A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

How to Write Funny  by Mo O’Hara

So we are going to talk  about ‘How to Write Funny’ but more specifically ‘How to Write Funny for Kids.’  (Which I think is harder).

Adults will laugh if they want to impress somebody, if they are uncomfortable, if they think something is terribly clever, or even sometimes if they just feel that they are supposed to laugh.

Kids don’t do that. If you get a kid to laugh it’s because at that moment they had a genuine reaction and thought it was funny.

That’s why writing funny for kids is more rewarding for me.


There are some universal tips for writing comedy but I wanted to give you a couple of kid specific things you might want to think about too.


  1. Try not to talk about things that kids don’t care about. (That brilliant Teresa May joke might just not cut it. Sorry).  Look into the kids’ world and look for what’s funny to them.  I have done political and social humour for kids and see it done really well but it was in a kid friendly context.  Not dumbed down. Just in context.
  2. Write kind comedy. That doesn’t mean dull. That doesn’t mean worthy That certainly doesn’t mean comedy with some kind of lesson in it. Yuck. It just means don’t write mean. That’s all.  Kids care about justice and what is fair way more than adults do.

So… onto the general tips for writing funny.

I could literally go on for a whole day about this but just to briefly sum up.

As with all writing, comedy writing comes down to…

Who- the character

What- the situation

When- the timing.

Really good comedy has funny characters in funny situations with funny timing.  Nuff said?



Think up your favourite sitcom or book character. Why are they funny?

Some characters are funny because they have a funny way of looking at the world.  (They make good narrators)

Some characters are funny because they are incongruous. (The Caveman at a board meeting, the Lollipop Lady on Mars, The Principal in a Belly dancing competition)

Some characters are funny because their status is wrong (The Giggling King, The Gladiator Mouse. Whole TV series are based on this premise -Black Adder, Keeping Up Appearances)



Sometimes it works to just put an incongruous character into an ordinary scene (Ex Eddie Izard Death Star Canteen Sketch)


Try to put  your characters somewhere that they can’t get away. It’s not a coincidence that lots of successful stories have people trapped ( Prison, School, Roomates. Office Workers, Spaceship, etc)

The ‘Rule of Three’ works really well in comedy because it is essentially the format of a joke.


The Set Up- ‘I have a dog with no nose’

The forwarding action- ‘How does he smell?

Th payoff/ punchline- ‘Pretty bad.’



I think timing is the hardest thing to teach and the hardest to master.

If you want to learn good timing then watch a really good storyteller or orator.  This could be watching a Barack Obama speech, listening to Neil Gaiman read  or watching that person at the pub who makes their trip to the Post Office sound like an adventure.  Listen to good timing and let it soak into your speech.

Speech writers and comedy writers use the same tricks.

Repetition, Emphasis and Pausing.

Always read all comedy aloud.

I’m going to say that again.

ALWAYS read all comedy aloud.

Sometimes what you think is funny when it’s written loses something when spoken. It pulls up the flaws in timing.

Remember : All comedy is connected. Read, watch movies, watch TV, go to stand up, improv, sketch comedy, listen to radio comedy. All of it can positively influence your writing.

I will leave you with my favourite quote from one of my favourite comedy writers, Tiny Fey.

‘Comedy is truth plus time divided by monkeys and multiplied by one fart.’  😊

Happy writing!!!








This entry was posted on October 25, 2017 by .
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