Oedipus and Hamlet Walk into a Bar

IQT_SMAConfImage taught a 90-minute workshop at the wonderful San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival in 2013 and had a blast.

The title of the workshop was “Oedipus and Hamlet Walk into a Bar: Punch Up Your Writing with Humor.” More than 40 conference attendees were in my class.

They learned how to incorporate humor into their own writing, whether working on an essay, a novel, a memoir, or a response to an invitation to their ex-spouse’s next wedding (sarcasm can be quite effective).

We looked at a mix of humorous literary genres and styles, including parody, satire, black humor, comedy of manners, screwball, and sentimental. I shared examples from a range of writers, including Robert Benchley, James Thurber, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Portis, Woody Allen, Nora Ephron, T.C. Boyle, and David Sedaris.

QT_SilentFilm2And we did exercises to develop their use of literary devices such as hyperbole, irony, nonsense, inversion, puns, and wordplay.

I also covered valuable techniques employed by humorists and standup comics alike, including the rule of three, running gags, repetition, choosing funny words, specificity, surprise, and callbacks.

Mark Twain called humor “mankind’s greatest blessing.” In more recent times, Larry Gelbart said: “One doesn’t have a sense of humor. It has you.” To twist Joseph Conrad’s famous line, the workshop’s task, before all, was to make us see … humor.

We covered a lot of territory, not to mention humor, in ninety minutes. In this blog I plan to share some of what we discussed. I hope you’ll stick around.

Hasta Manzana!



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