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How to Write Funny (By mixing humor into your writing)


Neville

How to write funnyIf you're trying to make an article funny, and the only tactics you have are inserting emoji's or lame recycled gifs, then here's some fantastic tips for you to inject some humor into your article!

Read on!

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Tip #1.) You do not have to be funny to be a great writer!

Trying too hard to be liked and funnyUghh this dude is trying way to hard to be cool and funny, and it isn't working :-/An article can be great WITHOUT it being funny, so don't try too hard or it sounds cheesy or cringey.If you try too hard to be funny, it often ends up NOT FUNNY.If you're a boring accountant that loves writing about accounting, then by all means write boring!Other boring accountants will read your writing also! (Only 14 accountants were harmed in the making of this joke).Did you see how I made that piece of advice funnier with a one-liner??Which brings us to the next point...

Tip #2.) Inject "Quick and Punchy" humor!

Injecting humor syringeWe want to inject humor into our writing........but we don't want THE WHOLE THING to be one big laugh factory. The end goal of our copy is to sell product, not to be funny! This means we can slap in some funny burns.This means we can slap in some sweet zingers.All of these things require between 1 word, and 1 sentence to accomplish. This brings us to our next point...

Tip #3.) Don't spend time "setting up" a joke.

Setting up a joke with building blocksWhen trying to hire writers for AppSumo, we encountered tons of people who spent 3 to 5 paragraphs setting up jokes. Yeesh.You'd be reading a damn email for a full minute and not know WHAT WAS BEING SOLD.This is comedy overkill.Avoid making elaborate analogies.Avoid taking more than 1 or 2 sentences to make something "funny."Avoid making long, winding, and "clever" jokes that are complex.Once again, the point of writing copy is to sell something or get a point across, not show off how clever of a comedian you are.Selling or educating is our #1 priority, being funny is just a bonus!

Tip #4.) Re-imagine things as being totally ridiculous:

deep-thinkingIf you're always selling something, that same old pitch can get boring, so why not sex it up a bit??For example:See how in just 1 sentence we made this sound so much more lively!?Here's another example from The Hustle, about a promotion giving away free merchandise:

Tip #5.) Use funny words, even if they are made up!

I'm sure the grammar police will hate this tip, but just because something isn't in the dictionary doesn't mean you can't use it! So long as a word gets a message across, it was successful. Here's words that aren't correctly spelled or even real, but they successfully convey a message:

That guy is a total wantrepreneurHello my loyal Sumo-lingsWhat the F-Heck??His breath was super funky munkyShe's a total regifterI'm greedy and I love smackaroosHe's a mimboThere was significant shrinkageWhat up brokowski

You get 100 Bonus Points if you caught the 3 Seinfeld references ;-)

Tip #6.) Make a great pun!

Puns are amazing. I dogsat this dog named Sid over the weekend, and spent half the time making puns out of him:sid-pun1.jpg sid-pun22.jpg sid-pun3.jpg sid-pun4.jpg sid-pun5.jpgPuns are super easy to come up with, and almost always get a small laugh. Use this Pun Generator if you need help coming up with something punny!

Tip #7.) Use Fun(ny) images!

If you've ever read KopywritingKourse, you know the images look like a 3 year old drew pictures on his dad's iPad.For example, on this copywriter salaries post we could've put a standard stock image kind of like this to start the post:

Normal Photo: 

copy-salary-normal-1024x503.png
Instead we decided to make it a little more outlandish so it stands out amongst the sea of other posts:

Fun Photo:

Copywriter Salaries

Tip #8.) Only write when your brain is feeling playful!

Drinking caffeineLike this dude above, your brain feels playful after having lots of caffeine.....and when your brain is feeling funny and playful, it will output funny and playful writing!There's a lot of other times writers frequently have a "Funny and Playful" mind: 

While having a refreshing beverage!Writers block drink beer

 

After meditating or clearing your mind!Writers block calm

 

While jamming out to some tunes!ear plugs blocking radio waves

 

After working out!Writers block physically alter your state pushups and music

 

While taking the dog for a walk!bobby-running.png

 

After taking a refreshing shower!Take A Shower

It's in these moments when your brain is playful, and therefore has a better chance of outputting humorous copy!

Tip #9.) Bitch Ass Whiny Losers will complain 100% of the time.

