My friend John Kinde has been speaking in front of audiences about as long as I’ve been alive. By his own admission, John was not born funny. During the Cold War, he managed a nuclear weapons training facility, and he found humor an effective way to release tension in what could be a very stressful job. Over a period of many years, he developed his humor skills through patient study and deliberate practice. If you were to meet him in person, you would never suspect he could be funny. His soft-spoken, deadpan style belies a sharp wit and an impressive knack for observational humor.
John has devoted considerable time to the study and mastery of humor skills, and he also leads the improv comedy troupe I joined earlier this year. He employs a variety of rules and methods for coming up with funny lines, but his techniques are so well internalized that it’s hard to detect that he’s using a rule-based method at all, even if you watch for it.
John runs periodic humor writing contests on his web site, and anyone can participate. For example, his most recent contest required you to come up with a one-line joke that fit the theme, “Life has taught me:” The winning line from that contest was: “No matter how sexy your spouse is, at some point you’re going to have to talk with each other.”
If you’d like to learn some techniques for how to write funny lines, read John’s article 41 Tips for Writing Funny Lines. Several tips are geared towards John’s contests, but most are relevant to general humor writing skills. And if you’re feeling funny, consider participating in John’s April 2006 contest: The Unlucky Person Contest.