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How to Write Funny Paperback – July 15, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; Revised edition (July 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582970548
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582970547
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog," says E. B. White. "Few people are interested and the frog dies of it." White might have reconsidered, had he had access to How to Write Funny. In the book, 28 humorists discuss the business of writing funny. David Bouchier likens humor to sex; James Finn Garner says it's "mainly channeled aggression"; and Sherman Alexie claims that "jokes are poetry." The authors here--they include Melissa Banks, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., and Bill Bryson--are less likely to teach humor than to help you find your inner humorist. A very satisfying book, touching on writers that take chances, poke fun at themselves, and draw our attention to the absurdities that we all take for granted. By the way, editor John B. Kachuba wants you to read his book whether you need it or not. As he says, "I could use the money." --Jane Steinberg

About the Author

John B. Kachuba is an editor, writer and journalist whose work has appeared in literary journals, as well as Poets and Writers and the Civil War Journal. He holds and MA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and teaches creative writing at the University of Cincinnati.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By bobdc on October 3, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Instead of "every kind of writing," the subtitle should say "fiction and personal narrative." Some of the big names have interesting things to say, but this book is mostly little-known short story writers telling you that Mark Twain is great, people in their families were great story tellers, well-developed characters in stories are important, read a lot, humor writing doesn't get the respect it deserves, and then again, Mark Twain is great. And, that you can't have great humor writing without great writing, but there's plenty of mediocre writing in this book, like too many cutesy parenthetical asides.

There are some interesting points here and there, but the price of a used copy will be more in line with the book's value.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Kate McMurry TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
This 228-page trade paperback offers an excellent index and is divided into three sections. Part I covers the basics of writing comedy. Part II discusses writing comedy in the context of numerous genres, including general fiction, literary fiction, science fiction, romance and various non-fiction forms such as columns, articles, fillers and books. Part III includes interviews with multiple humor greats, ranging from Dave Barry to Peg Bracken to Denise Duhamel. The writing in each of the 30 articles of this collection is wonderful. Every contributor--these are humor experts, afterall--writes in a style that is so lively, you can laugh your head off and have a ball while learning absolutely terrific inside tips on comedy.
What a coup for Writer's Digest to add this fabulous book to their lineup of writing-instruction books! It's a gold mine of information for every type of writer, fiction and nonfiction, long and short format. Whether you simply want to occasionally leaven intense drama with humor, or you plan to write all-out, belly-busting comedy, this book is for you.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Gumdrop on May 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I thought this book was going to offer more insight into how to write comedy, but it didn't. This book does a nice job of disecting the humor markets and experts give you tips on how to aim your writing at each market, but I found the "interviews" written by respected humor writers to be pretty boring and repetitive. They talk about how their senses of humor developed and why they write what they do, but they all basically said that humor can't be taught and it's up to each individual writer to dedicate themselves to writing, which I guess is good advice but doesn't offer any real answers.

Some of the writing in this book to me came across as arrogant, as though some of these humor writers thought their work was the funniest stuff ever and could never be topped by an aspring comedy writer. They seemed to feel bitter about something.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Rayburn VINE VOICE on January 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book at a writers conference and started reading it several times, only to set it down because I just couldn't get into it. It felt like going to the movies expecting a romantic comedy starring Ben Stine but finding out it was a documentary on romantic comedies narrated by Ben Stine in his best monotone. But once I realized that those who write funny aren't always funny when explaining to other writers how to write funny, I realized the book is full of good information. Really! The reader has to understand that the purpose of the book isn't to entertain; it's to teach.

Each chapter is by a different humor writer. Some know how to be funny when they teach, others are downright textbook-like in explaining the craft, but they gave helpful examples of humor techniques. I saw a common thread in many chapters where authors said it is very hard to teach someone to be funny--you either have it or you don't . There were other common threads in the advice given, which was also helpful. If eight experts say the same thing, I'm more likely to accept their advice.

The book has a nice balance of showing humor in both fiction and non-fiction, and I recommend it to anyone who is already able to write funny, but who needs to take that raw talent and hone it into something that is publishable. A better title for the book would have been "How to Write Funnier".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. McMinn on November 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
The negative review earlier about how many of the authors sound like one another is correct but misleading.

To me, though most of the commentary is similar, that's because they are shared impressions of comic writers, rather than an indication that this is a poor selection.

As proof of the variety, just think: in addition to Barry and Bryson, you also get writers of comedic fantasy, children's books, romance, a Hawaiian-Asian ethnic humorist, newspaper writers and so on. You even have the guy who wrote a "comedic" story about a man who chopped up his mother and put her in the fridge (not ever going to be on my reading list).

The biggest reason to read the book is that variety of voices, which contrasts strongly with the usual book on comic writing: I'm a comedian, here's my take. If eighteen different writers say "comic fiction writers get no respect", "teaching humor is impossible", and "family history is important to my work", I'm inclined to think they're probably truisms of the field.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Otto on September 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
The book is a collection of opinions about humorous writing by several well published humor authors. It's good reading, and darned interesting (my favorite was a transcript of a discussion of comedic writing, by 5 authors).

The funniest part of the book is the contrast. One writer will give advice saying, "I don't read other humor authors works," while another will say to read everything you can get your hands on. There's a LOT of contradicting ideas in each chapter, which actually tells you a lot.
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More About the Author

My most recent book is "Ghosthunting Ohio: On the Road Again," from Clerisy Press. I am the author of "Ghosthunting Ohio," "Ghosthunting Illinois," and "Ghosthunters," as well as three other books unrelated to the paranormal.

I also have six e-books available on Kindle. They are:
"Dark Entry"
"Ghost Stories"
"Women of the Way"
"There Comes a Season: Stories of War and Peace - Volume 1"
"There Comes a Season: Stories of War and Peace - Volume 2"
"SHANTOK: A Murder Mystery"

I teach Creative Writing at Ohio University and Antioch University Midwest and humor writing through the Gotham Writers Workshop. To learn more, and to see my author tour schedule, visit my Website at www.JohnKachuba.com