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350: Book launch party: How to write funny - a chat with The Onion's founding editor

Christoph Trappe: Business Storytelling Podcast

32:02 min | Last month

350: Book launch party: How to write funny - a chat with The Onion's founding editor

"This is the business storytelling podcast with christopher tra- available on google spotify apple and dora and other podcast channels. Want to play it on your iphone. Just ask siri to play the kristoff trap business storytelling podcast also available on alexa. Here's kristoff today's episode. Hey business storyteller. How's everyone doing. Thanks for tuning in and livestream. Here of the business storytelling podcasts. I don't know what episode three hundred fifty something like that. The podcast version by the way of this show will run right before april fool's day and i have something special planned for you all for april fool's day you don't wanna miss it. I'm to try some funny writing. We will see last year. It was pretty popular. I wrote about the neighborhood. Marketing committee spending one point. Five million dollars in billable hours to sell the free desk on the curb so we will see if i can tap that this year by the way. There's a new feature. If you wanna call leave a voicemail. I'm happy to include that on future shows or you can ask questions about this show and we'll try to listen to them. We might not be able to play them. But of course you can also just common all the different channels real shoutout will still live streaming with switzer studios which was studio dot com trap. One gets you the first month off. So i really would recommend that you try them. I could not produce the show quite frankly without their help so today we want to talk about. How do we write funny or writing. Funny quite frankly is is hard to do so. I asked one of the experts to come on the show. Scott dickers- He's the founding editor of the onion has written a number of books. You can see them in the bottom there in the amazon carousel how to write funny how to write funny characters in. I know some of y'all are so steffi with your writing. I know friends here. So i can say like that and metoo same here. So let's get scott on the show. See what he can teach us and tell us about his latest book and we'll go from there scott. How's it going today. Great hurry krista. Thanks for having me living the dream so to speak. I just got figure out who's agreements. Well hopefully it's yours meals of. Hopefully it is but thanks really. I'm really happy to have you on the show. And i ran across your book how to write funny cactus. I don't even know where i ran across. Maybe came up as a recommendation or somebody tweeted about it. But either way i ran across it and i thought hey i got a steve. Scott can come on the show and these book launch parties. I think people really enjoy them. We didn't want last week with shortly and so tell us about the latest book what what prompted it. And what can people take from it. Yeah thanks for asking so debuted. Yesterday how to write funny characters is a book. People have been asking for me for a long time. Because i wrote the first book in this series how to write funny along time ago seven years ago now and i just kind of dropped on on amazon. I didn't do it through. Traditional publisher did it on my own. Didn't really expect much and it's just kept selling. It sells more and more every month. It seems a lot of people really want to crack the secret for how to write comedy. And that's what that book was. It was my attempt to take everything. I learned writing comedy professionally for thirty years and i felt like i really had a down to a science but i hadn't ever seen a book spell it out. How do you compose a professional joke. How do you make people laugh with writing so i it was my first nonfiction book. Where spelled out. I just did a big brain dump. Here's how you do it. Here are the tricks of the trade. Here's how the pros do it. And there was a section in there on character but it was only like two or three pages long and everybody wanted more like wait a minute. How does that work. What are archetypes. What are What's the fish out of water. What what are you talking about. And so there are like set archetypes that people use they use them in comedy but they also use them in business. I took this course a longtime ago from a marketing guy. Dan kennedy and he was talking about different characters. And if you know your archetype it helps you communicate to the people that you're trying to reach the people who already in your tribe in a way that really connects with them and that's important like in a comedy movie. It's important because they're trying to make you laugh. They want you to buy tickets and get your they need to deliver on what you're paying for but in a business context like you know you might need to sell something you might need to keep customer happy. Or whatever the case so. This is a trick that professionals have been using professional entertainer entertainers for generations and are certain types of characters that really work with audiences and certain kinds that don't and a lot of times people sit down to write this stuff and they're reinventing the wheel. They're like okay. Where do i start. What should i do. The moderate characters book gives you the template and how to to pick a character that already works go through some simple techniques for making it unique because that's critical. You can't have a hacky character that we've all seen before so you do have to go with these known archetypes that known to work but you have to give it a little bit of