Yelling at customer service whiny BAWLIf you start writing to a large audience, there is a 100% chance you will get some BAWL's that just love to complain.Especially when you get to the level of regularly broadcasting to 100,000+ people, even tiny amounts of crazy people start to add up.

100,000 people1% of 100,000 = 1,000 crazy people0.1% of 100,000 = 100 BAWL's

This can mean if you're sending a GREAT email to 100,000 people, you might get 100 people mad about SOMETHING for no real reason. Imagine getting ONE HUNDRED negative emails. It can feel like EVERYONE hates you. But when you're sending out to a massive number of people, it might only mean 0.1% of people are actually upset. This means 99.9% of people didn't fire off an angry email! 

Bitch Ass Whiny Loser feedback you should ignore:

HEY FUCK U ASHOLE U FCKN SUCK DIKI H8TE YOU GO DIE
This is just dumb, and is to be ignored. You must learn to develop a thick skin to stupid anonymous comments. 

Normal Person feedback you should take to heart:

Hey there, I know your emails are frequently crude and funny, and I love them! But I noticed you wrote "he throws like a girl" in your latest email and used it as an insult.I don't want to be a total prude, but I've seen people at the company I work for get fired for remarks like that.Normally I laugh at all your jokes, but definitely cringed when I read that, as it sounds very old fashioned in a bad way.I hope you understand.Sincerely,Normal Person
That was a very level-headed and constructive criticism I got many years ago, and and took it to heart. Times were changing and it was no longer cool to use something like that as an insult.I don't particularly care if a joke is a little offensive, but I DO care if the joke isn't funny at all! And there are topics which are no longer that funny, and need to get phased out when writing for a large audience.

Things to avoid writing as jokes:

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Try not to make jokes about hard drugs.Example: "We just snorted a bunch of blow and decided it'd be a GREAT IDEA to give away a free subscription!"Why: I learned over the years that drugs have destroyed many relationships and families, and is generally not a pleasant joking matter for many people. I also got A LOT of constructive criticism from a generation or two above me that drug jokes completely turn them off. I've had enough of these conversations to think this is. 

Try not to make jokes about medical conditions.

Example: "That marketing advice is so old it's already gone into menopause."Why: Obviously joking about things such as cancer brings up some pretty negative emotions for a large enough amount of people. 

Try not to use other language references.

Example: "This deal is muy caliente!!" (Many international readers won't understand the Spanish reference).Why: I grew up in Texas, and everyone can understand some basic levels of Spanish, but to someone who lives in Sweden for example, they likely won't know what the heck you're saying.It's like the Swedish person making a joke: "This deal is rykande het!!"Most of us would have no idea what that means.

Some Examples of Funny Writing:

Here's some quick examples you can reference when showing people how to write funny.
 

How to Scam People Article:

scam-post-writing-funny-example
Why it's good: This is another article that gives brazenly bad advice, but in the purpose of delivering good advice. The article seems like it genuinely wants to scam people, but inserts humor through the over-the-top images and advice. [View Article] 

"Churn Down For What" Subject Line:

churn down for what appsumo email
Why it's good: Talking about churn in a SaaS business is hella boring. AppSumo livened it up by making a pun out of the song "Turn Down For What!" Hilarious! [View Article] 

How to Become A Life Coach Article:

writing-funny-life-coach
Why it's good: This is a satirical piece that's written in an "Evil Neville" tone where obviously terrible advice is given. However in the end it turns out the article gives good advice. It's not just funny for funny's sake. [View Article] 

The Hustle "Four Loko" Email:

the hustle four loko funny email
Why it's good: Instead of simply saying "We're giving away some T-shirts" this email added in some quick-and-punchy humor with the Four Loko reference. This is a great example of injecting humor into an email without taking up too much space. [View Article]

Writing Funny Tips & Cheat Sheet:

triple-threat-neville.pngNeville Signature 

P.S. What are you best tips on being funny? Or what publications have funny writing?

I will send the top three commenters a whoopi cushion 😛

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Recommended Comments



Guest Reese

Posted

This post is so "rykande het" Nev!

That's a great reminder to keep multilingual jokes out of large audience sends. Thank you.

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Guest Dave Mac

Posted

Great post, Nev!

After a rough day it was so good to enjoy the read. Thanks a bunch!

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This is not the "usual" copywriting advices ..

