Call to Action: Use Humor


I've been reading How to Write Funny (in lieu of slogging through my own writing) by Scott Dikkers, one of the founding editors The Onion. It's an excellent guide for my writing (hopefully), but also for my life. 

Improv Parenting clearly has a view on humor in parenting (yes, do it!), and in this post I talk about using humor to connect with my kids. Creative play and skills from improv give me my primary toolkit when the going gets rough or I want to connect with my kids a bit differently. Dikkers' book offers an additional tool: the humor filter. 

Using a Humor Filter

Dikkers' take is that humor writing is a fairly simple formula, as follows:

Step 1: Make a relatively generalizable observation.

Step 2: Filter the observation through a lens, such as irony, hyperbole or wordplay (he lists 11 total). 

A simple example from the book: Dessert is delicious. World is united by delicious cake (hyperbole). 

Example of irony

Example of irony

Parents can adopt these filters too. Here's how:

Use the 2-step process using a raw observation about your family life.

Step 1: Kids pick their noses.

Step 2: A hyperbole filter might give us: "Scientists discover health benefits of boogers after year-long study of preschoolers. Parents told to encourage more nose-picking at home." 

The irony filter could give us this fake headline: "Kids finally train parents to stop picking nose. Find out how on page 3." 


Here's another example, using a recent topic within our extended family:

Step 1: We all get addicted to our screens.

Step 2: Hyperbole: I staged a tech intervention on my husband the other night. He text read: 2 BZ (too busy). 

Irony: We really connected through our screens tonight, honey.

My husband and I are basically models. (Not depicted here)

My husband and I are basically models. (Not depicted here)

Humor filters help my parenting in two ways. 

First, I can see a moment in time as fodder for something beyond that moment.

This helps me get some distance from a tough interaction or when I'm being hard on myself. 'Cause here's the thing - we're constantly using filters, of one kind or another.  My default filters tend to be self-serious and perfectionistic. So humor offers a welcome balance.

Second, humor leads to connection.

Even if a humor filter only exists in my head, it's pretty fun to tell jokes to myself. If the humor is communicated in some way - that feels useful or kind-spirited - it almost always connects me to others. At this point my kids aren't going to understand the more sophisticated humor filters (ages 3, 3 & 5), but there is some humor that they - surprisingly - appreciate. I'll dig into those filters in another post.

Our whole family can laugh together in a model-worthy way. (Not depicted here)

Our whole family can laugh together in a model-worthy way. (Not depicted here)

The specificity and simplicity of applying a humor filter to parenting moments - whether it's ultimately laugh-out-loud worthy or not - is a nice little tool to have in your back pocket (instead of your phone).