a spin so that it comes up is being completely original. So that's the what the book is all about. That's where it came from so very interesting and of course there's like forty different types in you know just looking through your book How how do. I even go about learning about those different types. Or how do i start. You know so. So i'll be quite open about it as i always am. When i did every time. I read anything that is posed to be. Funny it's a lot harder for me to do then just writing that informational article right. I mean and that for decades. I just like i don't say it's second nature. Writing is still. I don't know one of the most physically draining things out there without having to get up. But so where do i even start to kind of wrap my head around those forty different types and to write funnier copy when it's relevant right so my first book kind of starts you at the beginning. Like how do you write comedy and it walks you through how to get your brain in the right shape that you need to be in to sit down comedy so it's not hard so it's easy so it just kind of flows out of you. A lot of people don't have that. I'll give you a couple of really specific tips to start off with. There's an exercise called the morning pages that i recommend everyone do you just right for a half an hour every morning and you don't think about what you're right go back and change anything. Don't fix typos. And you don't judge anything you right but you just right for half an hour and it's kind of like priming the pump and it gets you in sort of creative space and you need to do that for a few days to really get in a place where you're comfortable writing. And it doesn't feel like hard work could just sort of naturally flows but then when it comes to doing comedy you mentioned it perfectly christoph like you start with something to say you wanna have a message. Every writer should have something to say but to say with humor. Don't want minnows because it's not going to be funny. What you need to do is routed through one of these. What i call funny filters and there's eleven of ms of in different ways to make your opinion through one of these eleven. Thinks it's gonna come out the other end funny and so i explain. How do that in my first book how to write funny. And so if you're that's how you start that's kind of fundamental if you're at the point where you recognize that you are a character or you're writing for a character like if your brand is a character if it's an archetype then that's pretty simple. You go through this list of the forty and you identify which one you are. Because you'll know you'll re this is the archetype that i'm tapping in order to reach people who i want to reach. And then my book sort of gives the best practices for how to maximize that character and how to make sure that you're always coming across properly as that character. You don't confuse people. The worst thing you can do to an audience's confuse them because then they're not going to be laughing. You need to be very clear about who your character is and always behaving in the way that people expect given what your character traits are very very interesting so when we talk about i mean i wanna say fiction right but but but it is in your face you know. We all have a public face. Yeah that's not. how real us or whatever you know. Yeah well. But i am as authentic as i am on online as i am when i turned things off but i don't know i know that's not you know. Of course we always trying to show our better self. Even though i know if you guys have noticed but livestream myself working now at forty three hundred people this morning which. I don't know why you guys are watching. But i'm just sitting here working of a white shadow of me. You know at my desk in all my equipment but so how can brands. How can they use. What's in your book. So for example. I mean you know you talk about the nine most common character mistakes avoid these pitfalls that will make your character boring for example. What can other brands take from the ads as they're trying to be Let's say funnier or at least more interesting. Yeah i think they can. They can take a lot. I think the first step is you need to identify what character archetype. Your brand voice is and if you go through the list of forty you're probably gonna find it and it might be hybrid too. That's very common in comedy. You can have like the every man nayef or the note all jerk you know. There are all sorts of hybrid. That work really well and so being able to identify what archetype is and no it is gonna be step one and then as far as you know knowing what mistakes while like. I said there's nine and these are based on entertainment mistakes but i think they totally apply to business end of the day. It's all communication and when you're doing social media posts as or you're putting out any kind of content or anything it's entertainment you know whether you want it to be her not infotainment. Perhaps at the at the worst. So it's only going to help you to be more entertaining and to learn how to integrate exposition for example. You know some of the best brands do this. Like i look at the twitter feeds of wendy's for example like one of the better twitter feeds of any brand. I've seen super funny Super edgy and they really get who they are get their archetype and they obviously have professional comedy writers doing that social media so i guess my work is. I'm trying to write the how to so that anybody. You don't have to be comedy professional. Anybody can learn a few simple tools and play in the in the same league absolutely so of course as you guys know i got eight thousand things i'm