Our newest guest blogger is hard at work on several writing projects and has some insights to share on how children’s authors can create comedic characters who connect to young readers. Enjoy!
H.C. Ablewick is an aspiring Middle Grade Fiction author who loves large paper clips and anything made from glass.
5 Ways to Study Comedic Timing
Authors of Children’s Literature
By H.C. Ablewick
Some of the most successful children’s authors have won audiences with humor, J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, Kate DiCamillo, and Jeff Kinney, to name a few. How’d they do it? Comedic timing. It can be subtle or outrageous. It can be heart-felt or mean-spirited, depending on the characters. If you’re looking for ways to study comedic timing and what makes children laugh, here are a few suggestions.
1. Movies with Adults Acting Crazy with Animals
Think monkey scene in A Night at the Museum. “Good Lord, Lawrence, why are you slapping a monkey?” Robin Williams (as Teddy Roosevelt) says when he sees Ben Stiller (Larry Daley) slapping a monkey. It’s the kind of scene that makes kids laugh out loud, shout even. Why? It’s so unrealistic. The secret: children love fictional realism. They know it would be mean for a man to slap an animal but they know this scene wouldn’t happen in real life. It’s just funny to see a grown man provoked by a monkey.
In the movie Enchanted, Timothy Spall (Nathaniel ) chases a chipmunk around a diner while James Marsden (Prince Edward), dressed in full-blown, Prince Charming attire tries to decipher the chipmunk’s squeaks. Children love this scene. It’s about a grown man dressed up like a medieval prince in a modern diner and he’s acting like he understands a chipmunk. What isn’t funny about that?
Other notable movies with adults acting crazy with animals are Alvin and the Chipmunks (any time Dave yells at Alvin) and Mr. Hopper’s Penguins.
2. Animated Movies with Animals Falling in Love
I don’t know why children become hysterical over these scenes, but they do. I’ve witnessed it numerous times in the movie theaters. Most recently, I saw Ice Age 3. Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel, became love-struck with a female saber-toothed squirrel. His eyes popped. She batted her heavily made-up eyes in slow motion. They played the easy-listening hit, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” by the 70’s R&B singer Lou Rawls and the children in the audience roared.
The Scrat scene isn’t new. When I was young, we watched PePe Le Pew, the French skunk of the Looney Tunes cartoons. He strutted through the streets of Paris in the spring looking for love. Like Scrat though, PePe didn’t end up with the girl. Wild chase scenes and misunderstandings followed his love scenes and added to their humor.
3. Children playing with Toys
If you watch children with their toys, you’ll pick up quite a few tricks. Anything bizarre seems to make them laugh. For example, a young relative of mine once stuck ten Lego mini-figure heads together. She and her brother laughed hysterically then took turns creating weird combinations of mini-figures, like a surfer dude’s head on a chef’s coat with policeman’s pants all topped with a witch’s hat. It became a competition between them to see who could come up with the most outrageous mini-figure.
4. Funniest Video Shows and Wipe-Out Shows
Physical comedy is always a hit. The Funniest Video shows always have people doing stupid things and getting hurt and kids laugh. They also love dogs chasing chickens and cats hanging from ceiling fans.
In the Wipe Out shows, people bounce off giant balls, they’re knocked into pools trying to dart through moving poles, and they’re catapulted across fire and water into pools of foam. These shows have created adult playgrounds. The participants act crazy and children love to watch them throw themselves into the obstacles.
5. Long, very Long, Names
My young relatives used a DSi to record the Minister of Magic reading Dumbledore’s will in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. I couldn’t figure out why they were recording it until they played it back. The Minister, with a very serious tone, announces, “Herein is set forth the last will and testament of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.” The children played it back and almost fell off the couch laughing then tried to repeat the name until they got it right.
I hope this article triggered some ideas. Good luck to you.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.