How To Write Funny

I’ve never managed to forget these two words uttered by the man in front of me, sitting in the same oven-hot tour van: ‘I’m freezing.’dsf

One-Sentence-Summary: With a focus on the ‘atom of comedy’ – the single, one-line joke – author Scott Dikkers, founder of The Onion, dissects the art of comedy writing into digestible tips and his 11 funny filters.

I’m currently reading How to Write Funny by Scott Dikkers. Current page: rereading

booboo real-time book rating: ★★★★★ (percentage of books with this rating: 4%)

Welcome to my book review and summary of How to Write Funny by Scott Dikkers. After reading most of this book, I returned to the beginning to re-read it in full. Writing, especially funny writing, will not be overcome by Artificial Intelligence, even a future and actually useable version of it. I judge being able to write funny, as we further get online, to be a truly powerful skill to have; one that I do not yet own.

“..readers are a rare thing. Most people don’t like to read. They’d rather do just about anything else.” (p. 26)

Intro: How To Write Funny

I purchased it to learn how to insert some form of comedy into my non-comedic writing. Then I learned this book is specifically for comedy writers. I reached the author on Instagram and he responded which was cool. Then I realized that I could, in fact, learn from this book. I could use it to make my Tweets more funny. Then I realized that actually, I could use this book for more. So I re-read it. I’m still not funny in person. But now I’m funny on paper.

Scary writing is easy. Just look at Stephen King who writes a novel over a weekend. So is sad writing. There are existing, vetted tools that will elicit fright or sadness. Blood! An alley at midnight. A child gone too early from an obscure disease, death of a beloved pet, or the breakup of a couple truly meant to be together. This is sad for everyone besides Jeffrey Dahmer.

But funny.

‘Why did you laugh?’

Ask somebody that and you’ll get the following answer: because it was funny.

Funny is complex in its simplicity.

How To Write Funny Cheatsheet

*Get yours for free here.*

After going through this funny writing cheatsheet (Subject: air pollution; Opinion: no one cares about breathing bad air), I went from: “an old leathery skin sunkissed man argues in favor of air pollution”


“the old leathery-skinned man is as addicted to air pollution as he is a sunburn”


“addicted to a sunburn” – still needs work but those four words I think are a start to a future funny joke whereas before the exercise I had nothing.

Subtext: The Secret Ingredient

There’s more conveyed than the literal words. This is called subtext. It’s what someone refers to when they say to ‘read between the lines.’

It’s what the words aren’t saying yet are still being communicated clearly to any reasonably intelligent reader.

Draw Something

Drawing a little picture to illustrate your message.

Funny Writing Tips

  1.  Concept is king.
    • The core concept you’re writing about has to be funny.
  2.  Quantity is the key wot quality.
  3.  Make it accessible (easy to find, read, understand)
  4.  Keep it short.
  6. Have something to say
    • Opinions are required. I only write when I feel passion. Often nothing for months, then three pieces in a weekend.
  7. Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable
    • the status quo, an entrenched power, or any authority, no matter how low-level
  8. d
  9. Heighten contrast (ie to its greatest possible extreme)
  10. Put the funny part last
  11. .
  12. .
  13. Put the funny part last.

The funny filters are how the writer thinly veils the subtext allowing the reader to add up two plus two to discover the hidden message. “That discovery results in a laugh. This is how all jokes work.” (p. 64)

You will find some easier to use than others. Do that. But also do try to use them all once in a while.

Funny Filter 1: Irony

What is it? extreme opposite

Example: dumb aliens

How to use it? write the polar opposite of your subtext

Funny Filter 2: Character

“I don’t get no respect at all. The other night I felt like having a drink. I said to the bartender, ‘Surprise me.’ He showed me a naked picture of my wife. – Rodney Dangerfield” (p. 73)

What it is?


How to use it?

Funny Filter 4: Hyperbole

“She’s so far she’s my two best friends.” (p. 79)

What it is? exaggeration so absurd it goes beyond the bounds of science and reason.


How to use it? exaggerate your subtext

Funny Filter 5: Wordplay

What it is? playing with words in ways beyond their standard definitions


How to use it? only with good subtext

“Anything worth saying is worth saying briefly.” (p. 36)

Funny Filter 6: Reference

What? referring to something that readers will recognize from their own lives.

example: Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster is a maniac? – George Carlin

How to use it? Come up with unique observations – everything form day-to-day life to broad issues about society, culture or life, and so so in a way that you don’t believe anyone has done before.

Funny Filter 7: Madcap

What it is? silly slapstick, inherently goofy items, non sequiters, wacky words


How to use it? make sure it serves (and even symbolizes) your subtext. It works as the ain’t thrust of a joke, but also as a garnish.

Funny Filter 8: Parody

What it is? aping another entertainment or information product, format or specific presentation


How to use it? use verisimilitude; make your parody look or sound as much like the real thing as possible

Funny Filter 9: Analogy

What is it? comparing two different things, the more different the better even up to being opposites, and finding their similarities

How to use it? Reveal one thing while keeping the other secret

Funny Filter 10: Misplaced Focus

What is it? A pretend lack of awareness of an obvious fact, brought to light by focusing on the wrong thing.

Example: When proposing a solution to the problem of poor children by eating eating them. Or, when talking about how cool smoke looks referring to the issue of whether second-hand smoke is bad (in the mid 1990’s) instead of the issue at hand.

How to use it? Think of something related to your subtext but far less important.

Funny Filter 11: Misplaced Focus

Example: if your joke doesn’t work (in standup) then you can poke fun at the audience. “Yeah, it’s strange how we humans laugh at stuff. That was funny. I like you guys. Don’t be strange and laugh at funny stuff.”

Funny Filter 12: Metahumor

“I’ve been doing stand-up comedy forever, since women comics would get stage time right before they were burned as a witch. – Jakei Kashian” (p. 115)

There is a sub genre called Antihumer who I find most interested and that is when the reader is expecting something funny, but nothing comes. The final part is very expected and ordinary or unfunnny and, thus, if done right, funny.

Great Quotes

“Lack of motivation is usually a symptom of a lack of confidence.” (p. 18)

Conclusion: How To Write Funny Summary

It’s so much easier to be a funny writer than, say, a funny friend. If you’re not that funny friend and try to be funny, the audience, or your friends, may misinterpret and, thus, not find it funny. I’ve had that happen many times.

Inside my head, I’m joking, but my facial muscles, my timing, my personality don’t add up to being funny, so it’s often misinterpreted.

Writing takes a lot of those variables away. You can be a funny writer with some practice. Just look at Scott Adams. (that’s a joke..)

Did you know I’m an author? I wrote four books on real estate investing, travel, and language learning.

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