Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Aug 192015

In addition to horror and fantasy, I like to write humor. My novella The Accidental Zombie is a zombie comedy, I’ve recently begun work on a romantic comedy visual novel, and much of my fanfiction leans toward comedy.

Paul Lynde can be sarcastic without saying a word.

Unless you’re Paul Lynde.
Paul Lynde can be sarcastic without saying a word.

Writing humor comes with unique challenges (as all genres do). Different types of humor are more easily achieved than others. For example, it’s very hard to convey sarcasm if you can’t hear the person’s tone of voice.

Slapstick is also difficult to show through prose. It’s possible, and a couple of the situations I portrayed in The Accidental Zombie veer into slapstick territory, but it just doesn’t achieve the same effect.

As far as I’m concerned, Terry Pratchett is the master of comedic prose. If I can achieve even a fraction of Terry Pratchett’s humor, I’ll be satisfied. Right behind him is Lemony Snicket.

When it comes to video games, Ace Attorney is at the top of my list.

But oddly enough for a writer and gamer who rarely mentions TV, some of my greatest comedy inspirations are TV shows. Old TV comedies, like Hogan’s Heroes and Green Acres. All different types of humor come together, often in truly absurd ways, to inspire me. These inspirations drift throughout my humorous stories as surely as Silent Hill and H.P. Lovecraft haunt my horror.

I hope those samples entertained you and gave you a little more insight into my comedy inspirations. There are many more than these, of course. They help the most, not in showing specific situations or techniques, but in giving me a general sense for how ridiculous situations can spiral into greater absurdity.

The Green Acres clip, for example, could have left the joke at Lisa trying to pronounce pH. Instead, it took it a step further by having Mr. Haney pronounce it the same way, and then had Mr. Kimball claim it as an official technical term. That’s just how Green Acres is. It can achieve heights of surreal absurdity that work just because… it’s Green Acres.

In the Hogan’s Heroes clip, on the other hand, Hogan and his men pull off an elaborate stunt only made possible because neither Schultz nor Klink (and later on, Burkhalter and the supply officer) will admit they don’t know what a “gonculator” is. That layers the humor with irony–it’s funny to watch them talk about this object as though they know what it is, and funnier because the audience knows there’s no such thing at all.

Humor can be handled in a variety of ways, and I’ve tried to incorporate multiple styles into my own writing. What are some of your favorite comedies and styles of humor?

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  19 Responses to “The Challenge of Writing Comedy”

  1. Well, you know I’m a big Seinfeld fan. That’s probably my biggest television inspiration.

    Ace Attorney being my any-media-format biggest inspiration for my style.

    (By the way me writing about TVii on the same day you wrote about your comedy television experiences is a coincidence.)

  2. Well I was trying to put the music video in the “url” box.

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