Upping Your Writing Skills through the Words of Humor

A few years ago, I spent a weekend in Steve Kaplan’s comedy workshop along with several other authors. Kaplan is an author and comedy expert and guru to some of the top stars and TV shows in the industry. Yup, we watched video clips of classic comedy sketches (hello Abbott and Costello) … but it was the beauty of the clips from movies that were rolled … then pulled apart line by line. And here is what was cool: good movies and bad movies—both with people and animated were used to illustrate the six hidden tools of comedy.

Now, you may be thinking … I don’t write comedy … why should I give a fig, Judith?

Ahh … so glad you asked. Comedy makes us real … it adds to your writing … even in the most tragic of storylines. Comedy sprinkled in the right place, delivers the relief that is needed … and few realize it. As Kaplan said, “Comedy tells the truth …”

Have you even been to a funeral at a gravesite? I have and the most memorable one was for a close friend of a good friend of mine. I went with her to just be with her. Her friend had been a huge man … I mean so huge, that his body was delivered to the gravesite via a pickup. Good enough, you make do with what you need to make do. As they many worked to pull the casket out of the truck … the OMG happened … it slipped.

And it wasn’t a little slip. The casket and its contents turned into a sled, sliding down the hillside. We all watch with our mouths gapped … and then it happened. A giggle and a muffled gasp … the domino reaction started. Then someone said, “Henry would have loved this …” I didn’t know Henry, but golly, knowing that he would haven’t gotten a kick out of his final exit made me like him a lot. It was the truth and told quite visually.

Steve Kaplan of KaplanComedy.com shared his 6 Hidden Tools of Comedy.

Winning: In comedy, you take whatever action you think you need to do in order to win. Kaplan says, “Comedy give you the permission to win.” His best examples came from Groundhog Day.

Non-Hero: Someone who lacks some, if not all the skills and tools to win. Kaplan calls it, “Don’t know.” His example is from the classic scene from Something About Mary and the hair gel.

Metaphorical Relationship: The essential relationship beneath the surface relationship: a unique way to see the world. Kaplan added, “Even shy people have babies … they must figure out a way.”

In reality, the perception of a character can be quite distorted to reality … yet it’s a relationship of sorts.

Positive Action
: Every action the non-hero takes is done with the hope or expectation that it will work, or at least make a bad situation better.  Kaplan shared, “No one likes to suffer except poets and actions.” Then the aha: characters are the master of their own disasters. Then he showed a delightful clip with John Cleese in Faulty Towers … an episode I had seen many times. With his guidance, I saw so much more than just a laugh out loud outrageousness.

Active Emotion: the emotion that naturally occurs in the course of trying to win. His add, “In comedy, we protect ourselves with a screen door.” That’s where body language and facials are huge … lots from the Seinfeld gang was walked through … what was happened … and then what was really happening.

Straight Line / Wavy Line: The true essential dynamic of comedy: The one who sees and the one who does not see; the one creating the problem and the one struggling with the problem. One of the masters of the straight line / wavy line form of delivery is John Cleese. His words, “We used to think that comedy was watching someone do something silly … we came to realize that comedy was watching somebody watch somebody so something silly.”

So … my challenge for you this coming week is to become a “watcher” … watch a few comedies. Here’s a few to send you down memory lane: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Champions, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Some Like It Hot, When Harry Met Sally, Duck Soup, Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Raising Arizonia

Think about the scenes … the words … what is happening. Next, revisit your own writing. What can you do to juice it up a bit? Remember, sometimes the visual screams louder than words

Happy viewing and happy writing … and have fun.



Dr. Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. Often, she must roll up her writing sleeves and become a Book Doctor, juicing up storylines and author words. She empowers authors and works directly with authors who want to be seriously successful and has been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 44 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book PlatformsSnappy Sassy Salty: Success for Authors and Writers, and How to Create a Million Dollar Speech. Her personal memoir When God Says NO-Revealing the YES When Adversity and Loss Are Present is a #1 bestseller on Amazon and her historical fiction debut Secret Journey. Collectively, her books have earned over 45 book awards. Judith speaks throughout the year at publishing conferences. 

Throughout the year, she holds Judith Briles Book Unplugged in-person and online experiences: Publishing, Speaking, Marketing, and Social Media. All are two-day intensives limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. Join Judith live for the “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” podcast on the Toginet Radio Network HERE

Follow @AuthorUYOUBooks and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorYOU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact her.

©2023 Judith Briles – The Book Shepherd™ All Rights Reserved.