“How can I be a funny girl? You can never find anything on how to be a funny girl!” This young lady said to me recently. Interesting question, because literally every single day I get asked questions about comedy; “How can I get into comedy?” “Can I learn to be funny?” “How do I get into stand up?” You name it, when it comes to comedy, I get asked. I realized that I never got asked, specifically, about how to be a funny girl.
I Googled it and she was right! You don’t ever find anything on how to be a funny girl. There aren’t a lot of resources on how to be a funny girl. So I decided to post this blog and dedicate it to being a funny girl.
For the purposes of this post—and so I don’t risk getting pummeled with emails about the word “girl” vs. the word “woman,” I’m going to keep to the title of the post and include women under the umbrella as well, so when I write about how to be a funny girl, I’m also including women on this, because the woman who originally asked that question was well into her 30’s.
I will also address this to young ladies at least 12-years of age and older. The reason? At twelve most kids begin to develop the ability for complex reasoning. It allows for a greater understanding of incongruity and irony, two keys to humor.
Let’s start with why you would want to be funny. First of all, at a social level, funny, is not only a great self-defense mechanism, it helps to get us out of some pretty sticky situations, it’s also a great way to communicate and break through the “stranger barrier” early when meeting someone. When you’re making someone laugh it’s literally impossible for them to dislike you at the same time. So you get to be liked! That’s one reason to seek an answer to the question, “How to be a funny girl.”
In a more professional sense, the comedy industry; be it television, stand up, screen, desperately needs more funny women. Really! It does. It seems that there are so few female comedians. There are even fewer funny ones!
So let’s cover how to be a funny girl. There are a couple of adjustments to being a funny girl, due to societal expectations of being a girl, but we’ll get into that later. Ultimately,, believe it or not, being a funny girl is much like learning to be a funny boy…or man…or guy.
First you should understand the science of Funny.
“Funny” if you look it up, is something that causes laughter. And when you understand that the number element that triggers human laughter is surprise, then you’re already way ahead. Now, you have to ask yourself: how do I create surprise? It’s not by jumping around and acting all weird! It can be very subtle, but very effective. Here are two key ways to create surprise:
- Say something unexpected
- Do or say something that’s incongrous (doesn’t fit)
Let’s cover each of these so you can see how effective they are. Once you have an idea about them, you will start to look for these things in your daily life’s conversations and observations. For the sake of space and time, in this post, I will focuse on the unexpected. I’ll write part 2 about incongruity later.
First, say something unexpected: it’s as simple as changing what is normally said. Like when Rosanne Barr said, “My mother says, ‘The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ I think the best way to a man’s heart is straight through his chest.”
You can take cliches like that and do what’s called reforming the cliche; which is basically changing the ending of the cliche. How does that fit into your daily life? Take, for example, one of your girlfriends. Everyone knows someone who seems to have a new boyfriend every week. If you don’t know that person, then she might be YOU!
Okay, say this girl’s name is Jill. And I named her that because I knew someone like this in high school. I mean this chick always had a new boyfriend. So you might say. “Jill’s always got a different boyfriend. I can just see her wedding, ‘Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband til death do you part…or next Tuesday?’”
Or what if there was a guy you really liked, “Josh is soooo hot. I’ve wanted to make out with him for like a year–and I’ve only know him 2 weeks!”
“That chick called me a slut and I’m no slut–except on Sundays…then all bets are off…because that’s when my neighbor Earl comes over and brings beer and duct tape!”
Of course you’re kidding, but how about that for saying something unexpected?
Or if an annoying guy thinks you’re hot and says something like, “Babe, you’re coming home with me!” You can say something like, “Dude, you couldn’t put this on lay-away.”
You can learn how to be a funny girl by watching truly funny female comedians. Try this as an experiment: watch comedians like Rita Rudner, Rosanne Barr (early years), Ellen DeGenerous, Diane Ford, Jo Caufield (British). These ladies have awesome comedy structure (meaning they do a great job creating surprise), study thier lines and, as an exercise, write down their jokes. Identify the set up and try to write different punch line. That’ll start giving you an idea of how a joke is formulated.
All of the ladies I mentioned above create surprise very effectively by saying something unexpected. They also all use incongruity well. Once you begin to understand how the jokes are put together and what makes them work, you will start to look for that formula in your own dialogue and conversation and if you recognize it, you can say something unexpected and get laughs. Once you get laughs, you are now a funny girl.