Martin Kirkham

Contact Details

PLEASE NOTE: The mailing address, phone number, and e-mail on your ACA Connect profile are visible to you only unless you specify otherwise in your privacy settings.


How to Write a Comedy Story (Part 1)

If you are confident that writing a joke is as easy as do my essay for me, then you are greatly mistaken. If I could impart only one pearl of wisdom to the fledgling comedy writer, it would be this: Give up. There are already too many of you trying to break into the business, and I don't need the competition. Every dime you make selling your funny stories is one less piece of the pie for me. And I've got bills to pay. So just back off and leave the comedy to the professionals... I kid, of course.

See what I did there? I started this essay by pretending to be the wise comedy mentor. And then I became verbally abusive, trying to bully you into giving up on your dreams. This is a classic comedy technique known as the "Ol' Switcheroo". You probably didn't even see it coming, did you? You've already learned a little something, and we haven't even gotten warmed up!

Writing a comedy requires more than gumption, hard work, and a devastating wit. You have to learn the formulas that have been passed down by generations of comedy writers. Once you've mastered the art form - and it is an art form - you'll be on your way to a successful career in comedy, making dozens of dollars for your efforts! I hope you realize that it is possible not only to write essays for money but also jokes.

Defying Expectations

One of the best tools in your comedy arsenal is the element of surprise. Your joke begins in a certain way, appearing to follow a conventional plot arc. But then, at the last possible moment, you pull the rug out from under your reader, taking the story in a completely different direction. This technique would torment a reader for months afterward if you do everything correctly. It's what we in the biz call the "slow burn" effect. He'll think about the joke and wonder if he really liked it as much as he thought. Your reader will soon become obsessed with the joke. He'll worry that his inability to find the humor in it points to some personality flaw. Maybe he's just not smart enough, or his sense of humor is lacking in some way. He'll repeat the joke to his friends and ask, "Can you tell me what's so funny about this?" Soon, the joke will invade his dreams, and he will begin his long descent into madness.

Unnecessary Cruelty

Comedy, as in life, is only funny when bad things are happening to other people. And I'm not talking about emotional abuse, either. I mean physical violence of the most horrifying kind. But the real trick in writing comedy filled with random acts of brutality is giving it a context. If you've done your job well, a reader will sympathize with your characters. Why do these characters deserve such punishment? Who did they sass? Will they prevail in the end? And what does all this meaningless violence teach us about them - and the human condition in general?


Understanding the difference between parody and satire can be especially difficult for young writers. Let's examine the nuts and bolts of these comedy constructs more closely.

A "parody" takes an existing person or idea and mimics its characteristics - often to the point of absurdity. By contrast, "satire" invents a fictitious situation to ridicule a public person or idea, sometimes directly commenting on its flaws...

End of Part 1

Useful Resources:

Expository Writing Rules
Using Comparison Mode to Enliven Your Writing
How to Become a More Effective Writer
Want to Write a Book? You'd Better Start Now
How to Find a Publisher for Your Book (Part 1)