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secrets

2nd edition

secrets
the best-selling book on how to think funny, write funny, act funny, and get paid for it

Mel Helitzer
with Mark Shatz

WRITER'S DIGEST BOOKS Cincinnati, Ohio www. writersdigest.com

COMEDY WRITING SECRETS, Copyright 2005 © by Melvin Helitzer. Printed and bound in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may bereproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote passages in a review. Published by Writer's Digest Books, an imprint of F+W Publications, Inc., 4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45236, (800) 289-0963. Second edition. Other fine Writer's DigestBooks are available at your local bookstore or direct from the publisher. 09 08 07 06 05 5 4 3 2 1

Distributed in Canada by Fraser Direct, 100 Armstrong Avenue, Georgetown, ON, Canada L7G 5S4, Tel: (905) 877-4411. Distributed in the U.K. and Europe by David & Charles, Brunei House, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 4PU, England, Tel: (+44) 1626 323200, Fax: (+44) 1626 323319, E-mail:mail@davidandcharles.co.uk. Distributed in Australia by Capricorn Link, P.O. Box 704, S. Windsor NSW, 2756 Australia, Tel: (02) 4577-3555. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Helitzer, Melvin. Comedy writing secrets: the best-selling book on how to think funny, write funny, act funny, and get paid for it / by Mel Helitzer with Mark Shatz. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 1-58297-357-1 (pbk.: alk. paper) 1.Wit and humor—Authorship. I. Shatz, Mark. II. Title. PN6149.A88H445 2005 808.7-dc22 2005014368 CIP

ABOUT THE AUTHORS MEL HELITZER, a former Clio award-winning Madison Avenue ad agency president, is now a distinguished, award-winning journalism pro¬ fessor at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He was one of the first to teach humor writing at any university in the world. His course led to thepublica¬ tion of Comedy Writing Secrets in 1987, and the book is now the largest selling text on humor writing in the country. Helitzer has written humor for print and broadcast productions as well as comedy material for such stars as Sammy Davis, Jr., Shari Lewis, Art Linkletter, Ernie Kovacs, and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. Many of his students are now professional comedians or humorwriters for national publications. He is the author of seven books, including a bound-for-Broadway musical, Oh, Jackie! Her Father's Story. MARK A. SHATZ is professor of psychology at Ohio University, Zanesville. In addition to teaching humor writing, he has extensive inter¬ national experience as a teacher, speaker, and seminar leader on various topics such as motivation, death education, andinterpersonal communi¬ cation. Dr. Shatz has published numerous academic papers, including how to use humor to enhance instruction and learning. He is the author of KISSing Golf: The Keep It Simple (Stupid) Instructional Method, a humorous instructional book for beginning golfers.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword Introduction PART I: THE BASICS OF HUMOR WRITING Chapter 1: The Importance of HumorWriting Chapter 2: Why We Laugh Chapter 3: The Recipe for Humor PART II: HUMOR WRITING T E C H N I Q U E S Chapter 4: POW: Play on Words Chapter 5: More POW: The Simple Truth and the Take-Off Chapter 6: POW Brainstorming Techniques Chapter 7: The Next Giant Step: Reverses Chapter 8: The Harmony of Paired Elements: Phrases, Words, Statistics, and Aphorisms Chapter 9: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered:Triples ix 1

7

19

36

61

89

109

125

138

150

Chapter 10: Realism, Exaggeration, and Understatement Chapter 11: Funny Words and Foul Language PART III: WRITING HUMOR FOR SPECIFIC MARKETS

163

181

Chapter 12: Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three: Writing Humor for Speeches . . .199 Chapter 13: Stand-Up or Sit Down: Humor for Live Entertainers Chapter 14: Print...
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