Techniques — An Exercise in Writing Humour, Glenny Palmer

GLENNY PALMER is the author of, “UNSTRAINED MELODY” Tools For Easier Poetry Writing (© 2004)

An Exercise In Writing Humour ©Glenny Palmer

Writers are always asking what to write about, and I’ve observed that it seems common that they are waiting for some momentous occasion/experience to stir the Muse, and sometimes that occurs. However, simplicity is usually the best key to potential material. If humour is required, a sense of the ridiculous is invaluable.

A woman asked me if it’s possible to teach someone a sense of humour. I gave that some serious thought, and came up with ‘A Frog Jumps Off A Veranda Rail’. I hope you may find it helpful; I presented it while conducting one of my adult workshops, and it seemed to be well received.

If you are not naturally prone to ridiculousness, (as I am) this can be challenging. So here’s the exercise I used.

A frog jumps off the verandah rail. What happens next? Most of the replies I received indicated that it landed on the grass, and that was that. But was it?

What if it landed in the dog’s water bowl? What happened next? “It got wet.” (Unanimous reply).
But was that all? No. What did the frog think ? “Bloody hell! I’m in strife now.” What did the dog do ? The dog indignantly went for the frog! What was the dog thinking? “The cheek of that bloody frog!” What did the frog think? “Bloody hell! Here comes the dog, I’ve got to hide!” What happened next? Mum comes up the path with a basket of wet washing to hang out. The frog flies straight up Mum’s skirt. (a potentially good cover from the dog’s view.) Mum screams. The basket of washing goes flying, and lands on the dirt path. The dog tries to fly up Mum’s skirt to get the frog. Mum screams...again, and kicks the dog in the guts. The dog barks. Dad comes flying around the corner to see what all the racket is. Mum bellows, “How many times have I asked you to concrete this flaming path? How many times have I asked you to tie up that bloody dog? Now all me washing’s dirty
because you’re a lazy so and so!!!!” Dad says “gawd!” and heads for the pub. Dad’s so depressed he drinks the week’s shopping money away. So..... The dog has an aching belly. Mum has to do the washing again! Mum’s sour on Dad. Dad’s depressed and drunk. They both starve for a week.........and all because.......a frog jumped off the verandah rail!

This simplicity works just as well with serious subjects. Attention to consequences + consequences + +.
Just take 1 action or emotion, and keep asking yourself “what happens next? What does that create? Then what happens next ?” Also, try attributing cognitive process to animals and /or inanimate things. eg. What was the dog thinking? What was the frog thinking? How does a fork feel being rattled around in a drawer full of hard hitting knives and spoons? Well, how would you feel under the same circumstances? etc etc. (A measure of mild insanity does help, but if you’re basically ‘normal’, which I doubt with your being a writer, just practice.)

I must get cracking and write an example of this story to demonstrate. In the meantime here is one other example of an animal’s perspective.

I’m a frog and by nature my job is to croak,
I’ve been stuck in the dry dusty clay, it’s a joke,
but the Humans put signs up, “ Please pray for the rain”,
so despite my sore throat I got croaking again.

Yes, I yodelled and croaked ‘til my vocal chords strained,
and then…. hallelujah! it finally rained.

Then the more that I croaked, well the more that it rained,
‘til I held the award for “Best Croaker” ordained,
and the rivers all flooded, we even had hail,
and I backstroked and breaststroked and flipped like a whale.

Now my skin is much greener, like new Brussels Sprouts,
I’m quite sure I’m the best looking frog hereabouts.
And Oh! what a Christmas my talents will bring
for the poor dowdy Humans, at last they can sing.

They can play in the puddles and roll in the mud,
and laugh like I do when they fall with a thud,
They can hide in their grass that’s now two metre’s tall,
Oh! what joy and what fun I’ve provided for all.

But the Humans, (strange creatures, I can’t work them out),
are putting up signs saying, “Pray for the drought.”
It’s really too much for my little green brain,
When they get what they pray for, they whine and complain.

So this Christmas I think I’ll give Humans away,
I’ll invite all my friends to come frolic and play,
tadpoles and turtles, mosquitoes, (yum) too,
and even a toad, (‘though we frequently blue).

‘Cause isn’t that what Christmas Day is meant for?
to settle old scores and throw open your door
to let gratitude in, for the gifts we are given,
be they rain, hail or sun, they’re our blessings from Hivven
……. (so I can’t spell…I’m a frog!)

Hope this helps.

Glenny Palmer