Humor is a staple in entertainment. One of the easiest ways to connect with someone is to make them laugh. Dialogue can be the easiest way to infuse humor into any type of story. But how do you write funny dialogue? It’s not always as easy as one might think, and it can be even harder to come up with tips for how to do it. But I gave it my best shot!
Use Sarcasm Sparingly
I’m not a sarcastic person at all. See what I did there? Of course, you don’t. That’s because sarcasm doesn’t translate onto the page, or in this case screen, all that well. Sarcasm is conveyed almost exclusively through a person’s tone of voice and body language. These are things you just can’t capture in dialogue, so unless you point it out, the sarcasm is going to go unnoticed. And we all know explaining a joke is the fastest way to kill it.
Context is Everything
Most jokes are born of the situation they’re in. Consider the setting and emotion of the scene and whether or not they lend themselves to a comedic moment. An inherently funny situation is obviously going to make joke placement easier, but don’t disregard the dramatic moments either. See below:
Have you ever said or heard something that was so inappropriate to the situation you had to laugh? Sometimes what makes something funny is how out of place it is.
Similarly, flipping the script on a reader’s expectations can also produce humor. For example, in “Love is an Open Door” from Frozen, this little bit gets me every time:
Hans: I mean, it’s crazy—
Hans: We finish each other’s—
Hans: That’s what I was gonna say!
That was definitely not what the reader, or in this case listener, was expecting to hear there.
Borrow Existing Jokes
If you’re looking for a snappy one-liner, coming up with something completely unique can be a challenge. But it’s also unnecessary. Sometimes all it takes is repackaging a well-known joke with your character’s voice. We all do this, even in real life.
One of my other favorite forms of humor is inside jokes. In storytelling, call backs work the same way. Recalling events or dialogue from earlier in the story also gives the reader the feeling of being in the know. Similarly, recurring bits can be really amusing. Personally, I’m not a fan of catchphrases, and clumsy characters are pretty cliche these days. But if there’s something that feels organic to the character or the story that keeps popping up, it can be really funny. It might not be funny at first but, eventually, the reader will get the joke.
Infuse your own sense of humor
The ultimate goal is to go for what feels natural. Most people have some sense of humor that’s all their own, so that’s the easiest place to start. Make your characters say things you think are funny. At the very least, it’s good practice and you’ll entertain yourself. Eventually, humor will come to you more naturally.
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