Jul 11 2008

Comedy Tip of the Day: Don’t Use Laugh-tracks

Authors shouldn’t tell cue their readers to laugh. Consider the following comedic exchange. “What’s the difference between the Yankees bullpen and Pizza Hut?” asked John. Mary shrugged. “Pizza Hut delivers,” said John. They laughed. “They laughed” cues the readers to laugh at John’s joke.

That’s insulting to your readers. If your comedy is effective, readers will know when to laugh. Reminding them to laugh at something that wasn’t funny to them will just draw their attention to ineffective writing.

Here are some situations that are usually examples of laugh-tracking:

  1. When a character laughs at a joke, particularly his own. Seriously, who laughs at his own jokes?
  2. When a character says something like “that’s funny.”
  3. In certain circumstances, when a character cracks a smile. (This is forgivable if the character’s reaction to the joke is significant to the plot).
  4. “Touché.”
  5. “I walked into that one.”

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