As noted in Part 1, we’re often reminded that humor is a risky proposition. Funny messages are often widely shared, and the challenge is creating jokes that go viral for the right reasons. But since humor is subjective, there are no foolproof formulas.
We’ve reviewed a variety of sources and mediums for humorous content: The White House Correspondent’s Dinner (WHCD), an MCNY exhibit, Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs, devoted to the longtime New Yorker cartoonist, online outlets like BuzzFeed, and the HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. We also added a few non-comedians to the mix.
Based on these samples, we compiled an outline of do’s and don’ts for brands to consider.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is known for its wealth of art treasures, but the Met showed a sense of humor in late 2014 in reaction to Kim Kardashian’s nude Paper magazine cover. The Met tweeted a photo of a sculpture in its gallery that possessed an equally large derriere.
2. Offer a novelty factor
Luigi, the dog in the remote control-powered mini BMW (pictured above), isn’t part of a TV or online series. His owner bought the convertible car at Amazon and started walking with him in her Upper East Side neighborhood. The New York Post and other outlets featured the pair in a recent story.
3. Truthfulness counts, since many truths are said in jest
At last year’s WHCD, Obama joked about John Boehner, saying orange is the new black. Since Boehner stepped down from his post, he worked with the president on a joint sketch this year.
4. Utilize charts to convey points
Chast, who suffers from insomnia, created clever cartoons about her condition. One is a movie taking place at an “insomniaplex”. Another is a jeopardy game about being sleepless. Among the entries: ‘ways in which people have wronged me,’ ‘diseases I probably have,, ‘why did I say that?’
5. Incorporate wordplay and well-known expressions
Chast often creates words like ‘procrastinatorium.’ In another cartoon about ‘the male biological clock, a guy sitting in an armchair laments, “If I don’t learn how to play golf by the time I’m 40, I’ll never learn.”
Long before emojis, Chast created a cartoon offshoot of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream. In Chast’s version, the faces depicted are far more contained: The Yawn, The Pout and The Sigh.
7. Use animal motifs to convey a human side
BuzzFeed featured a slideshow showing side by side comparisons of several presidential candidates and dogs that bear their likenesses.
8. Start an ongoing series
John Oliver’s show features a brief segment called ‘Now This’ which is a cleverly edited take on media outlets and their daily routines. In one, Charlie Rose flirts with his fellow female anchors.
Stand-up comics test their jokes first in smaller venues. Given social media’s instant reach and commentary, brands are advised to preview their material on colleagues and friends.
(Luigi photo courtesy of New York Post)
(Sculpture photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
(Cartoon courtesy of Roz Chast)