HowTo:Be funny

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Being funny is hard work. Some people think that humor is easy, that anybody can be funny with very little work. This is not true. To be funny there are a lot of things you must know about humor and a lot of situations you must prepare for. Think fast -- you're in line at McDonald's and the guy in front of you orders a Whopper -- what do you say? Give up? Read on, humor impaired person, and learn the secrets of being funny.

What is funny?[edit]

Humor can be broken down into five distinct categories. You should memorize these, as there will be a quiz later.


Pain is the basis for all humor. It's a simple fact that if nobody gets hurt, it isn't funny. This includes both physical and emotional pain. For example, when Tweety hits Sylvester in the foot with a mallet, and he hops screaming, stars streaming from his foot, that's funny. If Tweety hit him and Sylvester didn't hurt at all, that's not funny. If Tweety hit him and Sylvester didn't hurt, but Sylvester turned around and stomped on Tweety's wittle head, that's funny.

Ethnic jokes are funny because they cause emotional pain to members of the ethnic group they poke fun at. However, be warned that it is common practice to respond to ethnic jokes with more humor. If you tell an ethnic joke and someone punches you in the nose, don't be surprised -- they're just showing their appreciation and responding in kind.

The only exception to this rule is when the pain happens to you. When you get hurt, it's not funny. It just hurts. However, other people will find your pain amusing, so be consoled in the knowledge that even though it hurts, people are still laughing at you.

The Unexpected[edit]

When something happens that you do not expect to happen, that's funny. When an anvil falls on Wile E. Coyote, you expect him to splatter all over the place and die. When he instead gets flattened into an accordian shape, that's funny. (Also, of course, his pain is funny. See above.) It's unexpected, so it's funny.

When you tell a joke and no one laughs, that's funny because you didn't expect that to happen. So if you tell a joke and no one laughs, it is polite to laugh hysterically. Everyone else thought your joke was great, so they returned the favor by doing something funny for you too.


Lies are inherently funny. If someone behind you in line asks how long you've been waiting, and you say "forever and a day," that's funny because it's a lie.

“Oh ho ho! Is funny because he didn't wait forever and a day!”

~ The foreign guy from "Family Guy" who taught Peter about sarcasm on the previous sentence

Political jokes are popular because they're lies about liars. If a United States president is portrayed as a giant vending machine handing cash to a donkey, that's funny, because it's a lie. Probably what really happened was he gave the money to an elephant and a guy with a scythe.

Another type of "lie" that is funny is when you see something in a place where it couldn't be, or doing something that isn't possible. This type of humor is both untrue and unexpected, so it's doubly funny. For instance, if a big fat cartoon character like Elmer Fudd tiptoes behind a skinny little tree and hides, that's funny. If a skinny little cartoon character like Bugs Bunny hides behind Elmer Fudd, that's not funny.


Saying words in funny ways is funny. For instance, Sylvester the cat is funny because he talks with a lisp and spits at the letter 's'. When American people say "aluminium," that's funny. In fact, anybody with an accent that isn't like yours is funny, and you should laugh to show your appreciation.

Another type of wordplay that is funny is saying one word when you mean another. If you're with your girlfriend, and you call her "Cathy" when you meant to say "Tina," that's funny. This type of humor is often followed by humor involving pain. (See above.)


Actually, puns aren't funny.

Situational humor[edit]

Some things are only funny in certain situations, so you must be ready with your humor. For example, if someone stumbles while walking, it is funny to say, "First day on your new feet?" However, it is not funny to say this twenty minutes later, when the stumbling has been forgotten. Timing is the essence of comedy, so you should always be ready to capitalize on the current situation. Here are some common situational jokes you can use the next time the opportunity presents itself. You should memorize these and use them as often as possible to show how funny you are. Note that some situations have more than one appropriate response. You might try to alternate between the various responses to show your diversity.


Doing funny things will only get you half way to being a true funny man. How you do them is equally important. The following easy tips will help you with your "delivery," as we say in the industry.

