45: Scott Dikkers (How to Write Funny)

Danielle Krage interviews Scott Dikkers, founder of the renowned humour site, The Onion. Scott is a New York Times and Amazon best-selling humour author. He has won a Peabody Award, the Thurber Prize for American Humor and over 30 Webby awards. Plus, he has consulted for top entertainment companies like NBC, Comedy Central, and Pixar.

Scott’s How to Write Funny series is packed with helpful insights and frameworks for getting humour onto the page. In this episode, he shares both craft and career advice for comedy writers.  

Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background

02:21 Building a Brand and the Importance of Stick-to-it-ness

04:18 Crafting Reliable and Repeatable Quality

08:31 Balancing the Clown and the Editor

12:39 The Importance of Titles and Introducing Comedy in Writing

22:36 Misconceptions about Writing Comedy

30:31 Favourite Types of Characters to Write

33:13 Satire and its Impact

36:00 Where to Find Scott Dikkers

Links

https://howtowritefunny.com/

https://scottdikkers.substack.com/

https://twitter.com/ScottDikkers

https://www.instagram.com/itsscottdikkers

CLICK HERE FOR TRANSCRIPT
 

Danielle (00:01.804)

Today, I am thrilled to have Scott Dickers with me, founder of the renowned humour site, The Onion. Scott is a New York Times bestselling author and Amazon bestselling author in humour. He’s won a Peabody Award, a Ferber Prize, over 30 Webby Awards, and that’s just scratching the surface of his achievements. I particularly love his How to Write Funny series. It’s so practical and there are so many really helpful, insightful frameworks when it comes to putting humour on the page.

So I’m really excited to dig into that today. But before we do, Scott, is there anything else you’d love people to know about you and your connections to comedy?

Scott Dikkers (00:37.91)

Boy, those are definitely the highlights. But I’ve been doing comedy my whole life, and I’m an old man now. So I’ve done everything. I continue and have always done some sort of performing, like stand-up or acting or voice acting professionally. I do a ton of different kinds of writing, and I mentor people in comedy.

And if you name the medium, I’ve done it. Like I do a lot of street comedy, which is like unsuspected stunts and things that just happen on the street. I’ve made a couple of movies, worked on other movies, written movies, sold and written TV pilots and wrote on shows. It’s a long… I had an animation company, made a lot of short animated cartoons. So yeah, it’s a rather long and exhaustive list of things. And people often just see the highlights and figure, oh, you did that. But, uh, yeah, tip of the iceberg.

Danielle (01:49.72)

Yeah, I understand that. And this may be interconnected, because actually the first thing I wanted to ask you about before I dig into a few craft things, is lots of people want to be writers and comedy writers, but few people actually build brands of the size that you have successfully. And so it is an even smaller pool of people who’ve been able to do that. So I wonder when you think about that, what are some of the differentiating factors that have meant that you’ve been able to do that as well as the huge writing projects you’ve just described.

Scott Dikkers (02:21.342)

Yeah, that reminds me of another thing that I’ve done that I didn’t mention, which is I drew comic strips and I had a couple of comic strips that ran for a long time. One ran for 10 years and that was actually what kind of got me my start in comedy and that’s what led to me being involved with The Onion and it was a very successful comic strip brand. So it was like another brand that I created.

And so I already had some experience creating brands when I was doing The Onion. And the differentiation, I guess I would say is the stick-to-it-ness. It’s the people who pick something and then stick with it. When it’s working, like when there’s traction. There are plenty of people who pick something and stick to it, but there’s really no traction. The audience is not really liking or catching onto it. And those people kind of spin their wheels for a long time. Then there’s people who have something that’s really good that people like, that has a lot of potential, but they don’t stick with it. So the real magic ingredient is something people like, and you stick with it. So doing a comic strip, you’re automatically stuck because you have to produce a comic strip every day and put it in the newspaper. With The Onion, the weekly print deadline was built in at first. So we had to produce an issue and we had to put it out. And when something is consistent and people like it, the brand builds itself. It’s like you put in all the prebiotics and so the beautiful flora will grow.

