Uncyclopedia:How To Be Funny And Not Just Stupid
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“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
“Anybody can write a three word article. It merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature.”
“When there is a shortcut method to quote me because people do it so much, it might be time for a lot of you to read this page.”
Don't let this happen to you! Follow the advice below.
Note: Some of the ideas here are ripped off from Prolixipaedia Manual of Comedic Writing.
Be a Comedian: Advice About Nonsense and Opposites
- The truth is usually funnier than nonsense. The funniest pages are those closest to the truth.
- Example: "Erik Estrada is an interstellar Cherzgon warrior who was aborted by his mother during the third week of pregnancy."
- Stupid. Pointless drivel.
- Example: "Erik Estrada is an American (possibly Costa Rican) television actor known for a successful career in the California Highway Patrol following his retirement from the television business."
- Funnier because it's closer to the truth. "CHiPS" was a real TV show. Blending fact with fiction, or blurring that line makes for better comedy. This is not a particularly hilarious line, but you get the idea.
Perhaps two-thirds of the articles are random nonsense. Little to nothing distinguishes them. Patent nonsense can be hilarious, it may get a laugh the first time, but it quickly gets dull. If someone types in "Frodo Baggins", the article should have more to do with Frodo Baggins than if they typed in "Dinosaur". They want to read a humorous slant on Frodo Baggins, not an article on a Dutch mink farmer with laser-beam eyes.
A longer, but still clever, article is better than spamming the index full of thousands of small one liners about giraffes and bathtubs. It forces us to clean up the bad stuff. Please write good stuff.
Keep this all in mind when you write an article, and things will be good.
- If all else fails, follow rule three, unless that also fails. Then you should stop writing and become a politician.
Some basic techniques of humor writing
- Repetition. This one is stupid, but it works. Say something over and over, and then repeat it, and then say it some more. Two or three times. Example: In his spare time, young Luke Skywalker enjoyed driving his land speeder, whining, shooting womp-rats, cruising for chicks in Mos Eisley, whining, nerf-herding, and whining. Sometimes, driving a joke into the ground makes it funnier. Other times, it just makes the joke dead, so please be careful, cautious, and vigilant if you decide to use this technique. And also be careful.
- Misdirection. A little more sophisticated and "witty" than repetition. Appear to go one direction with your writing, but end up in a completely different place. For instance: “Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.”
~ Groucho Marx
- If your readers see where you're going with your joke, it won't be as funny, but if they don't see what's coming, you can probably sift through their wallet before the paramedics arrive.
- Escalation: The key to the absurd style, but all around a good technique. Start out reasonable and sensible, then become increasingly extreme, irrational, and absurd. Example: Among the monastic sins listed by Saint Anselm are sodomy, bestiality, masturbation, dry-humping pillows, wearing clean underwear, touching oneself below the neck, heavy breathing, and approaching closer than 40 furlongs to a female of any mammalian species. Starting out absurd and staying that way is rarely funny. Absurdity can be funny, but it helps to work up to it from a serious- or at least, less-absurd- starting point. This is true whether you're dealing with a single sentence, a whole article, or putting live moray eels down your pants.
- Repetition. This one is stupid, but it works. Say something over and over, and then write it again in a different style, and then say it some more. Three or four times. Example: Enslaved persons didn't like being forced to work, but nobody cared and they were whipped and auctioned off. The government agreed that nobody cared about black people and prohibited giving them rights. There was a civil war, but nobody cares why or who won. Sometimes, driving a joke into the ground makes it funnier. Other times, it just makes the joke dead, so please be careful, cautious, and vigilant if you decide to use this technique. And also be cautious.
- Being Self-referential. Again, sort of an obvious technique but it can be funny. "Repetition" repeats, "Misdirection" veers off into Australia, "Escalation" escalates. See this article's section on Being Self Referential.
- Understatement. For instance, "many people would say that the Holocaust was not a good thing". Writing "OMG this kid in my class Joe Shmoe is so stupid!" is not as funny as taking a more understated approach such as "Joe Shmoe is not quite as intelligent as a mildly retarded woodchuck suffering from late-stage syphilus." Not that you're allowed to write about your classmates, though. An example is Coruscant, a "slightly overpopulated planet". Not that the article is good, though.
