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Lesson #3: Humor Device Fundamentals

If a martial artist has a counter to every attack, a comedian has a Humor Device to every conversation.

In the Case Studies, you will see how every funny thing said is in some form of a humor device. In this lesson, I’ll explain what each of them are and give you an example. This is just an introduction. A more detailed explanation of how to use each humor device will be on their own separate lesson.

Here are 15 of them:

1. Exaggeration

A method in which you state something to be more than it really is. The opposite is an understatement, which can be equally funny.

eg) It was so cold, I saw polar bears wearing jackets

For more examples, watch some case Studies

2. Sarcasm

Sarcasm is an expression that is the opposite of what you really want to say, usually in order to insult someone or to ridicule something.

eg) My job is secure. No one else wants it.

For more examples, watch some case studies

3. Misinterpretation

It’s to understand what the other person said differently from what most people expect and then responding accordingly.

eg) John: “Sales People are full of shit.” You: “Yeah I have to put a clip on my nose whenever I talk to them.”

For more examples, watch some case studies

4. Metaphor

This is when you connect two seemingly unrelated elements. This is one of the most effective humor device you could use.

eg) She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

For more examples, watch some case studies

5. Callback humor

A callback is a reference to something said earlier in a routine or sketch. The reference is usually a previous joke, but stand-up comics often use callbacks after interacting with the audience—an audience member’s name will be inserted into a later joke. For a callback to work, the time between the original reference and the callback must be relatively brief.

Comedy Writing Secrets

6. Pointing out absurdity

This is when you ridicule something because it is so foolish or unreasonable.

eg) If a guy can paint a can of soup and call it art, I’ll call this art.

For more examples, watch some case studies

7. Tease

To make fun of someone in a way that is friendly and playful.

eg) (if you’re talking to someone who’s mexican) so that’s where the smell of burrito is coming from.

For more examples, watch some case studies

8. Play on words

There are several techniques that fall under wordplays. The most popular ones are: puns, malaprops, and double entendre.

For puns, there couldn’t be a better example than this buzzfeed post.

A double entendre is the use of an ambiguous word or phrase to allow for risque interpretations.

eg) So the weather today is warm and wet. How are you Lisa, warm and wet as well?

Malaprop is an accidental misuse of a word but the result of which is funny.

They misunderestimated me.

9. Misdirection

Also called a reverse or the old switcheroo. This is a tactic where you lead the audience into thinking one thing and then suddenly shift it to something else. This is easily achieved with a cliche.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and the world laughs at you.

Caryn Leschen

10. Shock humor

This is basically when you say something shocking and unexpected, but still related to the topic at hand (so that it’s not random).

Have you been out in society recently? ‘Cause it’s SHIT.

Russell Brand

11. Impersonation / Role Play

This is when you mimic somebody, or someone easily relatable. The trick is to get the accent right.

eg) Girl: “I really like this ring. My grandma gave it to me.” You: “My precious…” (Golum voice)

You’re not limited to copying a specific character. You can also take on a different persona for a brief moment, such as playing the bad guy.

Say you’re in a birthday party and the cakes are served on the table. You can jump ahead of everybody and say “All these cakes are mine.” with a silly grin.

For more examples, watch some case studies

12. Ridiculousness

This means saying the most outrageous and ridiculous things.

For more examples, watch some case studies

13. Pointing out the truth

This is when you say something that is so true that the audience can relate to, but not a lot of people talk about.

14. Self-deprecation

This is when you make fun of yourself. This is really tricky to pull off. It can sometimes have the opposite effect and make you look more miserable. Use sparingly. It’s more effective for people who are generally perceived to be of high status because it makes them look humble.

eg) I’m in shape. Round is a shape, right?

15. Breaking social script

If you come across the same situation countless times. It becomes predictable. That is a perfect opportunity to break expectations. But just doing something different is not enough. You have to use some humor device for it to make people laugh.

For example, if I’m in a bar and I’m talking to a group of strangers and they ask me “So you like making friends huh?” I could say “No. I like making enemies.” In this example, I was using role play as a humor device to break away from the social script. The number of opportunities where you can break the social script is a lot more than you think.


Here’s an exercise for you. Everyday, think of a conversation you had. Try to remember a statement or a phrase that is directed at a person – either you, or someone else. Pick one humor device and come up with a funny thing to say.

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Lesson #3: Humor Device Fundamentals


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