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Top Cartoonist Shares Humor Secrets

Jan 9, 2008
More than once, people have asked me "How do you become funny?" Sometimes I don't know if that is a compliment or a complaint. It has always been a question I've pondered because "funny" is not a major in college, we don't study and get our degree in funny.

To be honest, growing up, I thought I was a bit of a shy slug and I don't think I was that far off. Being funny was the last thing on my mind, though I do remember now and then trying to impress my female classmates with some bad attempts at humor.

So I decided to listen to people whom I deemed funny. I noticed that they generally also had a quick wit, though not necessarily, but were quick thinkers, and able to say in a few words what others took sentences and even paragraphs to say.

I considered Shakespeare's famous line, "Brevity is the soul of wit". Even then, he had the insight to know that people's attention spans are short. Sure, they want to hear your joke or funny story, but they also have other things on their mind. Even if they think something is funny, if it is long-winded, and takes too much of their time, they may consider you "funny", but chances are they won't come back for more of your humor.

Consider the cartoonist and humor writer. That would be me. I created a single panel cartoon called Londons Times Cartoons in 1997. I based it on the Shakesperian theory that humor was and is the soul of wit. No long drawn out captions. Sometimes no captions at all. The picture would tell the story. It was an experiment. It was off the wall. That year, I posted less than a hundred cartoons on my website. Though I had thought of many others, those were the ones that past the litany test of "what is funny" to me.

A decade later, I have about 8500 cartoons, all of which I wrote and were rendered by my creative team on my website. I am now considered "professionally funny". And over ten million visitors to my web site. But how did that happen?

I fell quite positive that there are many roads toward making something like that happen. In my case, it was mainly listening to other people whom I felt were funny, reading autobiographies of funny persons, and studying humor. I watched sitcoms. I went to funny movies. I noticed one-liners in real life were really not much different than one liners in a cartoon.

They got my attention. They were of value. They were something I could repeat to my friends and they would receive enjoyment from it.

Another element of "being funny" at least in the marketplace is to find one's niche or voice. Sometimes that can take time. A lot of time. In my case, I tried stand-up comedy, acting and other such venues for a number of years. The problem was that I didn't understand the art well and was not able to perfect it to the degree to which I wanted.

So I tried writing, and I finally settled for cartooning. I had read the late great Charles Schulz's autobiography in which he said the reason he went into cartooning is because he couldn't do much else very well. That was the story of my life. If it is the story of yours, it is never to late to develop your sense of humor. Listen, read, learn, and have a leap of faith....and oh, and don't be afraid to look foolish. You never know. They might just crack a smile.
About the Author
To see the huge body of creative panel comics created by Rick London and his team, point your browser Funny Cartoon Site , and Londons Times Archive
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