Danielle (04:05.356)

Hmm. Yeah, I love that. And easier said than done, I think, which is again, why I love in your series that you, you really kind of hone in on what’s going to make things reliable and repeatable as well. Because obviously there are all kinds of creatives, and sometimes that kind of talk is not the kind that people want to engage with. But that’s what I really love… if you want to be a pro.

So when you do think about, not just on a brand level, but on a craft level, being able to produce reliable, repeatable quality, what are some of the things that come top of mind for you?

Scott Dikkers (04:40.618)

Yeah, that’s a good question because a lot of the sort of best practices are definitely in the books. There are some sort of ephemeral things that maybe it would be better to talk about here. And I touch on it in the book, but it’s not listed as like one of the steps. And that is it really should be fun. It should be something that you really enjoy. I do see a lot of people getting into comedy who are kind of pure ambition and they have a goal in mind… that I want to get to point B and I’m going to do X, Y, and Z to get there. But they’re lacking the joy and it’s really more like, I don’t know, the kind of ambition that you might see in someone who’s building ball bearings as opposed to launching a comedy career. And the audience can smell that. They know when someone’s having fun and really enjoying the process.

And there’s no connection, there’s no correlation between the amount of fun you’re having and how good it is. So you could be having the most fun in the world and be producing terrible work that nobody likes. That doesn’t matter. Because typically when someone’s starting out, that’s where they are. They’re enjoying themselves, they’re loving it. This is what most of us did as kids, you know. But nobody really thinks it’s funny. The best you’re going to get is grandma saying… oh, that’s really good, you know.

So lies from loved ones are gonna buoy you with this false confidence for a little while, at least, until you encounter your first actual neutral feedback, you know, from maybe a paying audience or just an uninterested audience. And so, you know, we all know about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory. And I think about that and talk about that a lot, that…A lot of times when someone comes on the comedy scene, who’s new, who everyone recognizes as an amazing talent, it happens frequently….

From in my youth, it was Eddie Murphy who got on SNL, I think when he was like 19, and he was already an accomplished standup. And he was a brilliant sketch performer. Another one about a decade later was Chris Farley, who came straight out of the Second City in his early 20s, straight onto Saturday Night Live, straight into movies. And everybody looks at those people and they’re like, oh my God, so talented, they’re masters. How did they do it?

Well, they did it from a young age and they loved it. And they got that fake confidence of validation from friends and family. And because they loved it, they were passionate about it, they were obsessed with it, they put in their 10,000 hours. So by the time they were 19, they were masters who’d already been doing it for twice the amount of time that Malcolm Gladwell says you need to do it in order to become a master of the craft. And at some point, probably in their first five to 10 years, they actually started to get that neutral feedback and they’re dealing with more critical audiences. Let’s say the other kids at school, siblings or kids in the neighbourhood, you name it. And for Eddie Murphy, it was actually going to clubs. And that’s when the real skill development starts to happen. When you start to cater to the audience and adjust what you do. So you’re still having fun. You’re still doing what you love, but you’ve got that Venn diagram where what you love and what the audience likes meets in the middle and then you’re really gonna soar.

Danielle (08:31.208)

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I’d love to know because you’ve mentioned fun there and in your book, How to Write Funny, you talk about the clown and the editor. And obviously people can read the book to read about it in more detail. But I think it’d be an interesting concept to introduce here in terms of how we really balance those two things because you describe the fun and that keeps us going, but also when we don’t want that false feedback. We actually do need to be able to give ourselves clear feedback and get it from others. Any ways of negotiating that? Because I think I’ve been through quite the curves of, like you say, the sort of false confidence of the beginner and then like going far too far into the critic and losing the fun and coming back the other way. So any tips?

Scott Dikkers (09:16.106)

Yeah, so I’ve been thinking about that concept a lot too lately, which is when you’re new at something, you’re using a sledgehammer, not a scalpel. So the variance in your quality and your adherence to the best practices is wild. You know, you’re going to be all over one way and then you’ll be all over the other direction. And it’s true for any skill, any life skill, any creative skill. And it’s the same with knowing how to use the clown and the editor, and those are kind of, they represent the two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to creativity. So when we’re kids, we’re pretty much all clown, which is we think everything we do is funny, we don’t edit anything that comes out of our mouths, we just say whatever, and we’re having fun. So…that’s the clown. It’s like pure creative energy.