going on here i people commenting on lengthen. I'm wondering if amazon is working. I think it's working. I can't get it to work but it seems to be working also kelly robbie not kelly sorry robbie if you still watching. Robbie kelman baxter. Just bought scott's new book for my kindle. I need the funny filters so that's awesome already. Sold at least one book here on the book launch party over lunch on day two. I hope he didn't buy the wrong. Book is a funny filters are all listed in the first book in the series how to write fund so robert. If you still listening make sure you get the other one. I think that that's the other. One is outright funny correct. Yeah that's the book. One of the series and that has that explains the eleven five filters the hotter funny characters is an expansion on just one of the funny filters filter. So i will. If since she's watching on linked and ravi you might not have gotten the right book. But i will share the link to the other book in a little bit here. It is currently listed on the amazon carousel. I put them all in there A new book Just debuted so. It's on sale up on amazon kindle version for ninety nine cents today only. Yep that's what it's showing on here as well so as i'm thinking about writing funny so obviously you know. There's some so april fool. Day is a day when we can all right funny to an extent some publications. It's you know it's pretty easy to write funny but some brands. I'm sure they're already adding me here on twitter and wherever and they're telling me oh we can't do you know we can't do funny but everybody can do funny right which is win. Yeah and so. That's one of the tricks of using the eleven filters some of them. You're not going to be able to use. You're not gonna wanna use shock. That's one of the funny filters probably you're not gonna wanna use irony because that often requires you to say something that sounds completely wrong and will deter customers but you can certainly use the reference funny filter. The word play funny filter. There's so many meta humor is a wonderful one that almost anybody can use that are very appropriate workplace appropriate jokes or Voice appropriate Types of humor that anybody would be well served to incorporate in their communication and. I'm glad you mentioned that. Because that's probably the the one pushback. I get whole. I am from people. We be funny. I actually think. Sometimes when i try to be funny. What if somebody doesn't get it or what if somebody doesn't like i mean. How does the book help people you know. Get across that fear. It's always a danger. The way i deal with that same way that any professional comedy writer or performer deals with that. It's a volume game so comedy is not brain surgery. It's more like baseball so it's all about batting average and so the more confidence you can build the better. Your odds are going to be the better. Your batting average is going to be so if you try once to be funny and that's all you ever try. You know good possibility. That's gonna bomb. You're gonna say. Oh it didn't work for me i'm never gonna do it again but if you can build a habit and try to do it regularly you're gonna start to build up a confidence in your to start to build up a batting average. So that's the great thing about humor is that it isn't brain surgery so if your joke doesn't work or doesn't connect nobody gets killed. You know you learn a little something a little stronger and nobody's going to vault you for trying to make a joke and ceo because we've all been there then you can even use one of the other filters that. I mentioned a second ago. Many humor to recover from a bad joke. You see this on late night. Talk shows all the time if they wanted their monologue jokes in a dozen work. They'll start making jokes about how bad the joke was how it didn't work and that kind of self depreciating humor is always appreciated. And it's a really sophisticated type of humor to make fun of other humor. You can make fun of your own humor and do really well with that. And i make fun of myself all the time and you know i laugh at my own jokes. The other week. I was running around telling people scott. What do you say when when you get a cold call. What do i say when i get a call love. I'm sure this is going to be some wordplay joke right about coal. What is it. tell me you're so smart. You say is tight. So i thought it was coming or whatever you know i laugh at it. I don't know of anybody else did. So sometimes i what's interesting. Not the whole baseball analogy is. I feel the same way when it comes to content strategy content marketing even to an extent. Livestreaming you know some livestreams. They're not sometimes. It's the timing sometimes. It's the topic sometimes. It's who knows what technology isn't working but it's a little bit of you have to take swings right to make a work exactly. Yeah i i feel like people remember the good ones and they forget they forget another mitigating factor. That i would say helps people get over that fear of bombing remember that steven spielberg has made a lot of amazing great movies. But he's made some conquers to. Nobody remembers those nobody cares. You know he's still lauded as the greatest movie director even though he made hook which we all forgot you know so of course in your book you talk about how to come up with funny characters and and what i find interesting. I don't know if if this is the reason you came up with this or maybe tell us about what. What the reasoning is. But i know people always ask for processes. How do you do it. Do this have framework in whatever you on that. I love when i was learning to comedy. I always craved somebody