Make Your Writing Funny: Comedy Inspirations

If you're reading this column the day it went up, Happy Thanksgiving! At least, I really hope today's Thanksgiving. It's one of the few holidays I know that won't stick to an actual date because it needs "freedom in its schedule" and "I think we should be seeing other holidays" and all that.

Anyway, this is Thanksgiving so this week's gonna be a lazy column 😉 Today I want to share with you some of my comedic inspirations. It's still relevant, though - listening to the masters is a great way to get inspired to make humor. And hey - since now you have to start worrying about Christmas, why not pick up a few of these for the comedy fan in your family?

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it's a start:

Steven Wright: "I Have A Pony" and "I Still Have A Pony"
Steven Wright is definitely not for everyone, but if you love dry, inventive comedy, he's fantastic. "I Have A Pony" has a wider sample of his work, so see if you like him by listening to this one first.

Mitch Hedberg: "Do You Believe In Gosh?"
Like Steven Wright, Mitch also used one-liner jokes, but his style was more bizarre and surreal. He passed on in 2005, unfortunately, but "Gosh" is still a great - if rough - sample of his unique humor.

Ellen Degeneres: "Here and Now"
I like how Ellen's punchlines tends to "sneak in" when you least expect it. She pretty much sounds like that friend you know who keeps rambling and you're too polite to tell them to stop. (AKA, me.) Still, there are jokes in there, and it's more structured than you think. Give her a shot if you haven't already.

Steve Martin: "Bowfinger"
A lot of you probably know Steve Martin for his "Wild And Crazy Guy" thing on SNL or "Father of the Bride". Me, I suggest you check out "Bowfinger". In that movie, he plays a director who secretly films a paranoid movie star. It is amazingly, ludicrously funny, and shows Steve at his best when he's playing zany people. His standup act ain't so bad, either.

Lewis Black: "Black on Broadway"
Lewis Black is one of my recently discovered favorites. He uses a VERY angry, ranting style that's more streamlined than you'd expect. He can get pretty vulgar, but doesn't rely on it - he's mostly focused on pointing out the truth on current events in a hilarious way. If you're more open to that kind of comedy, give 'em a listen.

So those are a few of my inspirations for getting my funny on. Give 'em a try, or look out for some of your own. Happy Holidays and happy laughing.

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Matt Willard's bio begins with witty phrasing that succinctly illustrates his stance as a humorist. It is then followed with a clever sentence that illustrates what he does in his spare time. The bio concludes with a shameless link to his Twitter profile, paired with an off-hand comment that alludes to his success with women. Laughter.

5 thoughts on “Make Your Writing Funny: Comedy Inspirations”

  1. I hated the Bowfinger movie, haven’t heard of the others, but LOVE Ellen. I’ve enjoyed watching her since her TV show was on. She does talk pretty quickly, just like an old friend who is really happy to see you. Her jokes don’t seem forced at all, so it’s a nice change when other comedians try too hard. That’s another lesson to keep in mind when we bring humour into our writing: let the jokes write themselves and flow naturally. Cliches and the predictable are not funny or cute, but off-putting.

    • That’s been one of my greatest challenges as a writer – trying to let my humor flow freely and yet still be creative. I hate cliched humor and I actively work against it.

  2. Bowfinger is a definite comedy gem – Steve Martin at his best! I love how Martin’s humor is seemingly one-note; but on further inspection, is incredibly cerebral…pleases most audiences. Excellent cast, too – Eddie Murphy on his ‘A’ game, and the always enjoyable Christine Baranski. Makes me want to pop in the DVD!

    Ellen’s understated brilliance (gotta love the seemingly never-ending convo that ends in an astute observation or punchline that is so incredibly perfect, you wonder why you’re not the one who thought of it).

    Great post!


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