Comedy and Humor Writing — Breaking the Patterns

Patterns and formulas can work great for creating humor, such as in the Marriages Made in Heaven theme contest.  However the key, when you’re writing, is to appreciate the gift of the pattern and at the same time explore the ways to deviate from and break the pattern.  The next few posts will explore this topic.  Let’s look at how we could explore a variety of angles in writing lines for the marriage combination contest.  The basic formula is:  If Barbara Walters married George Bush, she would be Barbara Bush.  This is the standard pattern.  Woman marries man and creates a punchline using her first name and his last name. 

Basic variations include:  Hyphenated last names.  Using Initials.  Leaving out first names if not part of the punchline. 

Let’s look at other variations in the process of creating humor.

Non-name punchline
If Rosie O’Donnell married Donald Trump, neither would have much to smile about.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the punchline has to be a name combination.

Use fictional names
If Sgt. Pepper married Belle from beauty and the beast she would be Bell Pepper.
Don’t limit yourself to real people.     

Do not limit yourself to logic
For the sake of humor, proposed marriages could be between people who lived in different eras.  And for the sake of humor, the names could marry men and women in any combination.  And might even use the name an animal.  Or a product.  Many of the examples in the contest included marriages between people who were living and no longer living.
If Mr Ed married Anne Sullivan, he would be Mr Ed-Sullivan.
If Mr Clean married Yo-Yo Ma, then divorced to marry Martin Sheen, he would be Mr Clean-Ma-Sheen.
Humor often breaks logical patterns.

Compound names
If A.J.Cook married Louis Koo, got divorced to marry Geoff Klock, he would be Mr Cook-Koo-Klock.
Another trap is thinking that we are limited to one pair of names.  Here’s a good link to compound name humor (like Mr Locke Ness Munster and Woody Wood Peck Hur).

Double words
If Olivia Newton John married Wayne Newton, got divorced and then married Elton John, she would be Olivia Newton John Newton John.

Taking liberties
Pearl White married Bill Gates, she’d be Pearl E White-Gates. 
This takes the liberty of, makes the assumption that, her middle name is starts with E (it’s really F).

Shorten a name
If Kevin Federline married Malcolm X, he would be Kevin Fed-X.

Add the punchline to the new name
If Vanessa Mae married Andrew Knotte, would Mrs Mae Knotte perform again.
The joke may be just a step behind the new name you’ve created.

Sometimes one name is funny by itself
If Yo-Yo Ma married anyone, would the name be funnier?
A good line, even though there are funny combinations available.
Yo-Yo Ma married Sandy Duncan and joined the army he’d be Duncan, Yo-Yo.
If Mama Cass married Yo-Yo Ma, she would be Mama Ma.

Work backwards
Many of the punchlines I create start with the punchline and then I create the set up.  That was how I came up with the Duncan Yo Yo line above.

Look for rhyme and rhythm
If Milla Jojovich married Bob Villa she would be Milla Villa.
If Oprah Winfry married Deepak Chopra she would be Oprah Chopra.

Look for Almost-Sound-Alikes
If Susan Srandon married Shelley Berman, she would be Sue Berman.
Almost sounds like Superman.

Copyright 2007 by John Kinde