Comedy is a challenging genre to get right. However, even the funniest short story can capture a reader’s attention when done right.
You can start writing a well-structured story with interesting characters and even a surprise ending, but it’s not a good comedy if you’re not funny.
Below, we’ve included a list of over 15 comedy writing prompts to help you get started. Later, we’ll explore how to write great comedy by considering its crucial elements.
Comedy writing prompts
The great thing about comedy writing is that there are often several potential narratives that can turn out to be hilarious. It can start from a running joke you have with everyday company or even awkward moments that made you terribly upset. The possibilities to write a story that can be your turning point as a writer, are limitless.
Use the funny short story prompts below to inspire your own short story, script, novel, or screenplay idea! Use these prompts creatively and interestingly by imagining more than just the first narrative or theme that comes to mind.
- The world as we know it has ended. A lone man walks miles to find some remnants of civilization. In the distance, he sees a shadowy figure walking toward him. As the two get close, the man recognizes the figure. It’s the same boy who always used to sit next to him at school.
- A nervous first-year high school student sees a picture of his grandfather on the wall in the school hallway. ‘Hey!’, says the janitor. ‘I heard that you’re Jimmy’s grandson? Wow, what a guy. Good luck living up to that reputation!’
- The first day of a girl’s new retail job is Christmas Eve. She’s never worked in retail before.
- A young man realizes he’s terrible at making decisions, and his procrastination is holding him back in life. To overcome his mental obstacles, he put his life in the hands of a pair of dice. For every decision that needs to be made, he rolls the dice.
- A murder mystery writer experiences writer’s block. He can’t seem to get deeper inside the mind of his protagonist. One night, he has a revelation. The only way to know the true feelings of his character is to experience them firsthand.
- When you come home after a long day’s work, you rant to your cat about all the drama in the office, your disdain for your job, and how tired you always are. Sick of hearing about it, your cat speaks up and tells you to take more control of your life.
- A boy who has just entered puberty experiences frequent breaks in his voice. Write about his excuses as to why he can’t come to the board right now to present his project and a teacher who insists.
- A tailor orders mannequins online. She won’t be home when they arrive, so she asks her friend to sign for them. Plans go awry, and she won’t even make it home that evening, but she’s got a presentation in her studio the following morning. Her friend offers to help by setting up the mannequins around the space. When the tailor arrives home late that night, the mannequins are not exactly what she ordered.
- The main character wakes up one day and can’t stop singing everything she says.
- A fictional villain wakes up one morning and realizes the error of his ways. Overcome with guilt but also filled with determination to turn his life around, he becomes a force for good. Still, his reputation precedes him, so no matter how good he does, people still treat him like a villain.
- A recently single and lonely waitress works at one of the most popular restaurants in the city on Valentine’s day. Jealous of all the love and affection she sees around her, compounded by the rudeness of her customers, she decides to get her revenge on love.
- Being the good Samaritan you are, you decide to help a sweet old lady carry her bags from the store to her car on a hot summer day. Naturally curious, you peek into one of the bags on the short walk and see a rope, tape, and pink, fluffy handcuffs.
- Write a blind date spoof scene. A new friend sets you up on a blind date. They don’t tell you much about your date, except that they are beautiful and just your type. You notice your ex sitting there waiting for someone when you show up to the date.
- In need of some extra income, you decide to enter a trial for a new pharmaceutical drug. After some weeks, you don’t notice any changes, so you figure you must have received the placebo. One morning you wake up, and your physical features have almost completely changed and you have all those ticks. The drug’s effect on you was previously unheard of.
- The house a woman lived in as a child doesn’t look quite the same. Screams from the basement widen her eyes. She rushes to investigate and discovers a scurry of squirrels in the basement. A loud bang upstairs frightens her, but it’s the wind that has slammed the door shut. The ghosts in the house don’t need to scare the woman; she’s already frightened of everything. The ghosts just watch.
- A writer is not just a writer. He also unwittingly creates real-life events by writing his stories. Usually, he writes comedy. However, funny stories aren’t inspiring him anymore, so he branches out into crime fiction.
- A young intern at a film production company is excited on his first day. After running for coffee, calling actors, and taking notes, his boss tasks him with a completely absurd job.
How to write comedy
Writing comedy isn’t always easy, but with the basic tips and considerations below, you’ll find it a lot easier.
1. Exaggerate a normal situation
Take a completely normal situation like waiting at a bus stop or going on a date. Exaggerate the situation by adding an unusual element to it.
For example, the bus is unusually late at the bus stop, and one of the other people waiting is someone you dislike. On a date, amp up the situation by linking the characters in an unexpected way.
2. Build tension
Comedy and horror writing have something important in common. They both rely on the build-up of tension for effect; just as a ghost story requires tension to be scary, a funny story also needs a build-up. When writing comedy, don’t jump to the joke.
Let your reader slowly understand that the situation is not normal, but don’t give it all away just yet. Be suggestive and implicit before you reveal any major plot points or punchlines.
3. Surprise and expectations
Unexpected turns of events create funny stories.
Imagine the smug confidence of a man who believes his new car will impress his colleagues and the disappointment he feels when another colleague shows up with a bigger, faster, newer car. A character thinks they will go one way and reveal their emotions about it too quickly; then, things go another way.
4. Context and timing
Good comedy is about timing and context. Get these two elements right, and you’re likelier to make a reader laugh. You may want to write a cool or funny sentence for the sake of it, but without context and a good build-up, your joke will fall flat. Utilize effective grammar and sentence structure to deliver lines and reveal information that stands out.
Why use comedy writing prompts?
Prompts provide creative writing practice opportunities, and you should take all the opportunities to practice as a writer looking to create a humorous story or novel.
You are encouraged to write more funny story prompts based on those above.
It’s wise to create several story ideas and link them with a common theme, an ordinary character, or even an everyday object. That way, you can write a collection of funny short stories, rather than just one.
One of the most crucial habits to develop as a comedy writer is observation skills. The best comedy writers, and writers in general, are keen observers of human behavior and can convey that behavior in a creative and interesting way through different perspectives in their writing.
Comedy writers manage to create stories from what they see everyday. They look at all the details of challenging and inconvenient situations they come across and let their creative mind float to incorporate these in the story smoothly. Very often, the funniest jokes are so funny because they relate to actual behaviors that seem absurd when viewed through the lens of a story.
On a final note, remember that comedy relies heavily on empathy. Readers can’t connect with characters and situations that lie beyond their experience (or possible experience).
As such, it’s effective to incorporate daily situations and normal behaviors to give context to a situation. Once your readers can imagine being part of the situation you write, they’re far more likely to appreciate the funny twist or quick and clever ending of your novel.