For anyone who has ever dreamed of being funnier, especially in the writing field, WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING AT? by Brad Schreiber is a wonderful resource and the definitive how-to book on learning to write with humor. Whether fiction or non-fiction, for stage, TV or film, there is a lot of material in this book for the aspiring writer to sink their teeth into, including enlightening excerpts in prose and screenwriting from the top authors and scribes, writing exercises to bring out the funny person hiding deep within, and plenty of advise on what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do to make the reader laugh...preferably out loud. By the time you finish this book, you will no longer believe that being funny is a matter of nature vs. nurture. Not a born comedian? Sit back, relax, and learn from the masters.
The author is himself a journalist, screenwriter and consultant, and with that kind of background, he really knows his stuff. Schreiber teaches humor writing for major Los Angeles writer's programs, and much of what he has developed in those classes is offered here in this book. From the first chapter, where he introduces comedic structure and the nature of humor, to differing forms of humor such as jokes and insults and short stories and aphorisms, to finding ways to inject humor into non-fiction formats, this book covers every aspect of comedic writing for those who are serious enough to want to be funny and improve their craft.
Other chapters cover humor in dialogue, writing quirky and memorable characters, grasping the importance of the rhythm and sound of good humor writing, using other forms of writing such as poetry, songs, letters and more to convey humor, and making the best of themes and settings to bring out humor in certain situations. We learn the power of juxtaposition, embarrassment, shock and surprise and other elements that bring out humor in characters. We get a first-hand glimpse at some of the ways the great humor writers play upon themes of commonality, and individuality, to turn simple dialog between two people into hilarious insight into the human condition.
This is really not just a screenwriting book, although the emphasis does seem to be on visual forms of writing such as scripts and stage plays. There is so much wisdom, and wit, and good common sense advise that this book finally convinced me that having a great sense of what is funny is not something you must be born with. It is something you can learn.
MARIE JONES, BOOK REVIEWER, ABSOLUTEWRITE.COM