- Reversal. Example: Local cancer loses battle with woman. Other example: “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
~ Oscar Wilde
- Circularity. For an example, see Being Circular.
- Being Circular. For an example, see Circularity. (again, this is a dumb but effective technique, if it isn't overused).
- Be silly about serious things. Examples include Segregation or Axis of Evil Hot Dog Eating Competition. This mostly goes along with the misdirection rule. If your article is going to be about a serious topic, write it from a loony perspective. An article on "Axis of Evil" sounds like it would have to do with current/historical events, but throwing a hot dog eating competition into the mix isn't something you might expect.
- Be serious about silly things. Examples include Handgun and The GI Joe-Transformers War. Pretty much the opposite of the previous one. Folding your hand into a gun shape, pointing it, and going "bang bang!" isn't something you'd expect to have a grave perspective, but it can really add to the humour of the article, especially when you step back and realize "wait a minute, they're talking about robot Nazis! That's completely ridiculous!" We don't recommend you write an article on robot Nazis, however.
- The Straight Man. A common beginner's mistake is to be ridiculous the whole way through. However, being serious is a vital part of being frivolous. They're yin and yang, opposites that need each other. In a comic routine, this role is served by the 'straight man'. Marge Simpson's seriousness throws Homer's idiocy into sharp relief; Graham Chapman plays his King Arthur completely deadpan, making the rest of Monty Python and the Holy Grail that much more absurd by comparison. Generally speaking, you'll need some sections of your writing to serve as the "straight man". These are all the non-joke things: the background information, facts or factual sounding statements, the stuff that builds up to and supports the jokes, the punchlines, the non-sequiturs and the bizarre twists, making them sound that much more brain damaged by comparison. If your goal is to sound like a lunatic, it helps to have a sane man in the room. Examples include Hiroshima and Fire hydrant.
- Write in a Consistent Style. Uncyclopedia uses a lot of different styles. Some articles read as if they're been written by a college professor, many sound like they're written by a mentally challenged 13-year-old, and most of the... well, it's not entirely clear that these were written by something with opposable thumbs. However it usually works best to write a single article in a single style. That is, you would read it and assume a single person wrote it. It should not read like paragraph 1 is the work of a five year old girl, paragraph 2 is the work of a crotchety old man, and paragraph 3 resulted from a collaboration by a epileptic goat, a squid with Alzheimer's, and an emo kid. There are exceptions (say, writing on multiple personality disorder) but quality articles usually follow this rule. Even AAAAAAAAA!, which lacks sentences, rudiments of grammar, words, and 25 of the 26 letters of the alphabet, follows this rule.
When Writing Nonsense, be Consistent
- If you can't stay close to the truth, try to be consistent across many articles. A good example is the Oprah conspiracy series. Despite the fact that it is entirely incoherent, it's incoherent across a large span of history. This is Good.
- Be sure your string of barely coherent prose does in fact contain at least one(1) degree of celsius between each serving — or 1/6 of a "Kevin Bacon."
- Random humour can be funny if it is not seen as being serious. Keep in mind that not everyone will get the joke, and often get upset at those who write random humour. Things like Oscar Wilde dying from having someone cut off his head, and then later it grew back is random, but funny like found in The Most Quotable Smackdown of All Time.
- Be sure to check existing articles. Nothing is worse than writing a brilliantly clever piece only to find that the person or object in question is portrayed completely differently on numerous other pages. Research for a moment before adding. Of course, this inconsistency might stand on its own, but it's good to know that you're not plotzing up any large "sagas".
