Today I am blogging from gorgeous Springfield Massachucettes while attending the NE SCBWI conference. Later today, I’ll be doing a presentation on writing humor. In preparing for this, I asked some very talented writers of humor for children where they find inspiration. I thought I’d share their answers with all of you because everyone loves to laugh, even if you don’t love to write. Check out these funny books, TV shows, authors, and movies next time you need a chuckle! (And if you do love to write, scroll down to the bottom of the screen to see details about the Funny Prize offered by Greenhouse Literary!)
Where do authors find inspiration for humor?????
Robin Mellom: Modern Family, Parks & Recreation, Awkward, and any movie by John Hughes.
Martha Brockenbrough: When I was a kid, I loved Steve Martin’s comedy routines and movies. In high school, I loved “The Princess Bride.” Christopher Guest movies crack me up. I think George Takei is a genius. Joss Whedon also writes incredibly sharp, character-driven humor.
Colleen Clayton: Some of the books that I can read over and over purely because they make me laugh are A Confederacy of Dunces by John KennedyToole and then anything by Jean Shepherd, Garrison Keillor, and Dave Sedaris. I recently read Bossypants by Tina Fey and was in tears from laughing. I love crass humor…movies like Bridesmaids and The Other Guys andTV shows like Shameless and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s really, really hard to offend me. I’ll go along with just about anything as long as it’s written and/or performed well.
Joanne Levy: I adore great comedic actors like Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Tina Fey, Christine Baranski who illustrate how to bring characters to life. They are multi-talented at playing straight roles, but can pull out the funny in such an effortless way, that I’m in awe of their talents. Incidentally, three of these actors are in Bowfinger, one of my favorite movies of all time.
The funniest book I’ve ever read was Christopher Moore’s LAMB. It taught me that a very serious (and controversial) topic can be handled with wonderful (and even sometimes ridiculous) humor respectfully and without diminishing the seriousness of the subject matter. This was a light bulb moment for me and made me realize that humor could play a big role in serious writing and wouldn’t make the work of any less value.
Lizzy Foley: Internet news/blogs. There are some wonderful writers who can report on the realities world while making snarky observations at the same time. It’s not unlike what The Daily Show or The Colbert Report does on television, except for the fact that the entire joke is in written form and can’t use comedic delivery as a crutch.
Kimberly Sabatini: I am a huge fan of dry humor. One of my favorite humorous books is A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson. Because this book is so stinkin’ funny, it is the book I’ve reread the most. I’m also a big fan of a well-done mix of humor and emotional gut punches. I think Gary Paulsen captured this perfectly with HARRIS AND ME. And THE WEDNESDAY WARS and OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt blow me away.
Kami Kinard: Funny Children’s Books: Captain Underpants, The Origami Yoda books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I love Carl Hiassen’s adult novels. I’m still a big fan of M*A*S*H, Keeping Up Appearances, Boston Legal (it really was funny), Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and Joel Stein’s irreverent columns in TIME.
The Greenhouse Literary Funny Prize: Greenhouse Literary Agency does not see enough funny manuscripts, so last year they started a contest to encourage more humorous submissions. The winner of the contest ended up with a four book deal… that’s a good sign! Go to their website for full details, but if you want to know what they’re looking for, here’s a description:
“Our judging criteria is very simple. Funny, and we are wide open to all ages. The winner may be a picture book like OLIVIA or DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS, or a young series à la HORRID HENRY, FLAT STANLEY, THE GREAT HAMSTER MASSACRE or UNDEAD PETS, or for 8-12 year olds like Lemony Snicket or M.T. Anderson’s WHALES ON STILTS. It could even be for teen readers, like Adam Rex’s COLD CEREAL series, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, or THE PRINCESS DIARIES. It’s going to be the person with funny in their DNA. Perhaps the winner will have a slow-burning, sly wit. Perhaps a Python-esque sense of the absurd, or zany as Tina Fey’s 30 ROCK. Or maybe the concept, the freshness and fun, will pull us in.”
Finally, if you are a writer looking to hone your humor skills, you might check out one of these books. Comedy Writing Secrets focuses on techniques and includes a lot of tips for stand-up comedy. How to Write Funny includes essays from famous humor writers like Dave Barry. Click on the books to link to purchasing info!
If you attended the Humor Cells workshop, check back here next week for a synopsis of the workshop content and “Advice from the Pros.”