How To Be 20% Funnier Than You Really Are


My name is Brandon, and I have achieved blogging success:

  • I live with my wife’s parents.
  • Nobody knows who I am.
  • And I am constantly asked, “When are you getting a real job?”

Thankfully, Twitter needed a Kathy Griffin to join their Angelina Jolies on the Suggested User List. Several months later, I have over a half million people following me. Most of them? They have no idea who I am either.

So why are they still following?

I’d like to think it’s because of my charmingly neurotic personality, or because I use social publishing tools to inspire activism and help those in need. But… based on what gets re-tweeted and my logs, they’re still following because I use snap copy.

Snap copy is a phrase I use to describe injecting humor writing techniques into your day-to-day copy. You won’t be a George Carlin, but using snap copy will make you 20% funnier than you really are.

And that’s 100% funnier than Carlos Mencia.

Ways To Be 20% Funnier, Right Now:

1. Be Brief

Enough said.

2. Compare And Contrast Identifiable Objects

If I started out saying Twitter wanted a Brandon Mendelson to join their Robert Scobles, few of you would find that funny.

By using two very different people that your audience can identify, the audience has a funny mental image they can laugh at.

3. Surprise Your Readers

I Can Do WHAT To Seth Godin’s Head?

We laugh at something because it’s not supposed to go together. Or because it is supposed to go together, but we’ve never made the connection. Your job is to make those connections for the reader.

4. Know Your Audience (Without Being Creepy)

I have read Copyblogger for a few years now. I know many of you either have a blog or have some interest in writing online. So I started out with the stereotypical struggling blogger life to help you relate to me.

If you don’t know your audience, and if they can’t relate to you, you will fail horribly in trying to surprise and entertain them, no matter how funny your jokes are.

5. Don’t Kill Your Jokes (Until They’re 18 And Want To Go To College)

You all know, when you edit, you have to be ruthless. But when it comes to your jokes? Don’t cut. Just fling it.

But: If you’re writing in a professional setting, run the joke by some friends. Don’t ask for feedback (group decisions breed mediocrity), but see if they laugh at it.

If they do… go for it.

6. Use The Ken Keeler Principle

Some words are inherently funny. The reason does not matter. What matters is being able to identify opportunities where you can apply the principle, “Underpants Is 20% Funnier than Underwear” and swap out boring words with funny ones.

7. Always Tweak (Says The Guy With OCD)

After you’ve flung your jokes out there, it’s important to measure what worked. Now you can get ruthless and cut the bad ones.

In the event you skimmed this article, here’s what you need to know:

Snap Copy will make you 20% funnier than you really are. All you have to do is:

  • Get to know your audience.
  • Don’t edit yourself until you have actually used the joke or tested it. Then you can tweak it.
  • If you want to improve the likelihood that your audience will laugh, use funny words where you can, use readily identifiable objects to compare and contrast, and surprise them with things they might not have thought about.

About the Author: Brandon Mendelson is the event organizer of A Million High Fives, an ambitious attempt to high five one million American Twitter users and have them volunteer at homeless shelters throughout the country. He is also a freelance writer for hire that can be reached at brandon[at]brandonmendelson[dot]com.

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Reader Comments (73)

  1. says

    twitter will be the best place to make ‘brief’ funny stuff … right ?

    the third one, surprise readers, ( with short sentences of course – ) that works

  2. says

    That’s nothing – I’m at least 40% funnier than I really am 😉

    Great point about knowing your audience. I find the most engaging humor is personal – whether it’s just the friendly jab at someone’s quirks or the harmless in-joke, it’s a way of identifying with someone and becoming more relevant. If you do it sincerely (i.e. you honestly like people and want to get to know them), it’s powerful stuff.

  3. says

    Quite a few interesting suggestions in your blog. I, however, think ‘funny’ comes natural. There are few things more awkward then reading contrived ‘funny’ blogs. Its like watching a subdued mortician tell a joke in a speech. I would say concentrate on your strengths and leave the ‘funny’ to the funny people.

  4. says

    Exactly how to you quantify a % increase in humor? Number or laughs? Volume? How do you measure that? Is a giggle worth more than a chuckle?