- This is Uncyclopedia, not Wikipedia. We're not writing "the Truth" (or "Neutral Point of View") here, so the important thing is whether a given individual article is entertaining/interesting in its own right, on a stand-alone, individual basis. In fact, it can be great to have, across different articles within a topic area, a different viewpoint in each article. It keeps the creative juices going for the introduction of fresh ideas and a variety of perspectives and approaches. As well, what's entertaining can vary from reader to reader. Maybe a reader who wouldn't find the first viewpoint on a topic area as expressed in Article 1 funny might find the second or subsequent viewpoints on that topic area in Articles 2, 3, etc. funny. Also, if you try to keep to one storyline across articles just for the sake of consistency, there's the possibility that some of the various linking articles in the series may become boring, unfunny articles that aren't interesting on an individual-article basis; instead of the linking articles, consider giving these details within the main article itself.
- Try to avoid writing over or spoiling any particular article that is otherwise a good article. If you're thinking of editing that particular article, try to be consistent in content and style with the existing content in that particular article. Otherwise, the article will begin to look like a messy, random, unfunny hodgepodge (although hodgepodges can be nice, in special cases). Thus, if you have a different viewpoint or different style from that already expressed in that particular article, you should move on and find a compatible article with your viewpoint or style or else start a new article (it's easy to do), rather than writing over or adding inconsistent content.
Spend a Little Bit of Time
- If you spent ten seconds writing it, perhaps ten people will like it. If you spent ten minutes, you might have hundreds. Even though we're full of lies and bullshit, the amount of work necessary to write a funny article may be on par with Wikipedia. The quality of our articles varies, but as a parody, it doesn't mean our quality standard should drop, just that our content is different.
- Moreover, simple, unadorned lists are rarely funny. You know the type: "List of people who can't spell" or "List of stupid things." Sometimes simple lists can be useful in launching a broader idea, as in US Presidents, but trying to be funny by listing "people who Oscar Wilde hates" isn't, well, funny. Or useful. If you must make a list, don't make it a quickie; at least spend some time fleshing it out, like in Worst 100 Movies of All Time.
- Research. A good chunk of stuff on here is random, and random can be funny. But the truly great articles require a bit of research. In order to effectively parody or satirize a subject, do some research on the real thing first, and your jokes will be better and actually make sense.
- Delete, delete, delete. More writing is more funny, right? Not necessarily. There's a reason why it's possible to make a living as an editor, a person whose job is mainly to delete prose and throw manuscripts in the trash: most writing is bad. Good writers understand this, and spend as much time mercilessly hacking their work apart as they do creating it in the first place, even throwing away completed novels to start from scratch. The ability to look at your own work, ask, "does this suck?" and answer honestly is one of the major differences between the pros and amateurs. Writing is as much about destruction as creation, so spend at least as much time editing as writing. Another way to think about it: writing is like cooking, it's as much about what you leave out as what you put in. When cooking a soup, you do everything possible not to put crap into it, shouldn't you do the same when you write?
- Revise, revise, revise. Maybe you misspelled a word, perhaps you thought of a clever joke, or a Photoshopped jpg to ice that cake. To create a really polished piece of work, you have to revisit it and smooth off all the imperfections. True, some people can hammer out a perfect first draft, but most people can't. Even Shakespeare devoted time to revising and polishing his plays.
The "@#$%^&*" Rule: Being Crass or Tasteless Doesn't Automatically Make Everything Funny
- There's no reason to swear like a US Marines drill instructor or make tasteless references every other sentence. In many lame formula jokes, crassness and/or profanity are/is the "punchline." It's usually not funny, especially if you're hung over the next day and looking over your article. Only in very few, very rare situations is crassness what makes a funny joke funny (like 'fucking Johnny Borrell', because he acts like that. The rest of the article is pretty dire though). Please don't use it as your primary source of humor. This includes those regurgitated dead baby jokes, as well as jokes about regurgitated, dead babies. Come up with something original, or at least put it in an original manner, rather than rely on shock factor as a fucking crutch.
- Not everyone likes scatological humor. In fact, many people simply find it immature and disgusting, and may not only start avoiding your articles, but Uncyclopedia as a whole. Just because you find the thought of defecation and farting hilarious doesn't mean that others do.
