Wednesday, August 05, 2009

How To Write A Funny Blog Part 3 TIMING

Your persona goes hand in hand with timing, another difficult thing to explain. More than being born funny, you are definitely born with timing. It involves word pacing and most importantly, 'beats,' or pauses. But can you write a 'beat' on the page?

A perfect example of timing comes from comedian Margaret Smith who arguably has some of the best timing in the business. One of her jokes:

A guy walked up to me in a bar and says "Can I buy you a drink?"
I said, "No, but I'll take the 7 bucks."

Now how do you put that on the page?

A guy walked up to me in a bar and says "Can I buy you a drink?"
I said, "No. But I'll take the 7 bucks."

That period is the timing. Why not the comma? We stop at a period, we read past a comma. It's a speech pattern that came with the instruction booklet they gave your parents when you were born. The good news is that it's easier to write timing into something than speak it. That's probably why there aren't that many standup comics in the world as opposed to authors.

My timing is in fragments. I think in fragments, perform in fragments and write in fragments. I start a sentence but then I stop it, sometimes in mid air. I often separate with a paragraph to approximate the beat. Sometimes it's my: (lie), Rude. or Fool. Those are some of my beats because you, the reader, have to pause out of the sentence to read that one word. It's easier for me to do this on stage because I don't have to think about it.

I write each of my posts at least three times and often up to six to try and capture what my brain is thinking. Because I hear it in my head perfectly, I take the time to replicate it on the page. Sometimes I fail and then go back and rewrite up to three months later. Demented. I know. Early readers of mine, now dead, were shocked when I admitted this. I know when it sounds perfect to me and I'm the only one I have to impress since George Clooney has a new girlfriend. Asshole.

Granted, a lot of this information comes from over 20 years of being a comedian and actor. And knowing I'm funny. Confidence goes a long way in comedy and writing. A very, very long way. If you don't think you're funny, you're probably not. And that's okay. I can give you tips to help you be humorishier or funnierishier. Or can at least give you the phone number of my shrink.

Honesty can be a problem in writing a funny blog. People sometimes can't reveal their names or their towns or where they work for legitimate reasons, like witness protection or dumbfucks in Pennsylvania. How can I get addicted to you if I know nothing about the real you and you speak in a false voice? At least put a spin on it to make it more interesting. Use the deconstructed you. I use the real me only because try Googling me, I'm all over it and would have been caught sometime. And I have nothing to hide. (lie)

And one last thing. The longer your posts, the less funny or humorous you are. I've been guilty of this myself but I write a post and do what Coco Chanel advised, Take off one thing before you go out. In this case, be brutal, cut it in half, tell the story, don't ramble and for God's sakes try and make us laugh. More on how to do that tomorrow.

Unless I o.d. on Chuckles WHICH I DON'T HAVE tonight.

Tomorrow, Tips and Tricks


  1. Gosh, your advice is so right on, makes me wish I wanted to be funny. ;-)

  2. Anonymous5:52 AM

    Thanks for the tips! I am trying to cut the length of posts down but timing ... hmmm, looks like I got a lotta work to do!

  3. can you be funny with no Chuckles??

    I have crap timing. I was the kid who alwyas offered to help with the dishes when Mum was down to the last one or two. Yep. Imagine applying that to comedy. Yeah.

    I write long posts. And long comments. And go nowhere with them. Yay.

    However - I am always myself, and what little I do to protect my identity is more for the sake of the Internet (I'd feel guilty striking all thirty of my readers blind just for posting my photo) and to make it at least a little more fun to hunt my family down and stalk us until I provide bribes of baked goods to leave us alone.

    This is a nifty series, Mizz Suzy - even if one is only funny to one's mother, it's still cool to see some of the thought, the process, of humor.

    Shade and Sweetwater,

  4. I love that line from Coco Chanel!

    And, yes - it's all in the timing. I don't let myself rewrite the old posts, but I sorely want to.

  5. Good. God. Suzy! You've spoken with me on the phone. I don't keep anything short.

    I do however see myself in many of the "don'ts". It is kind of like looking at the back of Glamour Magazine and seeing my face with a black strip over the eyes and my granny panties hanging in the wind.

  6. When you said the longer the posts the funnier it isn't, you hit the nail right on the head.

    I find my popularity goes up with shorter posts just because each and ever human has ADD.

    There is one exception:

    That was a long one, but it was broken up in a "point form" type format. Easy to read, and I've gotten almost 100,000 unique hits on it to date, and have NOT made a red cent.

    Why do I do this again?

  7. Now I don't have to just have existential angst over who the REAL me is, but also over who the REAL DECONSTRUCTED ME is. Thanks.

  8. I'm hoping you mean the sugar coated jelly candy and not my ex-husband. Cause that would be gross.

  9. I have always been a bit short on words rather than too lengthy save my last post. I'm one of the few that has to work on adding a bit more info. I'm afraid I will bore with TMI. Which I often do in spite of myself.

    Love these posts.

  10. I don't think there is anything wrong with being merely humorous. I enjoy reading quietly funny stuff. Maybe because I'm an introvert?

    I think funny is like the class clown who likes the attention and loud laughter and humorous is the wall flower in the corner chuckling to herself.


  11. -->You're right about timing. The people I find funny have good cadence and delivery of whatever they're talking about and I'm instantly compelled to Not interrupt them and listen intently then laugh my *ss off.

  12. The comment above from Jessica is from Jessica, it just didn't post so I reposted. God knows I'm no introvert.

  13. All helpful tips, Suzy. I feel like I should be paying you somehow but I don't think my husband would understand.

  14. Stop blogging about this and go get paid for teaching privately or at a theater dept. somewhere.

    I'm serious and not being a wise ass.

  15. What's Chuckles?

    Are those the jelly sugary things that stuck in your teeth like Orange Slices?

  16. The sky might fall before I figure out how to write a short blog post. You think that's bad, you should hear me talk.

  17. Time is a tough one. Great post. Thanks.

  18. Oh, crap!

    Who took your Chuckles?

  19. I agree with Ann. Your posts are great and informative. Well, a little too informative 'cuz now I feel... inadequate about my blog. But I bet you could find quite a number of people in LA who would pay to not only hear these pearls of wisdom... but to be coached on how to actually translate it into reality.

  20. Anonymous9:48 PM

    hmm. funny thread.