This workshop will cover humor in writing in all its forms, with a concentration on short comic pieces, such as the New Yorker‘s Shouts and Murmurs column and’s humor feature Grin & Tonic. We’ll discuss the concepts, vocabulary, timing, underlying themes, dialogue techniques, structure, and categories of such writing and participants will try their hands at this craft. In addition, we’ll look at passages from three or four classic novels—Moby-Dick, Great Expectations, and Pride and Prejudice—to see how humor works in serious literature. Finally, we’ll use videos from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and from such comedians as Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, and Lucille Ball to consider the commonalities of and differences between written and performed comedy.


This workshop is open to all levels and requires no advance submission. Participants in the workshop should have paperback copies of the three novels mentioned above and the New Yorker‘s anthology of humor, Fierce Pajamas (also available in paperback). During the workshop, each participant in the class must submit a humor piece of 500-1000 words for discussion by the group as a whole. And at the beginning of the first session, each workshop member must tell a joke. No, I don’t care if you “can’t tell jokes.” You have to tell one. Participants must also have access to a computer, to be able to look at online material.

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 six books, two of them New York Times notable titles. His memoir, My Mistake, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in November of 2013.
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