Humor Writing: Not Just Something to Laugh at

Kate Horan:

Most everyone loves to laugh. Sharing jokes is not only fun but allows people to connect through shared aspects of humor and humanity. The Grizzly’s love for jokes can be seen in our previous issue, a satirical issue titled The Goofly. Expanding upon the importance of humor and educating students, Dr. Talia Argondezzi is currently teaching ENCW-216 – Humor Writing. ENCW-216 is the blanket number for special fiction writing topics and the class’s title changes each semester as the topic changes. According to Argondezzi, “Humor writing is synonymous with comedy writing – any writing whose main purpose is to make others laugh, even if it also has additional purposes of elucidating something about the human experience or critiquing a social problem.” This class focuses especially on what might be considered “pure” humor writing – short satire.

Argondezzi asserts that the most important aspect of humor is originality, due to the fact that all comedy relies on surprise to elicit laughter. She states that it is helpful to see what themes and jokes are already circulating so that people can find a place for their own original ideas, which is why the class spends a good amount of time reading and analyzing contemporary humor.

Giving us the inside scoop on humor writing, Argondezzi lets us know that “there are a few comedy secrets that are easy to pick up once you know them. The rule of three, for example: establish a list where the first two elements are conventional and expected, and the third is the joke, which disrupts the rhythm or expectations established by the first two.” She suggests usually placing jokes at the ends of sentences and paragraphs and, “hard consonant sounds almost always land more hilariously than soft ones, and the hard /k/ sound is the funniest. I know it doesn’t seem possible, but I promise it’s true – some words have an inherently funnier sound than others!”

It is commonly believed that comedy is related to happiness, but it is so much more than that. Argondezzi finds humor to be very important to her as a coping mechanism. She explains, “Most of the best comedy I’ve written has been inspired by an emotion usually considered negative: anxiety about aging, fear of death, frustration at a current event or social problem.” With her Humor Writing class helping her, Argondezzi wrote a recent piece that was inspired by her anger at an aggressive driver on the road. Although some people assume that the purpose of humor is to deflect serious topics, Argondezzi sees it differently. “At its best, comedy gives us a way to spend a little extra time with bad feelings, but in a way that diffuses them and makes them harmless, and helps us to realize that bad feelings are not only normal, but can even offer us an insightful way to understand our world,” says Argondezzi.

Through the Humor Writing class, Argondezzi has shared with her students a different approach to life. “A college education is or should be about learning how to be a more complex and reflective person, and I can think of no more important intellectual and emotional habit than the ability to understand the human experience, including its darker sides, from a secure and positive position. Humor can do that for us,” explains Argondezzi. However, when discussing why she enjoys teaching humor writing, this is the fancy answer. The other thing that Argondezzi enjoys about teaching humor writing is the students.

Argondezzi describes her Humor Writing students as smart, funny, and generous, with Argondezzi and her students all working together to become better writers. “They crack each other up each class. One of the concepts we’ve discussed a lot is that no one ever runs out of jokes; the more funny ideas you generate, the more new ones you get. So, I encourage everyone never to ‘save’ a joke for a future piece, and never to hesitate to ‘waste’ a joke by suggesting it to someone else to use in their piece,” states Argondezzi. She describes how the students are very attentive to each other’s ideas and love to offer each other new angles to take and new jokes to use. Argondezzi enjoys teaching Humor Writing as “it’s such a fun class to experience, because of what the students bring.”

Argondezzi has demonstrated that humor is not just something to laugh at, rather, it is also an approach to life. Humor allows us to understand complex emotions and the human experience, further allowing humans to connect to one another on a deeper level. Humor can be funny and can make important statements through a comedic medium, but additionally it brings people together, whether it be bringing people together through the joke itself or through the creation of jokes such as in the Humor Writing class.