Humorman's Guide to Humor in Comics
humorman at 5:02PM, April 3, 2009
I literally wrote the comic on humor.
So you want to create a comic strip filled with jokes and whatnot? Well, if you're looking at this, then you probably aren't doing a very good job of it. Fear not though, for I can give you the tools to create efficient humor!
1. Being relative. When you were a kid, and if you've ever heard an adult crack out a double-entendre, the chances are that you didn't understand it yet all of the adults in the room seemed to get the implication. This is because that particular joke was relative to them and not you. People like jokes they can relate to since they actually GET the punchline. For example, if you're a student you would probably appreciate a joke more about the tedium of homework rather than a joke about the broken fax machine in the office. On a side note, try to stray away from inside jokes (AKA jokes that only you and a small group of people know). You might think they're funny, but I can guarantee these jokes will go right over your viewers' heads.
2. Being Creative. The first time you saw the Looney Toons cartoon where you saw that anvil fall on Daffy Duck's head; wasn't that funny? What about the hundredth time you saw someone getting crushed by an anvil; still funny? Probably not, at least not funnier than the first time. Creativity is what keeps the viewer coming back for more. It is essentially bringing variety into the comic in order to keep the viewer interested. Whenever you use a gag, no matter how funny it is, chances are it's not going to be as funny the second, third, fourth, or nth time around. In fact, the gags known for their unoriginality are known as cliches (anvil on the head, slipping on a banana peel, etc.). However, if used correctly, you can actually use repetitiveness to your advantage and create a running gag, which is a gag that is intentionally repeated throughout the comic and may eventually become a trademark of the comic (don't use this type of gag too often, as it can quickly turn from funny to just plain annoying in a short amount of time).
3. Shock humor. Shows like South Park and Family Guy like to do this often. “Oh no! I vomited on a baby!” “Oh no! Someone raped grandma!” Shock humor is just creating a really disgusting/awkward situation where the viewer really has no choice but to laugh at the controversy involved. Be warned though, shock humor easily loses its effect over time. The more shock humor you use, the more desensitized the viewer will be, and eventually, you'll have no choice but to either create even more over-the-top outrageous shock humor or switch to another type of humor.
4. Swearing/Cursing. Basically, verbal shock humor. I would suggest not using this at all. People swear on the Internet all the time, up to the point where it's not even considered funny or clever anymore. Using an abundance of meaningless swearing will undoubtedly NOT improve your web comic.
5. The Fourth Wall. When characters in your comic break this, they're essentially interacting directly with the viewer. This is useful when you want to make your viewers seem more involved in your comic, as it literally makes your comic aware of your viewers. The amount of “wall” you break depends on what type of joke you're after. You can break it a little, by having one character mention the possibility of their universe being inside a comic, or you can destroy the entire wall by having all you characters constantly talking to the viewer (Nickelodeon's KaBlam did this frequently).
6. Characters. Your characters are your most valuable asset in your comics. In terms of humor, your characters should move the plot, rather than the plot move your characters. Like my first tip, your viewers should be able to relate to your characters. This means your characters should have their faults, their quirks, and their time in the lime light. A character that is essentially “perfect” in everyway is known as a Mary Sue. Mary Sues may seem “ideal” but with characters that are utterly perfect, you'll find it difficult to move a plot without a catalyst (someone to create a problem and therefore, a plot) and your viewers won't be able to sympathize with someone with no faults and that are flat-out better than them. So don't be afraid to give your characters zany personality, but also don't make them too crazy either. Characters that have overly wacky personalities can be seen as one-dimensional Anti Sues, and these types of characters don't really have enough depth to move the plot without, ironically, breaking out of character.
7. Random Humor. I see a lot of this type of humor on this site, but it usually done poorly. Random humor is… well… I can't tell you that (otherwise, it wouldn't be called random humor). I'd consider random humor to be comedy that can easily go over most people's heads, but if you're able to appreciate it, it can be the best type of humor you've ever experienced. Andy Kaufman, Tim Heidecker, and Eric Wareheim are some good examples of people who use this humor well.
*. Demographic. This isn't really something to help your comedy, but it will help get more people to read your comic. It's known that people in or near the same age group enjoy similar things. If you want the most people to read your comic, try to attract to the largest demographic. On Drunkduck, it seems to be a bell-curve where teenagers make up the largest amount followed by the ages closest to the teens (at least it seems like this, I don't know the actual numbers). Don't worry about this too much though because you're bound to have some fans despite what age group you cater to (as long as you're comic is good).
There are hundreds of other types of jokes and humor out there, but I've only explained the most basic ones. If you'd like more information, visit this site:
This site has a plethora of information that can help you create a well-put-together humor-based comic.
Good luck on your comedy!
…you'll need it.