Daniel Menaker

What's So Funny: The Art of Comic Writing

Daniel Menaker, photo by Chip Cooper
Daniel Menaker, photo by Chip Cooper
  • January 15-19, 2018
  • Open to all, $550
See all 2018 Workshops

workshop description

The over-all goal of the workshop is to learn some basic techniques of comic writing and to understand that nearly all great serious literature has comic elements. Some of the devices to be discussed: timing of humor within sentences, “callbacks,” use of series, contrasting Anglo-Saxon and Latinate word choices, endings that attempt to transcend a formula, [like the following] and generously tipping the workshop leader.

We will address the general idea that humor serves as an easement for the unique human bafflement of existing and not knowing why. (Frogs don’t really care.)

Each session will consist of three or four basic segments:

  1. Viewing and discussion of short standup comedy Youtube videos.
  2. Discussion of the comic elements in such classic fiction as Pride and PrejudiceGreat Expectations, and Moby-Dick. (Don’t worry—we’ll be looking at only brief sections of these books.)
  3. Reading and discussion of short comic pieces from The New Yorker and barnesandnoble.com’s humor feature “Grin & Tonic.”
  4. Discussion of participants’ writing.


This workshop is currently full. Please join the waitlist below. It is typical to have cancellations over the course of the year, and we draw from the waitlist when vacancies open.

•     This workshop is open to all levels on a first-come, first-served basis and requires no advance submission. The cost is $550. A deposit of $100 is required to register, with the balance due by December 1. Registration is now open.

•    During the workshop, each participant in the class must submit a humor piece of 500 to 1,000 words for discussion by the group as a whole. Before our first meeting, I’d like everyone to write a one-page comic description of or anecdote about a dog—any kind of dog. No more than 150 words, please.

•     All readings will be available online. There is no need to bring physical books to the workshop.

Financial Assistance is available to those who would not otherwise be able to attend—click here for guidelines and application.

about Daniel Menaker

Daniel Menaker worked for 26 years at the New Yorker, as an editor and writer. He has contributed fiction and humor and essays and journalism to the New Yorker, Harper’s, the Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications and has twice received the O. Henry Award for short fiction. From 1995 through 2007, he was an editor at Random House and was Executive Editor-in-Chief there from 2003 through 2007. He is the author of seven  books, two of them New York Times notable titles. His latest book, The African Svelte: Ingenious Spelling Mistakes That Make Surprising Sense, with illustrations by Roz Chast and a Foreword by Billy Collins, was published in October of 2016.

Join Daniel Menaker Waitlist