Much like a receding hairline, social media is here to stay. Apps like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the future ones inevitably invented by cyborgs—all hail Zorp!—are fundamentally woven into our social interactions. But with restrictions like 10 seconds or even 280 (?!) characters, there’s a lot of pressure to get so much in what can feel like so little…like trying on winter sweaters. On top of it all, people want you to be funny. FUNNY!? Help me, Zorp!! Well, as I say to my muffin tops, “Stop sweating,” because here are four steps to help you fit your funniest work into the tiniest spaces:
1. Find your message
Before you start dreaming about writing the best tweet in the history of Twitter, let’s start with the basics. Think about what you’re trying to say with your idea. This nugget does not need to be even slightly funny, just something you find amusing or strange or both. It can be a fact, an opinion, even an image you want to share.
Example: “I have short hair and get confused for a man.” Not inherently hysterical, but absolutely a stepping stone to a joke. Also very true to me.
2. Pinpoint the funny.
Now that you know your message, you need to dissect what you think is funny about it. This is absolutely up to you, as your “truth” and perspective are what make you unique. Consider yourself a comedic snowflake.
Example: “I have short hair and get confused for a man.” This is funny to me because women in society are of course marginalized, but as a “man,” I’m afforded privileges that women aren’t. So instead of suffering from the realities of sexism, I’m benefitting from them? *Awkward shoulder raise* Also, being misgendered causes very awkward social interactions.
3. Make it short. Now make it shorter.
Now that you understand your message and why it’s funny to you, it’s time to write out your joke in a concise and punchy manner. Think about being stranded on an island—and yes in this scenario we can all be Tom Hanks—and writing a letter in a bottle. You would need to maximize each sentence in order to provide the most information. Or figure out a way to write in a smaller font on Twitter. ZING! Regardless of whether you’re writing comedy/drama, words are a currency that fund your message. Always think, can I say the same thing in one word instead of two? Which is actually a great exercise to apply for joke-writing in general.
Good: “I have short hair and strangers confuse me for a white man. And because I’m a Queer Latina, I love feeling the benefits of white male privilege.”
Better: “As a Queer Latina, nothing feels better than being mistaken for a White man.”
4. Do your research, then do you #YouAreBeautiful #ChristinaAguilera
Take a look at some of the writing and stylistic conventions that funny people use on Twitter. For example: hashtags, the use of understatement, all caps for emphasis, all lowercase with no punctuation, sentences that get cut off on purpose, abbreviations like tfw and tbh, etc. Test some for yourself, and see what feels comfortable—all as delivery systems for your own humor. But the main thing is to practice practice practice. Nothing happens in a day. Heck, it took God seven to make the world and there were still some kinks. So go on, write some jokes in the safety of your own homes/phones. Because a phone has never called anyone “sir”….yet? All hail Zorp!
LORENA RUSSI has created content for BuzzFeed and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and also hosted Chipotle’s Snapchat channel @Quesodigital