Now, if you don’t employ any editor and you’re just clown, you’re going to be kind of insufferable to people. You’re, you’re going to be one of these always on people. And a lot of what you do isn’t going to be funny because it’s not practiced or perfected in any way. It’s just like running your mouth off or whatever.

And then, the editor is the opposite end of the spectrum where you’re going to be overly critical. And this is where most adults are. They’re purely in the editor side of their brain. Super critical. Basically edit and cut everything before they even say it. So they’re not producing any comedy. They’re not writing any comedy articles. They’re not performing because they just they lock it out and say, oh, nothing I do will be funny. And people who have writer’s block are stuck in editor brain, because nothing they write is good, so they don’t write. They’re afraid of looking at bad writing on the page.

And so when you’re not practiced at doing anything creative, you’re gonna possibly move wildly between those two extremes, just blunder through and… you know, I’m feeling really on now. I’m feeling really motivated. I’m with my friends, I’m having fun. I’m really funny. Why am I not funny when I’m trying to write? I’m all editor. It’s because you’re not practiced at it and you haven’t been doing it for 10,000 hours. And so you’re just, you’re a bull in a china shop. So the masterful creators are people who employ the two strengths of those extremes, the clown and the editor, with precision. And they’re not bouncing all the way across the road of life, zooming into oncoming traffic, zooming into the shoulder, they’re right in their lane. And they dip into Clown Brain when they need to generate a rough draft, they dip into Editor Brain when they need to refine that rough draft, when they need to get some feedback and incorporate it. It’s all these sorts of very subtle, nuanced moves where you’re just kind of going like this and this and this between Clown and Editor.

Like the feedback process in particular is a lot. When you make yourself open to feedback and you listen to it, you’re pretty much all in editor if it’s good neutral feedback. I’m not talking about the kind of positive feedback you get from grandma. That doesn’t count. You’re going to be in pure editorial mode, editor brain. But when you implement that feedback, you’re going to have to dip back into Clown Brain because someone may have introduced a problem that you need to fix, but they didn’t necessarily know the solution. Now you have to find the solution. So you’re going to brainstorm, you’re gonna come up with a bunch of different ideas, then you’re gonna self-assess, you’re gonna dip back into editor brain and decide of these five or six, this one I think is the funniest, gonna go with that one, and that that’s a skill you see in the in the pros, that ability to use those two extremes with nuance.

Danielle (13:28.68)

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I have a follow on from that, which is that, so you’re someone who has probably received lots of feedback and also had to give lots of feedback in multiple contexts in the different rooms that you’ve been in and the projects that you’ve run. Any advice for someone, because in the book, when you’re talking about the editor, you talk about that if you’re not careful, it can also like, you need to keep your instincts so that it’s not just bringing in the doubt and the judgment.

Any tips for being really receptive to feedback and being a pro, but like really honing those instincts too. And I’m asking with self-interest because that’s also something that I feel like I’ve been through different waves of with trying to be completely open to feedback and going too far that way. Trying to then be like, no, this is my vision. So calibrating that and honing instincts.

Scott Dikkers (14:20.143)

Yeah, it’s the same thing. It’s all about finding that balance and the best way to find it is through experience. This is why, depending on what kind of comedy you’re doing, let’s say you’re writing short comedy articles, the more you do and the more you go through that process, and I’m talking about the complete process, coming up with an idea, drafting it, getting feedback, refining it, finishing it, publishing it, getting feedback from editors and actual readers, then going back to step one and doing it again. If you did that once a week for a year, you would be in pretty good shape for having all the skills that you’re talking about. You would know when feedback is good, you’d know when it’s bad, you’d know when to listen to it, when to not, you’d know when to listen to yourself, as opposed to the feedback.

