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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What Makes You Laugh?

by Madelle Morgan

A situation that one person finds funny may fall flat with another. Humor is subjective.

Our sense of humor is shaped by what we read and watched on television and in movies while growing up. What a Millennial considers hilarious is far different from the humor that has tears of laughter rolling down the cheeks of a Baby Boomer. 

Culture is an important factor. Australians and Canadians like me develop a sense of humor strongly influenced by British and American books and media.

Humorous Novels
Famous 20th century humorists include Mark Twain (American), Stephen Leacock (Canadian), and P.G. Wodehouse (British). Read their books for excellence in craft. The wordsmithing is fabulous.

Sketch Comedy, aka Skits
As a teen I loved the writing and comedic talent in the long-running Saturday Night Live and The Carol Burnett Show. Lucille Ball and Tim Conway set the bar high for physical comedy. Watch Tim in The Dentist on YouTube.

Tim Conway and Harvey Korman: The Carol Burnett Show

Situation Comedy (Television Sitcoms)
I’ve frittered away far too many hours watching sitcoms. I never tire of reruns of Gilligan’s Island and Get Smart. The fresh perspective of aliens on earth in fish-out-of-water situation comedy such as My Favorite Martian, Mork and Mindy, and Third Rock From the Sun make our ordinary world appear absurd.

Comedic Film
I’m sure you’ll find a few of your favorite movies in the Rotten Tomatoes’ 100 Best Essential Comedy Movies.

Popular comedic movie sub-genres for romance fans include the 1930s-1940s screwball comedies that combine physical comedy with romance and, of course, romantic comedies.

It’s one thing to enjoy the work of so many brilliant comedy writers. It’s quite another to actually try to write funny stories.

I attempt to integrate humor into my novels. While some readers get my sense of humor, unfortunately some don’t. A few quotes from Goodreads reviews of Caught on Camera illustrate this.

“A romantic comedy about a maid who gets mixed up undercover in a wedding with plenty of humor and drama.”

“I laughed myself silly.”


“For a romantic comedy, I didn't find anything to chuckle or smirk about throughout the whole book.”


My Hollywood in Muskoka series is built on what I learned from the excellent Writing the Romantic Comedy by script consultant Billy Mernit. He understands romance. Early in his career he actually wrote Harlequin romances under a nom de plume!

Creative Screenwriting interviewed Billy in 2016 on the essential elements of a romantic comedy.

Available on

In Billy’s book and the Creative Screenwriting article, he recommends that aspiring writers study classic screwball rom-coms as well as more recent rom-coms that "tweaked" the formula, such as Silver Linings Playbook and Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck.

The Drama-Comedy Combo

In Seduced by the Screenwriter, Book 2 of the Hollywood in Muskoka series, I leveraged the concept of Dramedy. Many television series partner a comedic story line with a dramatic one. The long-running M*A*S*H series was an early example of the format.

Catrina’s struggle with PTSD is really dark, and I needed to balance it with Chett’s sense of humor. Here's how he deals with his dog phobia.

“You want to know my motto? ‘It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and I’m wearing Milk Bone shorts.’ Norm said that in the sitcom Cheers.”

With mounting unease, Chett shoved his feet into boots and pulled on his new parka, then gloves for the thick padding—dog bite protection. He wasn’t taking any chances. He needed his arms and fingers to type.

Norm in Cheers image source

What are your favorite funny films, sitcoms and novels? What makes you laugh?

Happy spring!


Madelle Morgan  writes romance set in Canada. 

Caught on Camera is a Hollywood wedding romantic comedy set in Muskoka, Canada—summer playground of the rich and famous. It's Book 1 of the Hollywood in Muskoka series.
 Amazon | iTunes | Kobo

Seduced by the Screenwriter is Book 2 in the series. This steamy contemporary romance is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers until May on Amazon.

Madelle's romantic thriller Diamond Hunter is a free read in Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.

Follow Madelle on  TwitterFacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and WattpadSubscribe to Madelle’s blog at


Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for all thie information about writing comedy, Madelle. I LOVED the excerpt!

Maggie Lynch said...

I love watching good comedy on TV or in movies. I rarely find a novel where the comedy matches my expectations. I think it is so much harder to get comedy across in writing than in acting. In acting all the body language, the look in the eyes or looking askance, are so critical to the timing. I don't know if a writer can write that body language and retain the timing.

I truly admire anyone who is being successful at writing romantic comedy. So, judos to you Madelle.