Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Musical Scale of the Funnybone

Here are the overhead notes from the Humor Class at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.  Obviously the CD's would give more info and nuances but for those of you who were there and want just the notes, here they are.

Musical Scale of the Funnybone
Plays on Words:  
Puns, Malaprops, Double Entendres, Oxymorons

The Pun – A Word used in such a way that two or more meanings are active simultaneously

EX.  Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet – "If you look for me tomorrow you shall find me a grave man."

EX.  Ad at a radiator repair shop – "A great place to take a leak."

Possible uses of The Pun in your writing

-In the mouth of your main or secondary characters to show clever or quick minds. 

-If a character thinks a pun in a situation, you know that he is not taking it seriously without you actually having to say so.

Malaprops – A misuse of a word or phrase 

EX An angry man – "I resemble that remark."

EX Yogi Berra – "90% of all baseball is mental.  The other half is physical."

EX Bushisms – "I promise you I will remember what was said here; even though I wasn't here."

Possible uses of The Malaprop in your writing

-A character that makes these types of mistakes has a unique type of mentality.  Can be used to show someone who maybe stumbles over his words but in a discernibly humorous and not necessarily unintelligent manner.

-When a character consistently uses Malaprops, particularly s reoccurring character in a series, your reader will grow fond of this character by awaiting what humorous thing will come next from his/her mouth – Think Gracie Allen (as in Burns and Allen).

Double Entendres – An ambiguous word or phrase that allows for a second-someties racy-interpretation.
EX – Marx Brothers - "If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?"
EX – Marx Brothers – "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.  Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
Possible uses of Double Entendres in your writing
-They can be used to show a sly or lecherous personality in men. When females use them, they become confident and take charge individuals.  Think Sophie Tucker or Mae West (Is that a carrot in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?).
-For many of us, Double Entendres are a guilty pleasure.  If we have a character that uses them we as readers are at once repulsed and entertained.

Oxymorons – The joining of two incomparable ideas in one phrase.
EX – Jumbo Shrimp, Good Grief, Larger Half, Same Difference
Possible uses for Oxymorons in your writing.
-Oxymorons can be either annoying or delightful depending on the personality of the character who speaks them. 
-Also consider having one character say an Oxymoron then another character either get mad or correct him, thus showing the personality of both.

Stupidity and Slapstick
Both make us feel superior and/or smart.  We often revel in the misfortune of others.
EX. The misfortunes of Bertie Wooster.  He is "singularly lacking in intelligence" so he makes blunders, but he is also plunged into unfortunate and hilarious situations from which his butler Jeeves must rescue him.
EX The antics of the Three Stooges.
EX The series of cars owned by Stephanie Plum that invariably get destroyed.
EX The situations that the author of "Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging" plunges her fourteen year girl into.
Possible uses for Stupidity and Slapstick in your writing
-Both these devices are more suited for physical humor (actions, events, schemes) than for words to put into your characters mouths.  Neither device makes your character look particularly smart.
-Both these devices are ideal for a secondary character--think Dr. Watson in the old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies.
-In more lighthearted mysteries, both these devices can be employed to humiliate your bad guy or his henchmen. (Home Alone)

A device that adds a contradictory tagline to the opening line of a standard expression or clich√©.  Often called the 'Old Switcheroo'.  Plays false with our expectations

EX "My girlfriend and I were incompatible in many ways.  I was a night person and she hated my guts.

EX "My wife was faithful to the end.  Unfortunately, I play quarterback."

EX Emo Phillips uses almost nothing but reverses: Cellar Door Bit.

Possible uses for Reverses in your writing.
          -Can be used for both physical and spoken humor.
A) Physical – set us up for an expected situation then pull the rug out from under us. 
EX Man comes home from work early, "Darling, I'm home." Walks into the bedroom and finds a naked couple in bed.  "What is she doing here?" 
B) Spoken: Timing is everything.  By the appropriate placement and timing you can make your character seem clever (wisecracking Private Eye, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet , Woody Allen in his early funny movies) and often time downright funny (A PI getting beat up is asked, "Had enough?"  He answers, "How can I ever get enough of you sweetie?") 
EX Consider Standup Comics such as Leno.  "Is everybody having a good time?  Well, we'll put an end to that."

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