And you’d have a better idea of knowing how to fix certain mistakes or errors or problems that any feedback points out. And you’d have a really solid sense of your own internal judgment versus that of other people. And it’s really nice to be in that position because sometimes, you know, every piece is different. I’ll stay in this example of short comedy articles. Sometimes you write a short piece and you feel like, yeah, it’s pretty good, but I don’t know. I’m not really feeling it. Something’s not right or whatever. I’m gonna get feedback on a piece like that and it’s gonna be more enlightening. It’s gonna be like, oh, okay, I see. I see what it could be. The feedback is really helping me. Other pieces you’ll write will really feel like, oh my God, this is a winner. I really know this works. So the feedback you get on that one is gonna be a little bit more like, ah, they’re wrong. You know, I know what I’ve got going here. Or these three people are wrong, but this one person who has an idea for amping it up, you know, one degree, that’s the one I’m taking, you know, I’m gonna use. They get what I’m doing and I’m just gonna implement their feedback, you know. Does that make sense?

Danielle (16:24.596)

It does. And how do you think about that when you’re writing your novels, if it’s any different? Again, self-interest because like there’s the bigger vision and sometimes it’s not realized when you’re trying to describe to someone how Act One works, or you’re trying to send a chapter in isolation. So again, it’s calibrating it for those like bigger scale projects where it’s not really fully there yet.

Scott Dikkers (16:30.442)

Yeah, it’s very similar. It’s just bigger. So. Yeah, I would never send a chapter out for isolated editing. The way I would do and the way I do a novel typically is I write an outline and I might write an outline after I do a first draft, but it should be, and when I say outline, that kind of means a treatment, like a two to three-page treatment that has the whole story and I’ll get feedback on that because that’s really easy for people to digest and it’s really easy for them to get it. The whole overarching point of the book. And once I get that feedback, then I’m going to refine my draft or write my draft. And then I’m gonna have beta readers read that entire draft. But I won’t send them the rough draft. I basically always send beta readers a second draft, but in their minds, and what I call it, is a first draft.

So I kind of use the terms rough draft and first draft. So rough draft is just like poured all out there. There’s no structure. Things change as you figure things out and they’re not fixed. I would never show that to anybody. It’s a mess with one exception, which I can get to later, but then I’ll refine that so it’s digestible to another person. And that’s all the first draft. And that I would send to beta readers for them to read and…in its entirety and tell me what they thought of it. Very helpful step, like an incredibly valuable step. And I ask specific questions of readers. I have a form that they fill out and I’ll see if I can remember everything on the form. It’s something like, give me your overall impression of the book in 500 words or less. Tell me five things about the book that you thought didn’t work and then give me suggestions for how to fix each one, like 250 words each.

Um, those are the main things I’m looking for. I don’t necessarily want to know what was good about the book. Cause you’ll just get a bunch of….I thought the characters were really good like that. It’s not going to help you at all. That’ll be covered in the overall. What I’m really interested in is what’s not working and how can I fix it. Because what’ll happen is, and I usually get 20 to 50 beta readers to read a book.

Danielle (19:16.532)

Wow, okay.

Scott Dikkers (19:17.79)

I send them out to my list, you know, and my list is, I’m so fortunate to have this email list of people who have bought my books or signed up for my courses or whatever, because a lot of them are professional writers, professional comedy writers, and I qualify them before I send out a book to beta readers. I say, okay, who wants to beta-read my book? Tell me why you’d make a great beta reader, and I’ll get like 200 or 300 responses saying, I’d love to read the book, love to be a beta reader for you. I’m a literature professor at Brown University. And so I think, perfect, I’ll accept. You’ll be a great beta reader. Another person will be like, you know, I don’t really have any experience, but I love books. They might not make the cut, you know. But I might also grab a couple of people who seem counterintuitive and throw them in the mix.

Scott Dikkers (20:09.386)

So I get a lot of varying opinions and I want varying political perspectives, different age groups. I had like a 12-year-old in one of my Beta reading groups recently and you know, like a 90-year-old. So basically when I get their answers back to my form questions, typically some of the same areas of the book will get mentioned as problem areas. So right away I know that area needs work, that area needs to get fixed. And it’ll open my eyes to some things I may not have considered that aren’t working, depending on what they say. And the second draft that comes after I get all that feedback is basically my final draft. It’s, with the exception of like minor line edits, copy edits, stuff like that. The beta reading step is really, really valuable for me. It’s akin to, if I had to make a comparison, it’s akin to a comedian going out and trying new material at clubs and learning which lines get laughs and which ones don’t and coming up with an hour of great material.