- Gay jokes. As of the time of this writing, there are more hits for the term 'gay' on Uncyclopedia than for the term 'the'. Adding the word 'gay' or a reference to gay parents for every person under the sun doesn't make the article funny - it makes it sound like it was written by a grade schooler. Again, come up with something original.
Avoid Clichés (most of the time)
- Many uninventive definitions follow overused formulas. These include:
- the term ...was invented by...
- the term ...Is a Rock band...
- the term ...was president of...
- Infinite loop pages. We have a category full of these, please, no more.
- Articles consisting solely of "See (article)" (If you need to, put on the page:
#REDIRECT[[Page name here]]).
- Saying the exact opposite of reality.
- This person...did something...a period of time...after his death. Just stupid, not funny.
- Using a film or television quote with little or no context. This especially goes for the "Did you know...?" section.
- Referencing an extra-dimension for no reason. For example: "is traditionally used to slide through the 4th dimension". Just not funny and used all the time.
- Of course there are times when there is a good legitimate reason for using such formulas but are quite often used as a quick lazy definition when you can think up a good one.
- Example: The Mongoose was invented by Oprah in 1378 B.C
- Not Funny.
- Example: George W. Bush is a highly liberal communist dedicated to gay rights
- Not Funny. Better than above, but still.
- Example: Creationism is the idea that God was so bored out of his mind he spent 6 days creating everything on our planet, and for good measure put in several jokes to fool us into believing it must have taken him much longer.
- Funny! Why? It's not a throwaway, plus it gives us a reason to laugh. That crazy God.
- In the 'Did you know' section, avoid using the words 'I', 'me', or 'my'.
- If a joke immediately pops into your head after three seconds' worth of pondering, assume it will occur to many, many people as well, and a large fraction of them will probably make it in other pages. Result: unfunny repetition.
- In particular: dear god, please lay off the Star Wars jokes, and saying so-and-so is a Sith, and such-and-such did whatever with Chewbacca.
- Extremely large numbers. (like 2193732483249 or 9999999999999) should be generally avoided. Sometimes a smaller, but round number can be funnier.
- Ridiculous dates simply serve to confuse the reader; they don't make your article funny. Remember: you want the reader to actually read your article, not just look at it, decide that it is nonsense or incoherent, and leave. Unless your article is about time travel, you're not going to make someone laugh by choosing ridiculous dates; you'll just make them stop reading.
- Celebrities: Really now, did celebrities do everything? If you feel the need to insert a famous person into an unrelated article, make it one that is applicable to the topic - for example, saying "Eminem was the daughter of Pat Sajak and Mickey Mouse" is pointless drivel; however, "Eminem is the son of Dr. Dre and Queen Latifa" is much better, as while Eminem is obviously not their child, it parodies his adoption of black culture. Always remember to have a specific point for your words; if you don't have a point (except to write randomness), the reader's not going to see one, and they're going to tune your article out.
Avoid Stagnant Jokes
This is not the place to post stagnant jokes that have been repeated to death. They are no longer funny except to a few people and should never ever be posted here.
Common examples of stale jokes are:
- Everything and anything to do with Chuck Norris, especially facts.
- Your very own made-up version of Hitler, Darth _______, or Jesus.
- Russian Reversal "jokes".
- Text adventures.
- Killing Kenny or Ran Cossack
- A majority of World of Warcraft jokes.
- Especially Leeroy Jenkins.
- Everything that has ever appeared on Something Awful, eBaum's World, YTMND, College Humor, etc.
- Emo jokes.
- Vin Diesel jokes.
- Most everything on VG Cats, Ctrl+Alt+Del, Penny Arcade, or pretty much any other webcomic or web cartoon in existence.
- Especially Homestar Runner.
- And "a series of tubes".
- Anything to do with Snakes on a Plane.
- Anything to do with 300.
- Tedious pop culture references.
- Linking to AAAAAAAAA!
- Linking to Nobody cares.
- Have you recently seen The Most Hilarious Film Parody Ever on the telly? Well, please don't post the exact joke word for word. By all means, add to the joke (You have two cows style) or even joke about the joke if it is well known enough. That said, if you are sure that no-one else could have possibly heard/seen the joke before, then please post it. Sometimes, the few people who understand the reference can build on it surprisingly well. However, this has to be genuinely humorous and not limited to the realm of in-jokes.
