A guest post by Debbie Moose
The funny thing about being funny is that, once you try writing that way, you probably won’t want to stop. Humorous food writing connects with readers better than the regular way, because if you get ’em laughing, they’re paying attention.
Humor is my default setting. I’m just wired that way. But I still work hard at finding the right word, the best phrase, and the perfect silly-yet-true thing about the food world that will connect with readers and make them feel comfortable getting in the kitchen and cooking. Someone once wrote about acting, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” and that’s true. But your hard work will pay off.
Here are 5 ideas to get some humor into your food writing:
1. Laugh at yourself.
The best humor can come from personal experience, even from deep pain. If you’re a fan of the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you know that.
My style is to let readers know that I make kitchen mistakes too, and that I agree some things in the food world are silly. We’re all laughing together.
2. Reach beyond the low-hanging fruit.
Tossing celebrity names into a piece to add topical humor is like using garlic powder in spaghetti sauce because you’re too lazy to chop the real thing. It will work, and we’ve all done it, but you’ll get an average response instead of a great one.
Stretch for the better comparison, the perfect word choice (“sopped” and “wiped” have different connotations, for example), and the sharp observation. Never forget that you’re still telling a story, so avoid one-liners that are funny but get in the way.
3. Mock what people do, not who they are.
Don’t make fun of something someone can’t change, such as sexual orientation, size or race. That’s what bullies do. Instead, focus on a person’s actions, as when a disgraced orange-shod chef included a cinnamon roll recipe in a press release where he apologized for sexually harassing his staff. Why mock his girth and hair color when he has offered such comedic meat to feed on?
4. Steel yourself for people who just don’t get it.
A former editor of mine wrote funny short items for the newspaper’s TV page. So many humor-impaired people complained that he started inserting a (J) after each wisecrack to indicate a joke. Some will always miss the point. But look carefully at how you’re presenting the material and try hard to understand the perspective of your readers.
5. Read funny people.
Here are just a few, both food focused and general:
- Nora Ephron
- Kat Kinsman (Extra Crispy website and No Pressure blog)
- Erma Bombeck
- David Sedaris
- Calvin Trillin
- Shakespeare’s comedies (he’s a dead white guy but still funny), and
- McSweeney’s online magazine.
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Debbie Moose is a food writer and cookbook author in Raleigh, N.C. Her work has appeared in The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, and West Virginia South and Our State magazines. Her food essays have won awards from the Association of Food Journalists. She also teaches classes in writing and cooking.
(Photo by Ben White on Upsplash)
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