Danielle (21:20.104)

Yeah, there’s so many helpful things in there. I think it’s a genius idea as well to actually get feedback on the outline and do that in a written form. Because again, I’ve tried to do that verbally and it’s helpful, but as happens in conversation people come on with questions before you’re even done it. So actually I think that’s a smart idea, like you say, to know you’re off on the right foot and have that clarity and then to see the whole shape. Yeah.

Scott Dikkers (21:28.378)

You gotta know you’re off on the right foot, you know. Yeah, I do verbal. Yeah, sometimes I do verbal outlines or treatments for movies. Because then you’re like telling somebody the story. And if they interrupt you and ask questions, that means there’s a problem with the outline because they shouldn’t have any questions. They should be enraptured. They should be dying to know what’s going to happen next. And just sit back and listen. And that’s how you know it’s working when they’re like, Oh, my God, this is such a great story, you know, is what you’re looking for.

Danielle (22:10.764)

Mm, yeah. Okay, I love it. Loads to think about there, thank you. So many helpful things already. And you mentioned a comedian being able to go out and test and get laughs. And I love your books that they really help with what’s on the page, because sometimes I feel like there’s less help for comedy writers who are trying to get things to be funny on the page. What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions that people have specifically for that. And I know it’s a broad question because it could be articles, it could be books, but what are some of the big misconceptions you see?

Scott Dikkers (22:43.254)

No, that’s okay. So first, I’m going to go back to, I said there was one exception for, um, showing the rough draft to people. So I started this Substack newsletter where I post a daily creativity tip or motivation or thought. And part of this newsletter is that every week I post all the things that I’ve worked on that week, as an accountability exercise. So I tell people what my goals are, and then at the end of the week, I show up with receipts and I post all the work. So I’ll post all my terrible drafts that haven’t even been re-looked at by me, just because I’m accountable to that. I’m showing up and saying, I did this, here’s the work, only exception. I’m not looking for feedback from that. Occasionally somebody will see it and say, oh, I like this part, but I don’t really count that as anything other than…Good job, Scott, keep going. It’s not like critical feedback that’s actionable.

Anyway, so back to your question about the focus on writing and the written word in my books versus standup. So the reason I focused on the written word in the How to Write Funny Books is because that’s the hardest medium to do comedy in. And I know that if you can get good at that, the others will be easy by comparison.

So a lot of stand-ups get my books and it helps them develop jokes for their stand-up act and they find that really easy. The reason writing is so much more difficult than stand-up is, well, there’s many reasons, but the main one is that you don’t have any idea of the context of your audience. When you’re at a stand-up club, you can see them. You can feel the vibe in the room.

And that’s to say nothing of the benefits of getting that live instant feedback, which you also don’t get in writing. So, you know, we talked earlier about the idea of a comedy writing process that’s reliable and repeatable. You have to have that for written comedy, otherwise you’re just flailing. How are you possibly going to hope to produce any comedy and put it out there and have it work if you don’t have a system because you have no idea. Is the audience reading you on a bus while there’s a lot of noise going on? Are they in a bad mood? Are they in a good mood? Are they listening to the audio version of whatever, let’s say your comic novel or whatever, or are they reading it? Are they a sophisticated comedy audience or are they like a  regular Joe Blow who likes people falling down type humour. Knowing all those parameters is impossible when you’re writing, you literally have no idea.

You also, another thing you don’t have is you don’t have control over the timing. And we all know that timing is super important in comedy. I think it’s less important than people always used to think it is, but it has its place. You know, as a tool, you have zero control over timing in written comedy. The only thing you can do is possibly control the amount of time it takes them to get from a headline to a first line. You can possibly structure your paragraphs and your joke beats so the jokes come at a good interval, but that’s the best you can do. So all the best practices for how to do that are in my books.

