"Funny" Copy - No Laughing Matter?


Funny how? Funny like a clown?

A copywriter walks into a bar. The barman asks, why the long face? The copywriter replies with a scathing remark about the audience just not understanding such an amazing sense of humour and smoulders away for the rest of the evening.

Not particularly funny, I think you’ll agree, but it’ll ring true with quite a few bloggers and copywriters. Sometimes people just don’t get the joke.

But does that mean you should leave the comedy to the comedians? Is earnest discourse and straight-down-the-line clarity the only way to create content that really speaks to readers? Or are spinning bowties as important to the writer as the pen?

“The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them” – Molière

Think of any great piece of advice you’ve received over the course of your life. Snippets like “don’t eat yellow snow“, or “never run for a woman or a bus – there’ll be another one along shortly” – the chances are that it’ll be at least vaguely humorous.

That’s because we remember funny things. And to be successful, you have to be memorable.

My favourite ever piece of work was a section of an on-hold marketing script for a skip hire company. They knew that comedy would grab their customer’s attention, so I was given free reign to indulge myself. Leading to a 20 second A-Team parody that I can still quote from memory four years later.

So when comedy is that powerful, surely we’d be idiots not to drop in a pun here or there?

“That joke isn’t funny anymore” – Morrissey

Serious Face is Serious.

Well, maybe we wouldn’t. And not just because punnery is the lowest form of wit.

Regular readers will remember a recent missive entitled “No, I’m Not Going To Read Your Blog.” It showcases what some people consider to be my trademark sarcastic humour, and I loved it.

Here’s a few reactions to that piece, from both the post itself and from various social sites where I was plugging it:

“Oh, come on. You don’t read my drivel because of its url?”

“Wow, that’s not very nice. Well, we need to send you to charm school – again.”

“How petty”

And this zinger from an earlier post:

“This is the type of mindless drivel that makes me want to comment.

I’m tired of all the zero class, overly sensitive, elementary students hoisting their crap out into the world.

Good luck selling your garbage to the next brown nosing “arse” kisser.”

If I’d have written a calm post with no humour, those comments wouldn’t have been made.

My audience don’t all speak English as a first language, and the chances are that your audience and your client’s audience don’t either. So is it really worth alienating people just so a few others remember your content with a wry chuckle?

I think I know where I stand on the issue, but it’s a tricky one…

So, dear reader, what do you think? Should we all try and create a chucklesome post now and again, or is straight-faced seriousness the real secret to success?

4 Comments comments for "“Funny” Copy – No Laughing Matter?"

  1. Gareth at 1:32 pm

    Of course it depends. However, you just need to read the comments pages on South Park episodes or the letters page of Private Eye to know that some people just don’t “get” the joke.

    Or, more worryingly, they got your or 999 jokes and laughed along, but when you questioned something closer to their heart with humour they suddenly lost their ability to see the funny side… Odd that.

    Personally, I would continue to do humorous posting. If you start paying too much attention to the minority who, frankly, probably aren’t your real target audience then you’ll alienate the people who loved your stuff in the first place.

  2. Sarah Turner at 1:30 pm

    You are funny! So keep being funny! There’s plenty of time to write serious stuff when you’re writing for a client selling haemorrhoid cream. Can’t believe the mindless, negative drivel some people write in comments.They must really hate their lives. They probably haven’t had a chuckle since 1993.

    • Andrew at 2:09 pm

      Oh, I know I’m funny – just wanted to provoke some debate.

      And you really think haemorrhoid cream copy shouldn’t be funny? I’d have thought a potentially embarassing condition like that would just be begging for a knowing wink and a friendly chuckle…

  3. Jamie Fairbairn at 1:25 pm

    The way I see it people like to laugh so why not use some humour where relevant in your copy? It might actually encourage an emotional response from them rather than the bland corporate drivel on many websites.

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