Basic Tips To Be Witty & Funny
I have been informed by some people on the Internet that I am in fact quite witty, and some of them have bemoaned their own lack of wit. To everyone who has ever felt inadequate for not being able to deliver a zippy one-liner, I have good news: I wasn't always witty. I had to learn! So here's a list of tips that helped me develop what I have today - and with luck, they'll help you, too.
Practice free association. You've probably seen various forums where members played Word Association - one member posts a word, then the next person posts the word the previous word made them think of, and so on and so forth. When possible, practice this on not only words, but various random objects and people. What word or words do they make you think of?
An example of free association being put into practice in fiction is Tony Stark calling Loki "Reindeer Games" in The Avengers. He associated the horns on his helmet with reindeer, which lead to the chosen appellation. Now, let's look at the character ourselves for a moment - he's got the horned helmet, plus he's tall and dark-haired. From this, we can derive "Tall, Dark, and Pointy" - a play on the phrase "tall, dark, and handsome."
Try this with some characters you're familiar with. Don't stress out if things don't come to you instantly - you'll get better with practice.
Watch for loopholes and possible reinterpretations of what people say. In an episode of Lost, several characters were in a very tense situation. One character calmly picked up a book and started reading. Another character asked him, "how can you read?" The first character (quite calmly) responded, "my mother taught me."
From the context, we know that the first character was actually asking "How can you read at a time like this? But the second character, ever a sharp one, spotted a hole in the wording and exploited it for great humor.
Develop a wide knowledge base. Take mental notes of everything, be it history, science, pop culture, etc. so you have a wide variety of potential material to work with. Keep in mind that just about every piece of knowledge you've got is a potential joke or witticism. Likewise, expand your vocabulary - the more words you know, the more words you can play with.
Remember the Rule of Three. A time-honored tactic of funny is, in essence, the three-layered joke. The first two layers typically comprise of everyday, ordinary, expected things, whereas the third layer comes in out of nowhere. A simple form of this can run as follows: "Today, my plans included mowing the lawn, washing my hair, and walking the dinosaur."
Watch and read funny materials and characters. Analyze what the authors/characters do and how they do it so you can get a feel for their styles and techniques. Take mental notes of what makes you and other people laugh. Do be careful not to copy their material word-for-word, though - you'll just look like an unfunny hack.
Remember to pace properly. A properly-delivered joke or witticism gives listeners time to parse, process, and absorb the information they're being given. If you deliver too fast, they'll still be too busy mulling over the setup to properly appreciate the zinger at the end. Generally, a proper pause (known as a "beat") is about the time it takes to inhale and exhale once. When it comes to delivering jokes over the Internet, a line or paragraph break can serve the same function as a beat. Go ye forth and watch some funny people to get an idea of how and when beats should be used.
Pretend you're a clever/witty character. When you're out and about, get yourself in-character for someone who is far more clever and witty than you think you are. You may be surprised how easy being charming and witty suddenly becomes!
Don't reuse your stuff over and over (in front of the same people). If you do this, you'll come off as a one-trick pony and lose pretty much all of your witty cred.
Be confident. If you have low self-esteem, it will severely inhibit your ability to be witty. A lot of people just tell me, "Oh, I'm not clever or witty" - and I'm telling you to stop thinking that way! Think of yourself as being a newbie at being witty - you might not have the hang of it yet, but the important part is that you're learning!
You Might Also Be Interested In:
So You Want To Be A More Interesting Person?
On Writing Comedy & Comic Relief
Basic Tips To Write Better Geniuses, Scientists, & Intellectuals