And the best thing you can do is you paint with a broad brush. And that’s why I go into the 11 funny filters, because if you can nail a humour piece, let’s say, with all 11 funny filters in play, there’s almost nobody you’re not going to reach. Because everybody has a different sense of humour, everybody likes different types of humour. The falling-down humour guy is gonna like your madcap humour. The intellectual is gonna like your meta humour or your wordplay or whatever. So you need that variety and that mix.

And okay, so there’s one other thing you asked for like some basic things that people might wanna understand about the How to Write Funny Books. If a standup is using the How to Write Funny Books to come up with standup jokes, they’re going to have access to the same tools that somebody who’s writing is using, and they’re going to have the same benefit. What the writer needs to understand is they don’t have that context of the standup being at a club, being in a club that’s called a comedy club, where people go to see comedy. So the audience is sitting there waiting and ready for comedy. The writer has to do all that work. They have to introduce that concept because they don’t know where their reader is. They don’t know where they’re coming from. They don’t know where they’re going to see their work. So one of the biggest misconceptions people have, and I see this a lot, is they don’t write a funny title for their piece. It’s either like a boring title or an informational title, and it goes right from the title to a thick block of grey copy. And so what they don’t realize is that they’ve failed in the very first job of the prose comedy writer, which is to introduce the concept that, hey, this will be a funny article.

So make it a funny title so people will see it and say, oh, that’s kind of funny. And it will make them want to read further. And then hopefully they’re in good hands with you and you take them through this well-paced process of escalating joke beats that get funnier and funnier.

Danielle (29:12.732)

That’s perfect. And, so I, I love that you really bring this home… because as, as you say, in the clubs, how we announce it…we can’t just lean on that social contract that you mention in the books as well – the fake laughter or the group laughter. Iit’s a hard sell.

Scott Dikkers (29:32.298)

Yeah, actually, I just thought of something that might be fun. Somebody should write an article someday and point out this problem and provide an audio file with the article that people are supposed to play. That’s like a laugh track that’s timed for when they think the jokes are in their article. So as soon as you start reading, hit play and then it’ll work for you.

Danielle (29:46.656)

Oh, that’s brilliant. Love it. I will say the funny filters are absolute genius. If you’re interested in writing comedy, creating comedy in any way, they will absolutely help you because, they do just break it down in a way that I haven’t seen before. And I managed to find books that helped me with story and development of different characters, but those filters are so helpful. So I’m not going to pull them all out because people can read the books. I just wanted to pull out one because you’ve then extrapolated it out into a whole book, which is the characters.

Scott Dikkers (30:21.186)

Well, thank you.

Danielle (30:31.38)

Again, that’s worth buying too in itself because the list of types is absolute genius. All the work on traits is amazing. So I’m not going to ask you to repeat your book, but I would just love to know, on a personal level, when you’re writing yourself, are there any types that you really love to write or when you’re viewing, are there any? Because as I was reading them, when I saw them, I was like, oh… you mentioned like the weirdo, like Aubrey Plaza. The animal, like Bert Kreischer. And I was like, oh yeah, they’re two of my absolute favourites as a viewer and also a writer. So I was just curious for yourself, if you have any. You might not, because you’ve written for so many things.

Scott Dikkers (31:04.894)

I do, yeah, my favourite character by far, and I say that because it’s the one I always seem to come back to, is the bumbling authority. I think it’s the funniest character, and I’ve always liked it. Like growing up, I liked Leslie Nielsen’s character in the Police Squad show in the Naked Gun movies, and in Airplane, where he’s like a doctor, he’s a detective, he’s an authority, he’s a low-level authority, but he’s bumbling. He’s a total idiot.

Danielle (31:15.172)

Okay. Yeah.

