Humor is Everywhere–The Art of Being Funny

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Looks legit.

One of my absolute favorite people in the world is humor author and mommy-blogger Leanne Shirtliffe. I know if I’m having a rough day, that I just need to stop by Leanne’s blog or Facebook page, because she’ll have me smiling in minutes. One of the advantages of starting my company, WANA International, is I was able to abduct recruit my favorite people to teach.

Today, Leanne’s, going to give us some tips about how to make the world our muse—> then make it LOL.

Take it away, Leanne!


Humor is everywhere, from Tom Cruise’s teeth to your local pet store. You just have to look for it.

How do you find humor?

Watch what children do:

mixed up animal

Genetic modification for the tween set.

I grabbed a notebook out of my bedside table to record this bizarre conversation. On the next available page was this note from my daughter.

I grabbed a notebook out of my bedside table. On the next available page was this note from my daughter.

Look at sign combinations:

Make your own punch line.

Gives new meaning to “strip mall.”

Gives new meaning to the saying "to hell and back"

Gives new meaning to the saying “to hell and back”

Evidently my garage is a "community"

Evidently my garage is a “community”

Does watching mommy and daddy skull beers count as "live entertainment"?

Does watching mommy and daddy skull beers count as “live entertainment”?

Visit your local book store, especially the bargain books section. Look for weird combos of books.

Vampire-True Age Book

So you’ve found humor. Now what?

  • What about having a character in your manuscript come across one of these signs or combinations of books? Even non-humorous characters can see or find humor.
  • Creating characters with unique characteristics is one way to be original; observing quirky details is yet another way to develop a distinctive voice.

Interested in finding out many more humor techniques?

Attend my WANA webinar on Wednesday, April 24 from 8:30-10:00 PM EST, “How To Be Funny (Er): 10 Techniques for Writers of Fiction and Nonfiction.

All participants will be entered to win a copy of my soon-to-be-released humor book, Don’t Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to my Kids.

Click here for more details on the webinar and/or to register.

Where’s your favorite place to “find” humor? What makes you laugh?
How do you use humor in your writing?


About Leanne Shirtliffe

Gravatar whitenedLeanne Shirtliffe is a humor writer whose book, Don’t Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to my Kids, has received positive endorsements Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), Jill Smokler (Scary Mommy), Kirkus Review, and others. She writes for the Huffington Post,, and When she’s not stopping her eight-year-old twins from licking frozen flagpoles, Leanne teaches English to teenagers who are slightly less hormonal than she is.

Thanks Leanne! Please show her some love for making your Fridays more fun :D.

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. Haha, I laughed several times during this, so cudos to you, Leanne! I didn’t even start to develop a proper humor until a few years back, so I’m far behind on this one. I definitely want to become better. Are those courses online?

    1. Thanks, Lythya. Yes, it’s a 90-minute, online webinar where I share everything I know about writing humor. Hope to see you there!

    • Harold Thompson on April 20, 2013 at 8:48 am
    • Reply

    ….hearing from you guys… we all need a little more humor which is said to be like medicine of which I should more often partake. My own humor is so dry it’s missed or sometimes I get an obligatory chuckle. But Seriously. When I look at all the projects you have going… I can feel the exhaustion 🙂 Keep going though because you are doing something that other people can’t do. BTW I just read a little book called Steal Like an Artist, great for writers. Continued Blessings.

    1. Harold, I love dry humour. The Brits are especially great at that. And thanks for the book recommendation. I’m going to check that out.

    • Trish Loye Elliott on April 20, 2013 at 9:02 am
    • Reply

    Your blog makes me laugh!
    But you’re right, my kids crack me up. So do other people’s kids (they do the dumbest things).
    My writing is way too serious though. I’m so not funny and I definitely need help. I’ll be signing up for that course.

    1. Trish! You are funny. Many of your award-winning short stories have quirky heroines.

  2. Leanne! You know I’ve been one of your biggest fans from the beginning! I can’t wait for your class! It’s going to be a busy with between your class and Jay’s. I’m not sure how I’m going to swing it. Thank you for converting PCT to Eastern for us dummies on the right coast.

    Can’t wait to be funnier.

    By the way…

    Does your class come with a money back guarantee if I’m not able to get people to pee in their pants? Or should I just continue to read my posts in nursing homes?

    1. Bwahaha. See? That last line? Brilliant. Plus, maybe as a bonus, I’ll pee my pants for you.

  3. Love the post, Leanne! I come from a family where wise-a$$ humor is the norm, so my blog posts tend to shuffle off in that direction like demented zombies. No big coincidence that I tend to enjoy reading posts written by quirky bloggers who see the wacky side of things.
    I so agree about giving characters a sense of humor that is unique to them. I’ve read books (by ultra-successful, famous authors) where everyone is so deadly serious, and it’s unrealistic — people do joke around on occasion, do find silliness around them, even in dark situations. Of course, sometimes the funniest lines (by characters & real peeps) are the ones that pop out accidentally, and where the “poppee” has no clue. ;-}
    Thanks for sharing Leanne’s humor with us, Kristen! ‘Twas a fun way to start my day. :-}

    1. Love wise-a$$ humor (except when it my 8yo twins use it at my expense). I like your point about people joking around occasionally. Shakespeare was adept at creating the most most tragic situations, then interspersing scenes with comical characters as a way to relieve and build tension.

  4. This is very timely. I teach at a community college and we have seven class sessions before the end of the semester. The final paper I’m assigning is to approach a topic with humor or satire. One thing the students don’t seem to appreciate is that intelligent humor is crafted and that a true ‘sense’ of humor is a rare commodity, but that it can be developed. I’ll be using this post on Monday. Thanks…

    1. I love that you’re teaching humor and satire. I’ve taught it to as young as eighth graders. Top ten lists seem to be a structure they can handle, too.

    • Monica-Marie Vincent on April 20, 2013 at 9:50 am
    • Reply

    I think that the best part is the fact that the title of Leanne’s book is “Don’t Lick The Minivan & other things I never thought….” There are just way too many things that kids do that we never thought we’d have to admonish them for! LOL

    1. You’re right. The book was originally titled “Get that train off your penis.”

      1. My husband and I totally prefer the old title.

        1. Of course, now I sometimes confusing the titles, claiming that my book is called “Don’t Lick the Penis…”

  5. I had to follow her, especially with m offbeat sense of humor.

  6. Thank you Leanne for reminding us that a little humor is good for the reader’s soul. 🙂

  7. Love these…and so did my nine-year-old granddaughter. The Loigraff was tops but the note to mom was pretty funny, too. Maybe I need to add some kids to my paranormal romances!

    Thanks for cheering up a Saturday!

    1. I love intergenerational humor. 🙂

  8. This is great! A little dash of humor, even in a thriller or serious tome, can break the ice and provide a momentary bit of relief.

  9. Leanne, I’m onboard for the seminar. Kristen, work on the van. Maybe a Scooby Doo paintjob.

    1. Great, Tom. Can’t wait to see you on the interwebs!

  10. Thanks Leanne! I’m now following your blog. I can always use a reminder not to take motherhood too seriously. 😀

    I wanted to put a particular funny moment in my first book that happened to a cousin, but couldn’t for copyright reasons. She was listening to the song, Catch Us If You Can by the Dave Clark Five. Then she asked, “What’s a ‘sifucan?” I love garbled lyrics. lol

    1. Love that. (Last month I learned that the word “mondegreen” refers to the very act of mixing up song lyrics. Gotta love the English language).

      And I know what you mean about song lyrics. I had to paraphrase some of Lady Gaga instead of using two lines from the song. Bizarre.

  11. Hands down, my kids are the topic my humorous inspiration mountain. I have 5, and ever since my oldest could crack a joke, they’ve kept me laughing, even wyn I was pulling my hair out. In fact, the humor the main characters (19, 16, and 12 years old) exhibit among
    themselves is by and large drawn from or based upon then shenanigans my kids get up to. (Oops, gotta go. The cat just climbed into the cupboard and is after the bread. No, really. He’s real garb fiend.) Bye. 🙂

    1. The carby cat. Sounds like a picture book idea.

      Kids are great that way. You have to love it when you mine your personal life for details for your fiction!

  12. Er, please excuse the typos. They are a combination of a really small keypad and auto-correct. * rolls eyes*

  13. Leanne, I do not intentionally add humor to my stories. Maybe the scenes or the character development might create the humor. Description could be humorous, but it is usually not intentional. Yes, I do find myself wanting to laugh during the re-read to edit on some occasions. I can understand where humor is needed to be a writer for children, but your young adult market might not find it humorous since they are trying to live out being more adult. Humor would be good to keep readers turning pages, but too much might get them to close the book. A happy medium would be needed, but I really do not intentionally add the humor.

    1. You raise a good point, Daniel, and it might depend on the author. I think humor in serious books should generally be subtle, though. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas does a good job at that, very occasionally…

      1. Calgary Herald, are you Canadian?

        The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – I almost was afraid to ask after reading some of the comments above, so I searched.

        But then again the government is teaching homosexuality is acceptable, and it is taught to public elementary school children.

        I was against Sex Education to be taught at the high school level when the debate first started at the State of Missouri.

        Striped meaning prison, it was funny.

        1. I am Canadian. 🙂

          1. Leanne, I was born at Sorsogon City, Philippines; but I lived at the United States for 36 years of mostly Southwest Missouri except the two dorm years at Mizzou in Columbia, Missouri. I returned to my birth country on December 2, 2004 thinking that I gave up on my writing career. Because of Social Media, I am in “in-communicado” with a Canadian writer and I did not have to buy an airline ticket. The future is so bright; I need to buy sunglasses, now that I am learning the Internet World and how I could possibly profit someday.

  14. I’ve got the funny thing down. My problem is I was trying to ignore that part of me and create a blog that concentrated on the paranormal type stuff I was writing and being all dark and mysterious. I started a second blog as a place to vent about being an ADD mom raising ADHD boys, where the only thing dark and mysterious is what’s growing in their underwear drawers. I really enjoy writing that blog. It’s easy to write. I want to know how you market the funny blog that gives half-ass advice? I’m not the mom that can tell you how to plan a month of menus with $10 and a bag of beans. You sure as hell don’t want me to tell you how to organize anything, so how do you market yourself? How do you get the gigs writing for Nick and Huffington? Give the funny folks some tips on how to get people to notice…Oh, wait. I guess that’s what Kristen has been teaching us. Crap. Well, back to building meaningful relationships on twitter.

    1. Great comment. It’s hard. In many ways, I was lucky. NickMom came to me from search engines. I pitched myself to everyone (and got plenty of rejections). But one acceptance to the community section of the Calgary Herald worked out. Then, one of my contacts there moved to the HuffPo and asked me to come write. Actually, that’s how I’ve gotten a lot of my big contacts: I wrote stuff for small websites/papers, then the editors move on to bigger things.

      Not sure that helps. But write as best you can, keep building your community, and pitch pitch pitch!

    • Carol Newquist on April 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm
    • Reply

    Panel vans like the style in the picture are referred to as Death Vans in our family. It was overkill on our part in the administering of instructions to the children about avoiding pedophilic (my word) psychopaths. “Always beware of the panel van,” we would tell them. It’s worked so far, they haven’t been abducted….YET! However, there is one little side-effect. To them, all servicemen are potential psychopathic pedophiles……but hey, I guess it was worth it; they’re still with us and undamaged (most of the time). I don’t know how much longer we can hold our breath, though. Isn’t life exciting?

    1. Your comment had me laughing out loud, Carol. Death vans. I’m into all or nothing parenting too.

  15. Thans Leanne and ristin. Humor is not my forte… but a wonderful gift for those who possess it.
    Nonetheless l look for places even in my rather dark epic fantasy (maybe especially there… readers need a break from the grim and difficult) l think the juxtaposition not only provides relief but also serves to highlight how hard things are. As my Dad used to say… you can’t recognize the darkness unless you’ve seen the light.

    Enjoyed your post very much.

    1. Thanks, Pamela. I do believe humor can be learned, just like writing can be taught to a very proficient level. There’s a simple formula for all jokes, actually. It’s the first thing I’m starting off the webinar with.

      And I love your Dad’s saying. Beautiful. And true.

  16. So many have shared so much with me and I wish to share as well please accept my nominations and if nothing else know I am grateful for your sharing on your pages with us all and the time you share with me on mine.Thank you!! 🙂 Joe

  17. Humour is the one thing that get’s me through life. It separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, except maybe the primates who love throwing crap at zoo visitors. There have been people who have actually died laughing. Hint to self, don’t watch “Mrs Browns Boys” while drinking coffee. Frothy coffee bubbles hanging out of your nostrils are never a good look when you want to get your leg over later that night. The pic of the adult store is a beauty, then doggy style pet grooming under it, I’d finished my coffee when I saw it. I’ve clicked on follow and hope to be entertained:-)

    1. Thanks, Laurie, for the entertaining reply. I’ll be ducking the next time I go to the zoo.

      • A. Nonymous on August 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm
      • Reply

      At first glance I read “I’ve licked on follow…” and my first reaction (ok, ok – second reaction after laughing out loud) was hoping you do not drink your coffee with too much sugar in it.

      Back on topic: Love this post. Given it took me til August to stumble across it, I may get to really enjoy it come early next year.

  18. Great topic, and thanks for the tips. The problem for me, is that finding humour in images seems very different to me in writing humour in a novel. Maybe i’m crazy LOL well, okay, i’m definitely crazy… but I digress.

    Interestingly enough, when I try to intentionally write humour into a novel, it tends to come off cheesy and forced. When I published my first book, Legends of Marithia, I came back to it months later to sit down and read it with fresh eyes. I found myself laughing at the irony of a scene, but when I was writing the book, I was completely oblivious to the humour of it.

    Now, writing my new scifi novel, I have some references to pop culture in the dialogue, which is something that I would say myself, and it sounds naturally funny.

    Where do you draw the line between forced humour, and natural humour? And like many comedies (I am yet to write a pure comedy book myself), everyone has different tastes in humour.

    Peter Koevari

    1. Great comment and questions, Peter. I agree that for serious fiction, humor needs to be subtle and organic. Dialogue is certainly a key for that. I think a search for humor is really a search for bizarre details which creates a more original character (and not necessarily a laugh-out-loud). Lee Child’s near iconic character, Jack Reacher, who takes one item (his toothbrush!) with him everywhere is one such example.

      We’ll be looking at a lot more details (including examples from a myriad of authors) on Wednesday.

      Happy writing!

  19. Great post! Very helpful tips. I’m going to take those and run with it. 😀

  20. Comment, comment, comment aahhh this is so exiting! WOOT WOOT

  21. Hilarious, I had tons of fun! Thanks for sharing!!

  22. Thanks for the inspiration. Some of these tips I have found myself doing but many are new .
    Thanks again.

  23. Hi! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your
    blog and look forward to new posts.

  24. Leanne, your work is marvelous! Yes, marvelous! I’m afraid to say here (but will anyway, because that’s what I do – say inappropriate things) that I am a bit weary of the “mom” stuff. If I hear, “I’m a busy mom” one more time… Well, nothing. I won’t do anything. But it’s a little on my nerves. What I’m (slllloooooooowwwwwly) getting to is that I wish you hadn’t been introduced here as a “mommy-blogger”, because you are just hilarious!!! I’m sure that you identify with mothers, but I just think you should be known as a freaking awesome writer of humor, and let me just say, I’m following you, girl. I am so following you. Great, great job.

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