OK folks, welcome back. It's been a long time. I'm intending to update this blog regularly.
In this post we're going to look at making jokes using entries in a dictionary as our inspiration.
I have a massive Chambers English dictionary. A full size one is best - if you don't have one I'm sure you'll find one at your local library.
Online dictionaries aren't really much good because you tend to see definitions etc for only one word. When crafting gags in this we need to be able to scan up and down the page comparing neighboring words, meanings etc.
Please observe the steps I take.
I let the dictionary fall open and glance at the page. The first word I see is 'naval'.
I scan the column / page looking for words that sound similar / the same or which may be spelt differently. Then we'll try to link the two, by comparing and contrasting the words / phrases we come across.
At the bottom I see 'navel.' Now, as a long-in-the-tooth joke-maker, I'd automatically think 'navel' on hearing 'naval'. That might just be me. Anyway, navels are funny, much more so than naval, which smacks of warfare and other non-funny areas.
So we'll write 'navel' down.
Do a quick brainstorm around the theme of 'navels'. Another very similar word pops into my mind: 'novel.'
Another quick brainstorm, this time on types of novels,' yields 'novella' and 'graphic novel.'
Can we link 'navel' with either of these?
Yes we can! This new concept of a graphic navel amuses me greatly, which is great as a middling step to create a gag.
Now we just need to finalise the idea and fine-tune the wording:.
My finished gag is in the form of a Snaaq (my own coming-up-soon comic strip) in which a man is looking at a lady's tattoos.:
"Why have you got characters from the Beano tattooed around your belly button?"
"It's my graphic navel."
I have deliberately avoided using 'navel' twice in the short space, opting for the alternative 'belly button' because over-use in a short time can defuse a punchline.
The other type of novel we came up with earlier is the novella.
To get anything out of this word, we have to divert our thinking away from navels and look somewhere else for our humour.
The thing that is special about the word 'novella' is that it is a two-word word. What am I going on about, I hear you say. Good question.
'Novella' contains 'novel' and 'ella'. The latter is a girl's name. and the former, a type of writing.
Can we do anything with this word?
Yes we can!
Google famous Ellas. There are dozens, mostly young actresses and singers. You can consider any one of them... I'll choose the late, great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.
Let's scout around for a link between Ella and a form of writing. One way of linking a famous person to the written word is through their biography.
If you were writing Ella's biography but you want to keep it brief, you could call it Novella Fitzgerald.
Believe it or not, that's a joke. In the right context It could raise a titter. If you can think of other gags including words ending in ella, you could reel off a string of other gags.
I'm going off a bit early here; I planned to talk on another occasion about use of a Rhyming Dictionary in creating comedy. If you're serious about this, I recommend you get one. And a Slang Thesaurus can be useful.
Look in the Rhyming Dictionary index for Ella. It's not there, not too surprising as it's a Christian name. We have to look for an English word rhyming with Ella. I choose 'stellar', and am directed to section 17.163
I can see three corkers:
We now want to link each of the above to what Ella was famous for: singing jazz. One of the best forms a joke like this can take is that of Question and Answer.
I can think of the following:
What sings jazz at the bottom of the sea?
What sings jazz while whirling round on the front of a plane?
What sings old jazz songs while you walk around in the rain?
This might be a harder step for you than it is for me. Down be downhearted, don't give up. Practice will enable you.
So we have created five gags:
The graphic navel one,
Novella Fitzgerald, and
Three spin-offs from 'Novella Fitzgerald.'
All we've used is a big dictionary and a two-minute look-up in a rhyming dictionary.
If we just pause to consider this, it's taken me a few minutes (maybe 15 - 25) to come up with these gags. My dictionary has 2000 pages, each with 2 columns, i.e. 4000 columns. In my work above I only viewed a small part of one dictionary column.
All the above gags came, some of them indirectly, from this.
I hope this approach liberates your comedy-writing mind as it has for mine.
Bye bye for now!