Week 8 (22/9): Writing humour and satire

satirical illustration: resetting donald trump
‘Reset’ by Arvin61r58 /CC/openclipart.org

BY DEB BAUER

When asked what’s important in their lives, most people often credit humour. Humour makes people feel good. Humour also improves your audience’s level of engagement.

Perhaps you believe you can’t write comedy? Think again. Chances are you too own a sense of humour. Today, we will be employing some techniques to cultivate your sense of humour as a writer.

Humour is when you make your audience laugh out loud. But satire adds another dimension. Satire is brilliant when it’s funny, but sometimes it isn’t humorous at all.

Oxford Dictionary defines satire as “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”

Typical forms of satire are:

Irony

Irony presents the opposite of the actual meaning.

Sarcasm

Sarcasm is a bitter remark, dig, or insult.

Parody

A parody make funs of someone, something, or an existing written work, song, or movie.

Satire is an effective and sometimes witty way to comment on society or trends. It mocks a topic by pretending to sound serious about it. Check out a few of Australia’s finest:

  • The Betoota Advocate is one of the leading providers of Australian-centric news and content across the country. Let’s hear from the editors of the Betoota Advocate talking to Lateline about how to run a successful paper in a ghost town, Tony Abbott’s tribal tattoo, and the self-fining parking inspector that wasn’t:
  • Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell crew gets up to all manner of wild, satirical hijinks.
  • Sammy J performs biting, bite-sized comedy as Sammy J and his team of troublemakers as they tackle the news of the week
  • The Chaser is a satirical media empire which rivals Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in all fields except power, influence, popularity and profitability.
Satirical Writing Topics  

If you don’t know what topic to pick for your satirical writing, here are some tips:

    • Write about yourself. Pick some funny habits or quirks you have
    • Write about a person you know, or someone famous
    • Politicians are great to satirise because they often make blunders
    • Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction
    • For political satire, choose a topic that activates you. What would happen if no one cared about that issue? What would the world look like if your worst fears materialised?

“My advice is to write about topics that delight, infuriate or captivate you.

You don’t need to worry about mimicking what other people are writing about, or try to chase down whatever topics “seem hot right now.”

Instead, find the joy or the fury in your own writing obsessions and keep after it.”

Alex Baia

Satire Writing Tips 

yourdictionary.com has some good advice. Consider too these tips:

    • The best satire is intelligent and knowledgeable.
    • Try to appear to be serious while delivering satire, as it can be hilarious. It is subtle, but effective when at first glance, it looks like you are actually reporting on a real event.
    • Try taking things further than they have already gone. If there is a trend in a story, you could play it out to suggest what might happen down the line.
    • See if you can turn things around, like advising someone to do the exact opposite of what they should do.
    • The best satire seems light but packs a real punch underneath.
How to Write Satire

Learning how to write Satire is challenging. Here are some fundamental principles:

  1. Satire and humour pieces are typically around 300-900 words. Longer satirical works (short stories, books, etc.) are great too, but for broadcast, focus on short articles.
  2. The author makes a point quickly and makes you laugh.
  3. Choose one ‘Crystal Clear Premise’. The premise is the concept the author is using to drive the comedy or the satire. Here are some excellent ways to define ‘the premise’:
      • What is the central joke or idea of the piece?
      • What is the ‘thing’ that is funny or unusual about the piece?
  4. Pick a point-of-view that is the opposite of what you (the author) really believe, then exaggerate this point-of-view.
  5. Good satire doesn’t tiptoe around. It uses exaggeration, contrast, and vivid details in a dramatic fashion. When you write satire, go bold. Don’t hold back.
More Comedy Tips
  1. Comedic writing thrives on extreme, weird and hilarious surprise. Nothing kills your satire or humour piece quicker than clichés.
  2. To make sure your satire and humour writing is clear and engaging, you must get feedback on it.
  3. Read a Lot! Feed yourself a diet of good humour and Satire.
  4. Write a Lot! That means writing a piece, getting feedback, then writing another. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  5. Rejection and Persistence in Writing. Even your favourite, brilliant writers have been rejected from time to time. To succeed, accept rejection, learn from it, and most importantly, do not be discouraged by it.
TASKS

Don’t know where to start? Use this distinctly Web 1.0 website to brainstorm, then try at least two of the following four comedic ideas:

    1. Compile a list of five absurd situations, in which things or people experience strange new relationships. Ask the question: What if …? Now choose one scenario and start drafting a humorous piece.
    2. Make a list of political or social issues about which you feel strongly. Choose your subject and script it into satirical humour.
    3. Make fun of yourself! Brainstorm a list of your most embarrassing moments! Then begin to write a true story in which the joke is on you!
    4. Select a famous piece of writing, perhaps something you’ve read in English class, to parody. Now, take that poem, story, or essay and turn it on its head. Remember: Parody is playful imitation.

Author: veritychambers

Journalist and teacher

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