Tonight’s Northern Virginia Writers First Friday program was led by stand-up comedian Basil White, who shared ideas on how to add “funny” to our prose.
An excellent program, humorously presented (of course!). Basil, who went to college for cognitive science and psychology, explained that humor crosses all cultures and that scientists have identified the area of the brain that processes humor. It is a very old part of the brain.
Why does it exist? The theory is that our brains are wired to have certain expectations about the world around us and about how people act, what they say, etc. When those expectations are not met, this part of the brain, which belongs to a problem-solving segment of the brain, becomes stimulated. This is pleasurable to us. We want to continue to experience that stimulation, so we continue to think about the joke or the humorous situation and we share it with others.
Cool stuff (at least, for a geek like me)!
So to get to funny, you need to thwart people’s expectations and perceptions of a concept or a situation.
White took a page from Judy Carter’s Comedy Bible and suggested asking yourself: “What is weird about this concept? What is hard about it? What is scary about it? What is stupid about it?”
During the workshop, we played around with those questions using the concept of golf. By the end, Basil had enough material for a short stand-up routine ... which with some editing and context theoretically could be used to add funny to a golf-outing scene in a novel.
Fascinating and fun!