to just give me the process. Gimme the steps. What's the go by numbers. Tell me what what to do next so all. My books are step by step. Do this do this then do this. I think that's really important especially somebody who who's never done it. You just can't expect him to intuitively get what they should do. When so i'm big on that so when you first learn those steps is it kind of so when i do livestreams right. I mean. I've gotten a lot better even though i still got things. So when you first started care about every motion right like you to smoke Yeah you're not doing it by With any kind of sense of grace or intuition. It's yeah you're kind of going through the motions. Absolutely so i i know you have a chapter book. How do you come with funny characters in talk about that process a little bit if you can and of course people you can download the book for much much more but just like a high level perhaps yeah yeah so if you don't have a character voice for your brand for example and you feel like you need to come up with one. There's a few ways to do that. and in the book i list three of them one of them is if you just think of funny things all the time. You don't even realize it. The problem is you're not writing them down and saving them. So this is what professional comedy writer. Do they write the stuff down and they save it because they realize how valuable it is so they walk around with a list of funny things funny characters. They've invented that they can tap into to look at. So if you don't have that the other method is think about people you know in your life. Think about other characters that you like and let that you to come up with a character. That's similar that that reminds you of that other thing but again don't copy someone else's cliche character that is not can feel true. It's fuel hacky. And then the other method is to go through this list of the forty archetypes and basically select one and oftentimes. It depends on what your brand story is. So that's going to determine what kind of character you want for your story. And i give a few specific tips for that in the book for comedy. You always want to have some sense of irony so it's a character who is kind of the opposite type of character you would expect to be in that story context that creates humor because then think of any comedy movie. That's how it works. You've got a character who goes on an adventure that they are the least likely person to go on that adventure. The least likely to succeed at pretty much the foundation of any comedy movie. And so once you go through those those forty character archetypes. You're gonna find one. That kind of rings true for you and that clicks and that you feel is going to work and then you can move onto the chapter right after that chapter but with lists the forty that goes into how to make it unique so that your character feels really fresh. It's really important for a character voice to be entertaining. It has to be fresh. It has to seem original and they're really simple ways to do that. So Very interested in robbie says unlinked here so i'll have to buy both Job do i need to buy them all. How many books are there total. There's four in this series and you don't need to buy them all unless you wanna be a comedy professional so the first book is about how to tell a joke. Compose a joke. That's the building block of all comedy have to be able to tell a single funny line. The second book is how to run. So i one Funny and the second one is how funnier this one tells you how to write a longer piece like a short article or maybe compose stand up bit or something like that. It's all about building on a joke and escalating it to finish and that's this is the thickest one of the bunch it's like a meteor book and then the third one hundred funniest is how to use a group to make comedy. That's funnier than the sum of its parts. So if you've got a communications team that's going to be helpful. Book to figure out how to manage that team how to make sure that the best jokes are getting through because the process is very counterintuitive for that most people put together writing teams wrong and the the work that comes out of them as often not funny because there are so many personality dynamics at interfere with actually creating something funny. I don't have a copy of the new one hundred refunding characters because it just came out yesterday but again that when folks son just how to write funny characters so if you're really in comedy and learning how to do it professionally you can get them all and also my website how to write. Funny dot com. If you don't want to buy any books tons of free resources on that website free e books. My podcast hotter funny. I interviewed people who work in comedy. Either as performers or writers or behind the scenes people to give you a really good sense of how comedy works. what people's individual processes so there's tons of resources they're awesome and of course how to i funny characters. The one were mostly talking about jumping around a little bit. That's already number one bestseller number one in two categories number four in another so. Certainly people are checking that out and people are buying it. And i see people clicking on it over on amazon so certainly Certainly appreciate everybody doing that. A very interesting you can add people clicking on it yeah i can see people clicking on it so on amazon live so the way it works is if you guys check it out amazon dot com slash life under livestreams. So you can see what people are clicking on. Its unbelievable technology. I'm a big fan of amazon life. I really am didn't even know about it until maybe