Meta-Humor isn't always as funny as you think it is
While we love to poke fun at ourselves and make light of some of the more rampant phenomena on this site, not every event, person, or trend on this site is worth documenting. This extends to creepy articles about users, references to otherwise insignificant and unhumorous events, and attempts to generate "trends" within The Uncyclopedia. There are few times that general phenomena are worth their own article and are limited to large-scale phenomena, such as Making Up Oscar Wilde Quotes. Furthermore, these articles must be well executed, lest they completely destroy its original humor. Think of it this way: Meta-humor is like fine, aged wine, it must not only have been around for a long time, but also has to have intrinsic value in order for it to be any good. Century-old bad wine is one hundred years old, but it's still bad
Use In-Jokes Sparingly
- Just 'cause it's funny to you and three of your friends doesn't make it funny to us. Most in-jokes are "had to be there" moments, or rely on several other situations/experiences to understand exactly what makes it funny. They're hard to explain, and fail to be humorous in a stand-alone situation. This does not apply, however, to Uncyclopedia in-jokes. Since you are writing articles for the Uncyclopedia, it's perfectly acceptable to use Officially Established Uncyclopedia-Originated In-Jokes. It adds personality to the site, and distinguishes it from other wannabe parody wikis.
- Further note: Do not try to establish a foothold for your pre-existing in-joke here. Unless it's a true diaphragm-cramper, it's not worth your time (as it will likely get deleted) or ours (we could huff 20 kittens in the time it takes to delete your cruft.)
- And while we're here, don't be vain. Articles written about your fanfic, or your story characters, or your goddamn story setting, WILL be deleted as a rule. So will articles about how much your school sucks, or how your town is a pisshole, or what an idiot your friend is. This is not your personal backstory site- create your own damn wiki if you want to list the ancient history behind your character's armor's codpiece or whatever. If you are going to make an article about something of your own, that is if you have a BURNING, UNQUENCHABLE DESIRE to do so (this is not everyone), do a good job on it. Make it fit in here- if something seems out of place it's goin' bye-bye. A prime example of how to make your vanity work is Camp Fuck You Die.
Use Pictures Wisely
- A picture is a perfect complement to a good joke. But only if it is well made. Chopping up a picture of Tony Blair's face in MS Paint is not well made (unless you're making the picture look bad for a satirical purpose). Taking time on the picture and using a professional program such as the GIMP or Photoshop to make it is advisable, although some of you will be able to knock up decent images on Paint. Most importantly, don't use an old picture that you found on the internet, no matter how sure you are that no-one else will have seen it, use your own imagination to produce something better.
Bias Is Not a Replacement for Humor
- Never substitute bias in place of humor. While biases and points of view are allowed, often to the extent of encouragement, on Uncyclopedia, simply writing something like "The Big Mac is a piece of dog shit on two buns" or "Man United are considered by everyone to be the best athletes in the history of mankind" is not funny by itself. Instead, explain, in lavish detail, what makes these things so great or terrible. Remember, you aren't the only person on this planet. Try to keep your stuff funny, but not insulting.
- Also note that that when an admin deletes overt, explicit bias, he or she does not necessarily disagree with you on that subject. It is rarely personal. He or she is responsible for keeping additions streamlined and in the spirit of the rest of the article, as well as the Uncyclopedia.
- Not everyone on the planet is male. This may seem like such an obvious point, and yet it is frequently overlooked. There's no better way to make women feel unwelcome at Uncyclopedia than to either pretend they don't exist or talk derisively about them (in a non-parody manner, that is!). In an article about homosexuality, are lesbians mentioned only in passing, ignored outright, or considered (in a non-satiric manner) to be inherently "hot"? In an article about civil rights, is the struggle for women's rights forgotten? Perhaps most importantly, does an article refer to "you" (the reader), then make comments which would only make sense for straight males (such as "you don't have a girlfriend, loser"; "you are gay and enjoy having sex with other men".) Little things like that can accumulate.
