also a connecting device and it does put the lunatics in touch with each other. And that also gives them this permission to act with more lunacy because they're supporting each other and then they form online mobs against each other and they're shouting at each other. And it's just.

I mean, the perfect proof of that is this crazy writer from America found this crazy writer from Finland, and they now do this crazy talk show about writing like and that was 100% because of the fault of the Internet.

It was so you could blame the Internet for this podcast. That's right. On that note, we will see you soon for another one. Bye.

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I'll go one step more if you would like to get 50% off for three months. Reach out to me. There's a million ways you can do that. You can do it through,

Any of my social media such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, X, whatever. Reach out to me. Say that you would like to check out the writer's room for 50% off and I will send you a link that will allow you to do just that.

So hopefully you're ready to start getting serious about writing and I'll see you in the writers room.

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