Be Eccentric[edit]

To be funny, one must act the part. For example, if you have an office job, work 9 to 5, live in an ordinary house, have an ordinary spouse and children, eat ordinary food, and sleep ordinary hours, you will not be recognized as a funny person. When you tell a joke, everyone may snicker quietly -- and that's good, but everybody tells snicker-worthy jokes once in a while. What you need to do is establish a reputation of being a wacky character so people will be excited with anticipation of the humor you're bound to provide them. They'll key in on your every word and gesture and laugh at the slightest thing you do. Sometimes, you won't even have to be funny, and people will laugh at you.

To establish this kind of a reputation, become eccentric. In order for an eccentric trait to be funny, it must of course fit into one of the five basic humor categories, usually the "unexpected" category. Develop odd personal daily habits such as brushing your teeth during conversations with houseguests. Wear a monocle. Stand two inches from other people's faces when you talk to them. Carry salt and pepper shakers on your person and refuse to use anyone else's. Wear odd socks and short pants. Sing Gregorian chants to yourself in audible whispers. Snarl and grind your teeth together every time you say a word with a 'v' in it. Pass dollar bills to everyone on the street.

Look Funny[edit]

To be a funny person, you have to look funny. For example, the great comedians W. C. Fields and Jimmy Durante had big noses. (Technically, if you are funny, you should call it a "schnozz.") Bob Hope has a concave face. Steven Wright has mad scientist hair. Stan Laurel had a forehead taller than his waistline was wide. If you do not have an inherently funny appearance, do what you can to make it funny. Wear funny clothes. Get a funny hairdo. To illustrate the effectiveness of a funny appearance, imagine you are telling a funny joke. Now imagine you are telling a funny joke, and your chin jiggles everytime you move your lips. This is much funnier.

Get a Prop[edit]

George Burns had a cigar. Jack Benny had a violin. George Bush had Dan Quayle. The prop's contribution to how funny you are may not be obvious at first, but it is very important. Pick a prop, then carry it around with you wherever you go. Do not acknowledge the prop in any way other than its occasional use, and do not use it for any purpose other than that for which it was intended. To illustrate the effectiveness of a prop, imagine you are telling a funny joke. Now imagine you are telling a funny joke and you have a rubber glove in your hand. The added humor value should be immediately apparent.

Intrinsic Humor[edit]

Funny Words[edit]

Some things are intrinsically funny for no good reason. In Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys, Simon expounds on this strange phenomenon:

"Words with a 'k' in it are funny. Alkaseltzer is funny. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny. All with a 'k'. 'L's are not funny. 'M's are not funny. Cupcake is funny. Tomatoes is not funny. Lettuce is not funny. Cucumber's funny. Cab is funny. Cockroach is funny -- not if you get 'em, only if you say 'em."

The above quotation serves as a beginner's guideline to intrinsic humor, but one should note that this rule does not cover all cases ("hydrangea" is funny) and there are even exceptions ("linoleum" is funny).

It is very important to develop a sense of what words are inherently funny and what words are not. For example, if you go up to a total stranger and say "apple," (Mr. Miller was here and I'm gonna give u a history lesson!!) it is funny because it is unexpected. But if you go up and say "rutabaga," it gives the joke an extra boost. Some funny words to get you started:

Cacciatore. Oleo. Zwieback. Quintillion. Frump. Weasel. Chintzy. Stroganoff. Talcum. Gesundheit. Kazoo. Exsanguinate. Chinchilla. Quiche. Intrinsic. Zyzzyva. Angst. Kibitz. Aardvark.

Use these words whenever possible for maximum comic effect.

Funny Objects[edit]

There are also objects that are intrinsically funny. This is not to be confused with words that are intrinsically funny. Actual hydrangeas and rutabagas are not funny. However, there are a great many objects that are, which you may carry around for increased comic effect. These funny objects include stilts, plungers, and cows. You may want to consider using one of these objects as your signature prop (see above). Some examples of funny objects include:

Unicycles. Bellows. Cauliflower. Koosh balls. Girls' bicycles. Fish. Starfish. Three-hole punches. Snowshoes. Hacksaws. Cheese graters. Pinkies. Bell bottoms. Chopsticks. Long gray beards. Green peppers. Aardvarks.

