How to Write Comic Relief
- Be Patient. It’s extremely tough to be funny on command. Try sitting down at your desk to write a joke. It’s tough, even for naturally funny people! Part of humor’s mysterious power is the fact that it’s spontaneous: it usually arises all on its own without a lot of conscious effort. However, you can still use humor in your writing – you just have to be patient and let inspiration hit you.
- Figure out what makes you laugh. When have you laughed hardest in a movie theater? Was it a joke, an awkward situation, or something physical like a pie in the face? Everyone has a slightly different sense of humor, and you can tap into your own unique well of comedy by thinking about when other people have made you laugh. Consider keeping a journal with you so that you can write down the funny thoughts that occur to you throughout the day.
- Pick a Character. Comic relief usually comes from a specific character. In a dramatic story, most of the characters should be relatively serious. That doesn’t mean they never say or do anything funny, but they usually don’t. One or two characters, though, can provide comic relief. Bear in mind that this character shouldn’t be a one-trick pony! That is, they should have some reason to be in the story besides offering comic relief – the comic relief is a side-benefit of the character.
- Don’t Overdo It. If you have too much comic relief, you’ll undermine the seriousness of the story overall. Eventually, you’re just writing a comedy rather than a drama with comic relief. Comic relief gets its power from the contrast that it makes with the overall non-comedic story. This is especially important with external comic relief! If your audience is laughing at the characters, it quickly becomes difficult to take them seriously, and that means the story as a whole becomes less serious.
When to Use Comic Relief
Comic relief occurs in otherwise serious contexts. So it’s a technique for writing dramatic plays, tragedies, and other serious stories. Because of this, it’s sometimes tempting to use comic relief in formal essays – after all, these papers are very serious in tone, and it might be fun if they were lightened up a bit!
While some teachers are OK with this sort of thing, it’s risky. If you make your papers funny, the teacher/professor may feel that you aren’t taking the assignment seriously, or that you’ve put too much effort into cracking jokes. This is especially bad if there’s not enough analysis or strong argument! Basically, the problem with comic relief is this: the benefits are quite small (you might bet a couple of bonus points, but it won’t improve your grade much), and the potential risks are serious (teachers may knock your essay down for being too playful).