    Burning questions.

    *high five*

  5. says


    The 20% is a reference to the Ken Keeler Principle.

    @Virtualk I don’t agree. Everyone can be funny, you just have to learn the tools and practice.

    The blogs you mention? I agree; however, there are larger issues that cause the jokes to fall flat, which I touched on here.

  6. says

    Funny words:

    – Start with ch sound
    – Have a start, middle or ending k sound
    – Explosive consonants – p, b funnier than non-explosive

    And yes, the f-bomb is always funny, if not appropriate. But it’s generally a cheap, unearned chuckle. Use sparingly. :)

  7. says

    Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie… a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.

  8. says

    I used to be funny until I took one too many ‘How to be Funny’ courses. Now I’m just another blogger who wears his pajamas all day while his mother-in-law watches Oprah. Dr. Phil, throw me a lifeline.

    But Brandon is spot on. Fling it out there and work on the act. Don’t be afraid to say something stupid (like I just did).

  9. says

    I haven’t tried funny tweets yet. But after reading your post it seems like I can be more popular among my followers by being funny. Thanks for the advice. I’ll give it a try.

  10. says

    Be Brief – Enough said.
    Witty enough :) When we try to be funny the audience become receptive and hence its important to be brief.
    Again timing the joke well will make for the rest 80% though

  11. says

    If I was 20% as funny as I thought I was, I might get a laugh or two.

    “Know Your Audience” great point… funniness, is subjective.

  12. says

    Your post was what all communications should be: informative and entertaining. (And I loved the Carlos Mencia line!) I think humor is only going to get more important as the world gets more competitive and stressful. One unsolicited (and unhumorous) piece of advice: do at least two drafts of any attempt at humor, as the second pass almost always results in a word-tweak here or there that makes all the difference in the overall impact.

  13. says

    Underpants – there’s that explosive ‘p’ again … and by all means, feel free to do your own jokes from here. I’m giving y’all the set-up on a silver platter. :)

  14. says

    Like many other screenwriters, I was once handed a script back by an executive and told to “make it 10% funnier.” The challenge, of course, is that humor is so subjective. So, along with your great list, I’d quickly add the counter-point – accept that some people aren’t gonna laugh at your “funniest” material and don’t let that upset you.

    And use “chicken” and “chicken underpants” a lot, too.

  15. says

    I’m not sure about how to measure percentages of funniness, but everything I’ve read here seems about right.

    It seems I’m most retweeted when I’m just randomly ranting and being myself that people think I’m funny. Frankly I just think I have a skewed outlook on life.

  16. says

    If a joke comes to mind when I’m writing or with friends, I never tell it as a joke – I tell it like it really happened, by weaving it into the text or conversation.

  17. says

    Good article. I dug it, even though I don’t know who Kathy Griffin is. Is some humour confiscated at the border? Clever summary at the end for the scanners. Onya, Brandon! Best regards, P. :)

  18. says

    @Sonia, I find the Aussie word “undies” even better still (in fact, I used it in a post just yesterday). Although, you then do lose the explosive ‘p’, unless you go drink a lot of water. 😉

    I find I’m naturally 20% funnier in my writing than I am in person. Good thing seeing I’m a blogger.

  19. says

    I can’t remember a joke worth beans, but I have people telling me all the time that my stories are funny …

    For example, when my youngest son (23) was about the age of the kid at the top of the blog, and we were food shopping, and he asked me what Beano(TM) was use for.

    … and if you’d like to hear the rest of the story, you can email me directly catwagman(at)

  20. says

    I like this idea a lot – I’m a huge fan of tongue-in-cheek humor particularly. The only thing is I sometimes find it tricky to know best how to be funny within my genre … I’m blogging about weight loss and nutrition, often a sensitive subject. It’s a fine line between being funny and being just a little too cheeky. Would be great to see a list post with some examples of different ways to be funny :-)

  21. says

    Adding midgets is always a recipe for funny, too, although I hear they want the FCC to ban the term. . . which makes it a little more un-PC . . . and therefore funnier.

    Midgets and monkeys in underpants and undies. BWAHAHAHA!