Among the various funny objects are "interactive" funny objects, such as hand buzzers, whoopie cushions, and flower squirters. These interactive funny objects are bottomless treasure troves of hilarity -- since they're interactive, it makes your audience feel like they're "in" on the joke, and they'll consequently derive more satisfaction from the humor.


Just the same only you need to add some, 'here old chaps' and 'old boys', at the end of a statement.

Please note that en-you-endo jokes can not be used for humour, only humor.


I told you there would be a quiz. But don't worry; it's multiple choice, and since you'll be grading yourself you can just lie to everyone about your score. In many cases, there will be more than one "right" answer to the question. In that case, you should choose the most correct answer.

  1.      A stranger falls down and breaks his leg. You should:
         * (a) Call for help.
         * (b) Laugh.
         * (c) Break the other leg with a shovel.
         * (d) Pretend you're a doctor and try to set the leg.
  2.      Your best friend's mother dies. You should:
         * (a) Console your friend.
         * (b) Cry.
         * (c) Jump up and down and shout incoherently.
         * (d) Sing, "Ding dong, the witch is dead."

  3.      Someone says you're "as ugly as a dog." You should:
         * (a) Bark like a dog.
         * (b) Say, "Actually I find dogs quite attractive."
         * (c) Say, "It's because I like to beat my face with large dicks."
         * (d) Say, "So's your mother."
  4.      You are standing on a street corner when a man comes up to you and asks directions to the bus stop. You should:
         * (a) Give him correct directions.
         * (b) Stare at him wordlessly.
         * (c) Give him directions to the city hall.
         * (d) Give him directions to the music hall.
  5.      Your children are coming home from school. You should:
         * (a) Greet them at the door with a warm hug.
         * (b) Shoot them all in the face with a paintball gun.
         * (c) Pour ketchup on yourself and lay in the middle of the kitchen floor.
         * (d) Park the car around the corner, hide in the bushes, leave a note on the door saying, "I hate you, and I'm never coming back," and then when they start to cry, jump out of the bushes and say, "Booga booga booga!"


1. (a) is incorrect because it adds nothing to the humor of the situation. (b) is not the correct response either, because although this situation is admittedly funny, your goal here is to escalate the humor, not cash in on it. (c) is an appropriate humorous response because it causes pain. However, (d) is the correct answer, because pretending to be a doctor and monkeying around with the broken leg is both an untruth and a cause of pain, so it is more funny than response (c).

Special Case: If you are a doctor and answered (c) to this question, you may count your response as correct. In this case, (c) is the correct answer, because response (d) would not be an untruth and would cause much less pain.

2. (a) may feel like a good response, but if you're trying to be a funny person, it won't help you. (b) is wrong for the same reasons. (c) would seem to be an unexpected response, and in that way funny -- however, grief manifests itself differently in many people. Your attempt at humor might be mistaken for honest grieving, so your joke would be lost on your friend. (d) is the correct answer because it would cause your friend pain, would be unexpected, and referring to the mother as a "witch" could possibly be a lie.

3. All are good choices, because they are unexpected and cause pain. Remember, however, that pain is only funny when it happens to someone else, so (d), which teases the tease rather than amplifying it, is the correct choice.

4.(a) is not funny in any way. (b) is funny because it is unexpected. (c) is funny because it is an untruth. But (d) is the correct answer because not only is it a lie, but when the guy gets to the music hall he can watch the intrinsically funny orchestra conductor in action.

5. This one should be a no-brainer. (a) is obviously wrong. (b) is a good start, as is (c). (d) is a masterpiece, however. It causes pain, it's unexpected, it's an untruth, and it's wordplay because "booga" is not technically an English word.