It has so much input..

presented in such a fun way

Thanks for making me laugh ,Neville!

Glad to be a follower your blog

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Guest Thomas

Posted

Solid article, useful advice and tactics. It is just like Jultomten arrived!
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Guest Michael

Posted

Hey Nev,

Great post as always! Long time reader first time poster...

My best tip for writing funny is to include something self-deprecating as it

applies to the subject I'm writing about. From my experience, it's the best way to

establish trust from the reader because it shows you're vulnerable without

revealing too much personal info.

For example, I'm a GenX Male transitioning into the 2nd half of life so referring

to things like baldness can be turned into multiple funny lines.

Solar panel for a sex machine, the newly formed cul-de-sac on my head,

I'm out of fertilizer etc.

Just my two bits...

Cheers!

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Guest Andrew Parker

Posted

Hey Neville - great post! Completely agree with your point on not setting up a joke...adds unwanted fluff to the copy and get's readers away from the goal of the eDM.

Also, to your point about making up words - I've begun to use the word "automagically" anytime I need to say automatically.

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Guest Alison Tugwell

Posted

Holy shit the pun generator. Giving me so much joy this AM as I write punchy web copy;)

I love Tim Urban / Wait but Why’s humor, Ash Ambirge of TMFproject.

Brands will use Twitter to showcase their sassiest selves. @Wendys is my favorite!

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Guest Gerard Dawson

Posted

This is an awesome post, Neville. Thanks for it.

One of the other types of humor I like is "dry humor" or "absurd humor."

One of my favorite writers ( not a copywriter ), David Foster Wallace does it. In one of his books, America has become so corporate, that even the *years* are now sponsored. So it's like...

1987 = Year of the Depend Adult Under Garment

2012 = Year of the Dove Trial-Sized Chocolate Bar

2018 = Year of Glad

Etc etc - It's so absurd, but he never acknowledges that it *should* be funny, which makes it funnier.

Perhaps long-winded, but wanted to share.

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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Bahahaha, glad I (and Sid) could provide one for ya Greg :-)
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Guest Jonathan R. Drake

Posted

Funny is good but funny with great content/depth is valuable and has a chance to get a second laugh.

Consistently being funny is also something that brings a framework to be ready to laugh.

The getting coffee with Seinfeld it is clear that many of the top comedians will get laughs because of who they are but the greats do not rely on that but continue to be consistent.

Your drawings are similar to that. At first they did not feel right to me but they have grown on me as they are simple and now it is fun to see how you are going to incorporate them into things (the shower one above as an example with the censor)

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Guest chris

Posted

Thanks for the tips. I loved your book too.

I will test-drive the pun generator and see if it'll help me get pole position with my audience. No really, I have to work it, right? No, wait... Coffee. I need more coffee.

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Guest Gayle Lynch

Posted

What publication has funny writing?

Hands down--The Onion!

I have laughed myself sick with their magazine and their books!

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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Bahahaha yes! The Onion is such a classic, I remember even reading the print version back in the day and people “not in the know” would be so confused :)
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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Coffee and puns are the best way to start off everyday :)
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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Yes, I’m a huge proponent of FIRST creating a great piece of content, and humor is a little bonus add-on, but not the main show.

Also the drawings are done that way simply because I just suck at drawings....but since they are simple, they can convey a message very quickly, often better than text!

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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Is this really “The Year or Glad” ??

I had no idea :)

Will immediately go wash my hands with only Glad products :)

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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Bahahaha, glad you have discovered the power of puns :-)

Those are all great examples, although don't think I've seen that Middle Finer Project before, very unique presentation of content!

Thank you Alison!

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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Thanks Andrew! I'm sure you have definitely seen some of your writers spend 1+ paragraphs just setting up a joke and thinking, "Wait....what are they talking about right now?"

Quick & Punchy humor is key :)

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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Thanks Reese, looking forward to putting out more post for ya that are hella rykande het!!
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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Glad you enjoyed it Dave! Sid sent you a sympathy card:

sorry-you-had-a-ruff-day-dog.jpg

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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Thanks Ky, I try to mix advice with humor best I can :)
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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Bahahaha, I laughed when I finally Google'd the reference 😂
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Guest Neville Medhora

Posted

Oh yeah, great resource to learn from. They have been consistently funny for decades :)
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