    (Apologies to any little people and/or literate monkeys reading this.)

  22. says

    When Naomi & I were recording Marketing for Nice People, I had this sort of Tourette’s impulse to use Britney Spears’ Underpants as an example for online business. Which I did, maybe 100 times. It was getting a little alarming.

    I completely blame Naomi.

  23. says

    I told the doctor, “I’m worried about my old grandpa – he empties his bowels every morning at 7:00″.
    The doctor says, “That’s normal. Why worry?”
    I reply, “Because he doesn’t get out of bed till 7:30.”

  24. Name Withheld to Protect Guilty says

    My funniest tweet was accidental. I said that Airbus was going to implement real time black boxes so they can transmit in real time as their planes are going down.

  25. says

    I think light heartedness definitely attracts an audience to keep reading and obviously this post proves that by the reaction. People can go and find content that tells them what they want to hear. It’s whether they remember the content after they’ve read it that is the important thing and humor can play a big part in that.

  26. says

    Ernest Hemingway:”Every one of my first drafts was crap.”

    Lt. Steven Hauk (Good Morning Vietnam): “Sir, in my heart, I know I’m funny.”

    Wit seldom comes easily. Good writers just make it look that way.

    Enjoyed the post

  27. says

    I’m curious: Was Doubledown’s comment an attempt to be funny, or just obnoxious?

    Either way, Brandon’s response was admirable.

  28. says

    Hi Fitz, Do you mean “60% of the time this article’s tips work.”? (= “This article’s tips work 60% of the time”)

    Or do you mean “This article’s tips work every time.”?

  29. says

    Hi Brandon,
    Well, you got me with, “because I use social publishing tools to inspire activism and help those in need.” Then at the bottom of this post you wrote about homeless shelters. Wow, using communication, blogs, TWITTER, to help people who are less fortunate. I have always provided for my family, my wife, 2 sons and me. At one point things were very tough, we had to get a bag of food from our church. I will never, ever forget that. I give when ever I can, and often. Life gets tough, we get tougher and we NEVER give up. And we help those who are less fortunate than us. Blessing be upon you Brandon. Thanks for this post.
    Blessing be upon you,
    Tony Marino

  30. says

    Great post with great ideas!

    I already try to implement one or two of the tips you mention. But, I admit, I often fail miserably. Your post inspires to work harder.

    You know, it funny… I believe that I am funnier when I make self-deprecating comments. Am I right in believing that? Do people really like it when you make yourself more human by admitting your foibles?

    Thanks again for the inspiration!

  31. says

    @Catholic Foodie

    Thank you:-). And you are correct, being self-deprecating lets people lower their guard (trust is a big issue online), it makes you more approachable, and it can give you something to bond with your reader’s about.

  32. says

    Absolutely! and serendipity, I’ve just read an excerpt from Sr. Joan Chittister’s ‘Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men’.

    Quote: “Self-revelation is the beginning of growth. Self-knowledge corrects. Once we open our hearts to another, the charade ends. . . .” And that frees us to be self-deprecating.

    On Humor: “Why we laugh, the way we laugh, and the things at which we laugh say more about ourselves than they do about whatever it may be that provokes it. . . . Humor enables us to see life from a fresh perspective. . . . (We are to) take our humor as thoughtfully as we take our life so that the lives of others are not impeached by it.”

  33. says

    This is soooo creepy. Just minutes ago, my Dad asked me the exact same question, “When are you getting a real job?” And I land on your post. Holy cow!

    Thanks for lifting me out of those few minutes of depression :-)

  34. says


    You’re right. But in most cases, you can learn how to be funny and be prepared for opportunities to use those skills as you learn them.

    @Charles, I’m just happy to help!

  35. Kristen says

    You know you’re good when your ‘How To Be 20% Funnier Than You Really Are’ blog post is… funny!

  36. says

    I’m not sure I get this. How do you test jokes on Twitter – post it and keep checking for updates every few seconds?

    Can you mix gutter humour with business – I think not?

  37. says

    The telling of gutter humour (“humor” to our USA cousins) belongs nowhere, except of course, in the gutter.

    But maybe it says something about the teller?

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