thanksgiving last year. I think it's pretty new and are we on our. We're not on. We're on your. Yeah we're everywhere. We're on amazon life. And so this is still relevant. Everybody since we just actually we talk about livestreaming a lot. So we're life being on amazon dot com slash life and it's also being livestream to your books page so it's the right below the Description all I'll do it. And so it's their lincoln youtube twitter and that's it kind of given up on facebook the time being. They really screwed me over with the captions. I used to captionthe videos and they don't work anymore on facebook. Yeah the so in my new book life. Talk about this a little bit. So because facebook has maybe facebook has captions linked in has captions and twitter dozen in so i was streaming to twitter and with the state auditor of iowa and some in. I don't know fifteen hundred people. Watch it on twitter alone and somebody said there's no captions. Are there captions anywhere. And i didn't have captions anywhere. So it's all these moving pieces figured out. Yeah one thing at a time one. Step at a time infancy right. Yeah it really is So my question is here. So robby has left linked in live and she's older on amazon live we have. I have written something amazon life. I'll send you the link. It's also in the latest book. Has its own chapter because it is definitely interesting so amazon. Linux cool right. Yep it's it's it's very cool. So what makes a character funny anyways. I know you kinda talked about some of those things and you. You can go really in depth and in one chapter But like you know. Does it depend on culture. Does it depend like what like. How do we define a funny character. It transcends culture. There are certain characters that are universal that people everywhere like and respond to it kind of goes back to union archetypes and theories of personalities there are certain personalities that we all like. It's a little different in entertainment because there are certain characters that people are gonna want us to see to be retained whereas in realized there might be other reasons why you like or want to be a certain type of character but what makes them funny is so these eleven funny filters that i define in the first iraq funny book. They are principles of comedy. So they're kind of like the a scientific theory that like we know. We don't know why we just know. It works that way and so one of the ways that works one of the things that happens is if you establish a character and be very clear about what it's traits are and then you show that character acting in accordance with their traits that a laugh will result. Audiences will find that funny again. Not sure why that is the thing. But that's the thing establish a character. Show them acting like that jerk. Let's say let's say the character is the note all archetype. It's at standard archetype character. Who super smart knows everything. If you show them being super smart in any context where they spout out spout. You know people are going to enjoy that. They're gonna like that. It's going to be like their little endorphin rush from a notification they're gonna get little endorphin rush food seeing the character do that. This is very satisfying and so a deeper reason. Why that's so funny. To people is thanks to another funny filter. Which is the reference funny filter which is when the writer or performer refers to something that is a shared experience with the audience. The same thing happens we get this little endorphin rush where spirit shared it as well make us laugh so jerry. Seinfeld was the master of that technique. All of his jokes are just pointing out these little things in life that he's noticed that you've also noticed and when you hear him point that out you laugh so a character is recognizable to us because we've seen them in other entertainment. We've seen them in real life and so when that character appeals to something in a way that we've recognized that character before yet seems new. Were laughing two different levels than at that character. Very very interesting and Definitely something for for everybody to think about. How do we really comes down to. How do we create better content. Sometimes we might wanna do that through comedy and certainly this is an easy way to get started or easier than just starting from scratch trying to make it as easy as i could definitely a fan of the framework. You guys out ninety nine cents that just today were. How long has the ninety nine cents. It's ninety nine cents for the day so today today. It'll it'll go back to regular price so if you're watching on the livestream make sure you grab that today and if you're listening on the podcast unfortunately doesn't publish today. So check it out at the regular price definitely would recommend it. You know Eight bucks or something novick to. Yeah no big scott really appreciate you making the time sharing your wisdom with us today. Thank you awesome. Thank you so much. Hopefully everybody can learn something and create content. that's funnier. i'm christopher trap your host and thanks for joining us until next time. Hello hi he's still there. I have a special offer for you. Thanks for listening all the way to the end. My going life book is now available in amazon dot com. And if you're in the united states i'm happy to send you a signed copy which you can order it. Pay pal that me forward. Slash c. t. r. a. p. p. c. t. r. a. p. p. forward slash twelve. Thanks for your interest. If you're not in the united states i can't send you a signed copy. But of course you can order on amazon dot com.

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