Outright sarcasm is Not a Replacement for Humor
- Clearly stating what is either right or obvious in a sarcastic manner comes off less as funny, and more as politically resentful or bitter. Take, for example
- Example: America had some goodwill in the world. Who would want that? After all, you can’t take goodwill to the bank. (Or can you?)
- Bad. Sounds more like someone is annoyed with foreign policy and is letting it out here. It has all the subtlety of an amped marching band, and seeks to hammer the point in sarcastically, rather than ease it in with humor. Such text is overtly political and serves no purpose than to vindicate one side and irritate the other, seeming as if the author is upset or otherwise disenfranchised. It's blunt and relatively humorless, and while editorializing can be funny, this passage only ends up killing the humor of the rest of the article.
- Example: The Crusades were a series of military campaigns first initated in the 11th through 13th centuries by King George I of Texas, (the burning Bush of Moses fame) and continued by his heir George II. Intended to subjugate the Muslim people of the Middle East and brand the holy mark of W upon their foreheads, it also allowed America to cast aside any concern it had for goodwill and credibility and march Don Quixote-like into Baghdad with trumpets blaring and red, white and blue flags flying. God bless America!
- Good. Why? Because it's certainly more lighthearted, and definitely more subtle. It's not explicitly political or sarcastic, qualifying more as satire. While not laugh-a-minute, it certainly doesn't sound like someone's angry or frustrated. This seems like it was typed by Someone Who Was Trying To Be Silly. It also sounds more official and professional, and it's closer to truth without actually being truth.
- Basically, blunt, straight sarcasm is not humorous, especially when other people do it better as satire.
In The Style Of...
For some articles, doing the article in the style of what the article is about can be amusing. For example, the article on Nihilism is blank. The article on Redundancy is redundant, repetitive, and repeats itself, and frankly, the less said about Sexual innuendo, the better. Other good examples include Braille, Zork, Nethack, Zen, Misleading, Random Insanity, Subtilty, Redirection, J.D. Salinger, Pig Latin, Alliteration, Vladimir Nabokov, James Joyce, Russian Reversal, Binary, ROT13, e e cummings and many more.
Don't just rely on this alone, though, unless you are absolutely sure that the article can stand on its own by taking the style of the topic. NetHack and James Joyce are good examples of where it can stand on its own, because all throughout the article, it maintains the appropriate style (NetHack having the appearance of a game of NetHack, and James Joyce mimicking his manner of writing which can be incomprehensible to people unfamiliar with it). With J.D. Salinger, on the other hand, the article has to be supplied with more than just the speaking style of the main character of The Catcher in the Rye. As it has this, it is a very good article.
Other possible sources for humor
- Status Change. Stephen Colbert has suggested that all good humor involves status change. For example: if you are walking down the street, and bump into the President of the United States and he apologizes to you profusely, gets flustered, then asks you for your autograph, that's funny.
- Remember rule one. If something is coherent, and closer to the truth, it is funnier than pure nonsense.
- Often, official, professional-sounding prose kicks the humor up a bit. Consider your tone as you write articles. Would an authoritarian, encyclopedic tone make this even better, or would slack-jawed drivel work best as its own sort of irony? Do outbursts work? Try different styles to see if it improves your content.
- Writing about Writing: unfortunately, there is no Elements of Style for writing humor, and it would be difficult to write one, since humor often comes from breaking rules instead of following them. However, there is an Elements of Style for writing in general, which is called The Elements of Style. To the extent that knowing the craft of writing makes you a better humor writer, this book (sometimes just called "Strunk and White" after the authors) is worth picking up, reading, and then rereading, and then fusing to your cerebral cortex in a dangerous medical experiment of questionable ethics. George Orwell’s essay "Politics and the English Language” is also very useful; both are short and to the point.
- Can't think of any ideas for your article? Try this article: How to Get Ideas For Your Article
Please help contribute to a funnier and wittier Uncyclopedia. Thank you for taking the time to read this guide.