I recently conducted a workshop entitled “Humor in Memoir.” Originally, the workshop was actually called “Laugh and the World Laughs with You.” I gave this workshop at the Association of Personal Historians annual conference in St. Louis, MO, last October.
This was an attempt to try to teach memoirists how to inject humor into their work. If you’ve read my ghostwriting site, you’ll know I use humor a lot in all the work I do, but when people ask me how I do it or what situations call for humor, sometimes I just shrug. It’s intuitive! But I wanted to answer that question once and for all and codify (if you will) writing with humor, so that people who just don’t have a natural knack for it can try to learn to do it.
You Can Learn to Be Funny
This attempt was somewhat the result of the fact that I wrote a book about neuroscience for a client last year. The big take-away of the book is that the latest findings in neuroscience absolutely prove that the brain is plastic, which means it’s able to change and learn an infinite amount. That means your IQ can be improved.
Your ability to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language can be improved. Everything you want to change about yourself, intellectually, can pretty much be changed, although it takes a lot of work.
Observation, Honesty, Comparison, Hyperbole
So, it stands to reason that if you want to learn to be funny, you should be able to learn that, too. It’s just a matter of someone breaking down the exact technique and teaching it. My workshop was broken down into four parts: observation, honesty, comparison, and hyperbole. Then we had a Q & A period at the end.
In the workshop, I draw on the work of some of today’s great humorous memoir writers, like David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, and Augusten Burroughs to find similarities in the techniques they use and highlight the different ways they use those four simple elements.