Looking to add a bit more humor to your scrapbooking or your journaling? You're in luck, because Elizabeth Dillow and I spent an hour this week discussing that very topic with Noell and Izzy Hyman on The Paperclipping Roundtable. Listen here.
It was so funny. (Wink.)
If you listen to the show, you'll find out that the number one thing not to do if you're trying to add humor to your writing, is to continually call attention to how funny something is. The same holds true for stories you tell out loud, for that matter. Ever noticed that?
But how about a few of the things you should do? Elizabeth and I are posting some follow-up writing tips from the show, so check out her post as well on A Swoop and a Dart.
As I mentioned on the show, I frequently add humor into my scrapbook writing and journaling, but not in a laugh-out-loud funny way necessarily. More in a mildly amusing manner that may cause the occasional inward chuckle. I'm not going for high comedy or jokes, just the lighthearted, humorous take on things that colors my daily life.
For me, there are two different approaches I use to be humorous in my scrapbooking: writing devices and writing techniques.
Here, I'm talking about the initial set up of the story. If you start out from a humorous angle, you don't have to try quite as hard to be funny with each individual word. Here are a few ideas:
- Charts. I have used charts for humorous effect over and over again. (See "Baby vs. Dog" and "Sister Stats" on this previous blog post, or the layout below.) You can be funny in the categories you choose, and then simply add a checkmark in the column that applies. The reason this works is the unexpected factor. When you see a chart, you expect something serious, scientific, data-driven. And then you start reading.
- A Personals Ad. If you're in a relationship, write what your personals ad might have said years ago, if you had one. Here's a layout I created within the last 5 years, using a photo from 2001 of me posing dramatically with some flowers from an ex-boyfriend. On the little tag, I express my gratitude that the whole online dating thing passed me by. It was a fun way to capture a few facts about myself at the time: my hobbies, what I was looking for in a relationship, and a few pet peeves (exotic pets, Nicholas Cage films).
- Important People Born On XX Date. For this idea, find headshots online of all the famous people born on your birthday. Include them on your layout, with a short sentence about each person, and put your picture at the bottom of the list. Because YES, you are just as important as all of those other people. Here's my list of people born on March 31st, plus the words I wrote about them on my page, which all capture some aspect of my personality or my life.
Page title: "Important People Born on March 31st—and my tenuous connection to each of them"
Joseph Haydn: Hey, I play the piano too! Thanks Joe for the great tunes.
Shirley Jones: I remember her as the TV mom of my first big crush: Keith (aka David Cassidy).
Richard Chamberlain: I loved watching the melodramatic Thorn Birds with Grandma Nielsen.
Christopher Walken: I'll never forget his dance with John Travolta in Hairspray.
Rhea Perlman: Watched old Cheers reruns with my brothers for years and years.
Al Gore: Thought he was pretty funny spoofing himself on Saturday Night Live.
Ewan McGregor: Loved him in Miss Potter, Long Way Round, and The Island. Hot accent.
Angie Hill Lucas: We grew up together. In the same house! Actually, in the same body.
- Pet Peeves. A page listing your pet peeves is an easy way to inject humor into your scrapbooks. I created a page years ago, without even using a photo, and most of the peeves still stand. Most especially: "Close talkers, loud talkers, and people who poke or nudge you for emphasis while conversing with you."
- Top 5 Funny Facts. This can be a quick and easy page that lists amusing little details about your personality. Yes, I do spontaneously, accidentally adopt people's accents right in the middle of conversations. I have to really concentrate to avoid it. Just imagine how difficult it was for me to recently visit Alabama! In fact, after we landed, I lapsed into a drawl with the very first Southerner I spoke to: the Delta airlines gate agent. (Hopefully she just thought I was a local. Yeah, right.)
- A Memo. The contrast between the formal memo and the lighthearted words you can include in your message can add humor to a page, especially if you use a product from knockknockstuff.com.
- Writing Like a Reporter. Tell a lighthearted story in news reporter style, as I did on an old 2005 layout about an impromptu recorder concert my 4th-grade stepson put on for his cousins:
"Talented 4th grader Jeremy Lucas favored a rapt audience with an impromptu recorder concert in his living room. Lucas's mad record skills brought the house down. 'The house' consisted of his dad Travis (also the event's photographer), his stepmom Angie, and his favorite cousins Zach and Riley. After an encore and a standing ovation, all participants stayed for a sleepover."
As you may have noticed, even the funniest story that ever happened to you can be difficult to express in a humorous way once you start writing. You have to be deliberate about how you write, if you want the humor to come across. Below are a few techniques to try, which you'll find illustrated in one of the funnier posts (in my opinion) you can find on my blog, "Some Days You Just Can't Win."
From the blog post: "As I try to order, Keira wails at supersonic levels when her window is UP. But every time I roll it DOWN, she leans forward and shouts her own preferences at the intercom."
If your layout includes a photo of a baby grimacing after eating a pickle, an understated caption like "You could say she's not a huge fan of pickles" is much funnier than the more direct "She sure hates pickles!"
- Unexpected Combinations.
When writing a list, it adds humor when the last item in your list doesn't quite fit in with the rest. For example, here's a recent Facebook update I posted:
Learn how to melt away a double chin, which house plants cure anxiety...and my tips for summer scrapbooking. It's all in this week's Woman's World magazine.
- Fake Gravitas.
The contrast of writing in a dead serious tone about something that's actually hilarious certainly adds humor to a story.
When you're going for a humorous effect, always go for the more unusual, exaggerated or bizarre word. Back to that blog post, notice that Keira tried to "fling my phone over the banister" instead of trying to "throw" it. I "devoured" three fun-sized candy bars instead of "ate" them. The tomato soup "oozes" onto the floormat instead of "spills." There's no doubt that "oozes" is the funnier word.
- Brevity and Variation of Sentence Length.
Also from the blog post, Keira "puts a dishtowel over her face to play 'married' and promptly walks into a wall. Hard. Needs mega soothing." Notice how this combination of longer and shorter sentences is more humorous than if I had said, "And then Keira walked into a wall really hard, and I had to soothe her."
The Hard "K" Sound
To close, I'd like to leave you with a quote I shared on the show, from the Neil Simon play The Sunshine Boys, in which it is pointed out that the hard "k" sound is the funniest sound in the alphabet. Do you agree?
"Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know what words
are funny and which words are not funny. Alka-Seltzer is funny. You say 'Alka-Seltzer',
you get a laugh... Words with 'k' in them are funny. Casey Stengel, that's a funny name. Robert Taylor is not funny. Cupcake is funny. Tomato is not funny. Cookie is funny. Cucumber is funny. Car keys. Cleveland... Cleveland is funny. Maryland is not funny.
Then, there's chicken. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny."