Making Sense of Humour

Funnyman author Oliver Phommavanh has just launched his new book, The Other ChristyHere, Oliver gives tips on how kids can write their own funny stories…

[NB: This afternoon, Wed 29 June 2016, 4:30pm-5:00pm Oliver and I are having a Chicken-Off on my new Exploding Chickens game. See if you can beat me and Oliver and, maybe, beat AMY9, the current high-scorer. Spread the word! We’ll be chatting while we play in comments on this pic in my Instagram feed. You can chat, too, or leave your comments below this post by clicking ‘Post a Comment!’.]

Kids often ask me how they can come up with funny stories. I reply by asking them another question. ‘What makes you laugh?’

I believe it’s a good place to start because you need to make sense of your own humour first. When I’m doing writing workshops, kids are drawing from all kind of places to write humour. Here are some examples:

  • The funny things they see and read. It could be books and TV, but more recently it’s what they see on YouTube or the memes they see on social media. 
  • Gross humour. Some may say that it is a cheap laugh. But I would rather have a kid write about boogers then write nothing at all. It’s instant gratification. If I find a kid who can’t get past those kind of jokes, I get them to expand on it. So you’ve got a fart gun. Why not make it a fart bazooka? Or if their punchlines (last line) always end with eating boogers, try to come up with some unlikely scenarios at the beginning. In Tristan Bancks’ My Life stories, there are some great examples of pushing the gross to the max and in clever ways. [Thanks Oliver – 😉 Tristan.] 
Comedian and Kids’ Author Oliver Phommavanh.
  • The example you’ve just modelled. If I gave the class an example of a kid who licks weird things, I guarantee that almost half the kids will come back to me with someone who does the same. So make your example count. 
  • Embarrassing moments. In my latest book, The Other Christy, the two girls Christy and Christie try to outdo each other with who has the most embarrassing family. They’ve come up with the embarrometer, where they give their moment a rating of 1 to 10 based on how embarrassing it is. Embarrassment is a universal feeling that everyone can relate to, so there is usually a lot of scope for kids to take these feelings and turn them into funny scenarios.
  • Bring the weird out. I always tell kids to make every character weird in their stories. I don’t mean that every character has to have giant ears and green skin. I usually play a game like Two Truths and a Lie, where kids have to try to find something strange and unusual about them. Maybe they’ve broken 7 bones in their body. Or they’re scared of pumpkins. In The Other Christy, Christy Ung has a pet rabbit named Barbeque. Yes, Barbeque the rabbit. No wonder her grandpa always chases him with tongs. 

So everyone has a funny side that they can tap into for their stories. Once they get into the habit to look for the weird and draw from their own funny experiences, they’ll be writing funny stories in no time!

See you at 4:30 in the inaugural BATTLE OF THE EXPLODING CHICKENS.


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