Scott Dikkers (31:34.79)

And I just always thought that was funny. Ted Knight from the Mary Tyler Moore show. And so The Onion is that character. The Onion is supposed to be this important newspaper. So it’s like an authority, but everything it says is silly. So it’s a bumbling authority. And it was so much fun casting the Onion’s newsman for the Onion radio news show. We got really lucky with P.S. Mueller, who was a local cartoonist in Madison, Wisconsin. We did these wonderful little cartoons for alternative weeklies. They looked like scribbles and people might’ve heard his name or seen him around. His cartoons would be in the New Yorker once in a while and Psychology Today ran them quite a bit. So he understood humour on like a really expert level, but he had the most perfect AM radio news voice because he used to do AM radio news when he was younger and he just…he smoked a lot, he had this deep rich voice and it just sounded like the voice of authority. And so that was such a joyous project. He worked on our first audiobook… Actually, did he do both? I can’t remember if he yeah, he did both of our first audiobooks for Our Dumb Century and for The Onion’s Finest News Reporting which was a collection our first collection and just….He automatically made everything in The Onion a hundred times funnier because he was the embodiment of the bumbling authority character.

Danielle (33:07.852)

Yeah, that’s lovely and a lovely insight to think of The Onion being this character too, which clearly it is, but that’s a really, really fun way to think of it. Love it. So just two more questions before we wrap up. One is because you are such a renowned expert in this field, satire. I just wondered if there are any things… and obviously satire can change as times move or maybe you think it doesn’t… but I’d love to know what’s catching your attention currently or in the past couple of years when it comes to people who are successfully employing satire in comedy, in  any media of your choice.

Scott Dikkers (33:41.902)

Yeah, I’m going to give you my pessimistic answer and my optimistic answer. So I’ll do the pessimistic first. I feel like human beings are just a terrible species of animal. We’re just mean, we’re dumb and we’re stuck in our old evolutionary patterns. We can’t solve big problems. We’re violent, you know. Like what’s going on in the Middle East right now is just heartbreaking that, you know, one group of people attacks, murders, rapes, takes hostages, and the other side responds by murdering tens of thousands of people. It’s like nobody wins, and that’s human beings for you. There are no real wise leaders who can step in and say, actually, this violence is not solving any problem.

And much of what satire does is points out things like that. The foibles of humanity. We’re doomed to be dumb, violent apes who, like, you know, you look at the world and it’s like, who’s in charge? Like, where are the adults? We’re just ruining the planet. We’re killing each other. We’re not getting any better. Yes, there are some cool inventions, but like, where’s the utopia that we were promised by BF Skinner back in the day.

Where’s the utopia that we always see in the science fiction movies where they’re living in perfect harmony with nature and they have this self-sustaining world. Like impossible, it’s never gonna happen. We’re just idiots. And satire can point that out and we can all laugh at it, but it’s kind of a hollow, sad laugh because we know it’s never gonna change. There’s nothing we can do.

The optimistic side. The optimistic side is occasionally, I feel like satire at its best does improve people’s critical thinking skills. And it opens their minds a little bit to another way of looking at things. And it can change over the long term. So the popularity of satire in the past 25 years is like nothing we’ve ever seen in human history. There has been satire before, but it’s been more of a niche thing, where it’s been like one author, somebody like Mark Twain. But it was such a huge part of American culture, and I guess English-speaking culture, and other cultures as well,  over the past 25 years, that I think it actually improved the positive cynicism and the critical thinking skills of the younger generation that came up during that time. So partly the millennials, partly Gen Z and certainly Gen Alpha…. Who are the most progressive generation we’ve seen ever.

Danielle (38:57.248)

That’s such a thoughtful and thought-provoking answer that I think is perfect for writers who are engaged in comedy and want to do so at a really deep and human level. So many generous things you shared today. I highly recommend your books. Where should people go to find out more about you and your work?

Scott Dikkers (39:18.834)

The best place to go to find out more about me is howtorightfunny.com. And the Google is always your best friend because I’m on all the social media. And I have my daily Substack list, which I think might show up in Google. But you can look for me on Substack as well. And feel free to spell my name wrong because I’ll still show up.

Danielle (39:27.286)

Yeah.

Danielle (39:42.779)

I’ll put all those links in the show notes. So thank you so much for your time today, Scott. I’ve been fascinated listening to you.

Scott Dikkers (39:48.994)

Absolutely. It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.