My Favorite Humorous Punctuation
Comedy is hard. That's the cliche, but there's a truth to that, mainly because it's so damn ethereal. Nobody really knows WHY somethings funny, it just is. Thus learning to be funny is a bunch of trial and error… that is trying other's material, and erroring when they find out you borrowed their material.
See that was a bad joke, and I apologize to Mark for stealing it from his blog*
But the other difficult thing is that one form of comedy doesn't always translate to another. You can't print out a stand up act without losing some of the magic. And you can't act-out some word-based humor without going “Get it, get it?!” Take this example.
And then I farted. (fart noise). Just doesn't cut it because comedy is a living force that thrives on interaction and the shared experience of…
However, there are ways of instilling a comedic “Voice” in writing, and I'd like to share my favorite methods. And if you have been observant, you've noticed that I've already employed them in the above intro.
* There is no Mark. It's an example…. plus this is an example. DAMN!!!
ELLIPSES- Better known as the Three Dots of Time Passation, these greek fellas are by far the most important tool in my arsenal. Comedy has been defined by it's element of surprise, a sort of build-up and release. Set-up, Set-up, PUNCH! Thus, a comic's timing is vital to a joke hitting or missing. In writing, however, you have nothing guaranteeing that your reader isn't some dictionary-doting whiz-kid who likes to plow through jokes like they aren't the women he has no interest in. Thus you put an ellipses in, which acts as a little yield sign for his eyes. He'll pause, think about what you said, and maybe even gaze up at that cute blonde at the library he's never noticed before… and then see that she's reading Harry Potter. “Fucking A… mateur. Call me when you've graduated to Marquez, Slut!”
He'll spend the next One Hundred Years of Solitude laughing at the rest of your joke, however.
(parentheses, hyphens, and semi-colons also seem to find their way into comedy articles- probably because they induce the same effect.)
THE ASTERISK- This is a recent fave of mine. The asterisk, used in reference materials to denote more to be explained later, follows the same principle of the ellipses only on a much larger scale. The trick is that you put an asterisk somewhere in the middle of your writing*. It rewards the faithful reader with a footnote later. Of course, I suppose the really bull-headed readers will be too anxious to wait and cheat their way to the end like poor sports in a choose-your-own-adventure book, but you'll have to accept the fact that you tried. Also there is a certain sense of scholarly pride in using such advanced grammatical tools, if only for a few seconds before you ruffle their uptight feathers and turn them into part of your own comedic mayhem like some rebellious college movie climax in which you disrupt the most prestiged ceremony in favor of mooning and getting it on. Take that, establishment. Watch the academians gasp in horror as you shove a semi-colon up your ass… only half way though. They're pedantic bookworms. Trust me, they'll get it.
*and then ‘graphs or pages later, it serves as an extended call back… brilliant!
SMALL TEXT FADE-OUT- Everyone knows how to signify that they are yelling (or a tool) on AIM. You use ALL-CAPS AND POINT OUT YOU ARE EXCLAIMING! But whispers are a little more difficult to denote, and thus worth more points on the Scrabble scale of joke-making. (The harder/less common the joke, the more value it has, you Xylo-queer*) The small text fade out I feel is best used in the case of presenting a verbal “persona” who is both wordy, and unsure of himself… namely a DWEEB. You start off on a subject that really interests one of that variety, such as STAR WARS, and then- OMG did somebody say Star Wars. Which episodes we talking here? Personally, my favorite time period is neither The fall nor rise of the empire but rather the 20 years or so inbetween the two trilogies which is only covered in books and comics. Did you know that some Lightsabers have a Force Switch, meaning only one force-attuned enough could even use it… on Chewbacca's hair in Empire? He needed that hair-cut too, because Han and Leia… girls elude me.
*A homosexual who plays the xylophone, band geek, friend of the dictionary-doting whiz-kid, pl. xylo-queerz: throw the z down for maximum points ownage, and although your friends will balk, they're only mad they didn't have the Z.