This is a Book Review for How to Be Funny: The One and Only Practical Guide for Every Occasion, Situation, and Disaster (no kidding) by Jon Macks. You can also check out other book reviews on Humor That Works or see our recommendations in our Humor Resources.
An invaluable guide on how to “lighten up” from a distinguished pro who has provided laughs for JAY LENO, BILLY CRYSTAL, STEVE MARTIN, ROBIN WILLIAMS, BRAD GARRETT, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, AND MANY MORE.
Who hasn’t wished for the perfect withering comeback line, a clever tension-breaking quip, or a winning flirtatious remark? Being funny is hard work and not everyone is a natural. How to Be Funny is a witty guide that teaches readers precisely how to be funnier in everyday life. It’s a must-read for anyone who has to speak in public, be engaging and funny at work or at play, or who hopes to one day go out on a date.
You can’t blame someone for being ambitious, but Jon Macks may have tried to do much. The book is titled How to Be Funny, but it misses the mark in the “how to” department, and it certainly doesn’t cover every occasion, situation and disaster (how could it, it has less than infinite pages).
It’s not all bad–Macks is definitely a witty guy and the book starts out very promising. The 13 “Rules” for being funny are a great starting point for any comedian (have a point of view, surprise them and sell the joke to name a few), as is the definition of the different types of “humor.”
The problem is that Macks doesn’t live up to the title. For a book that’s supposed to cover every situation, there are quite a few types of
humor comedy missing (it’s clear from the context of the book that Macks makes the mistake of using humor and comedy as synonyms–this is incorrect, comedy is only one type of humor). Even putting aside my personal pet-peeve of incorrectly using “humor,” the book barely gets you past the initial stages of comedy.
The later part of the book does include some interesting sound bytes (“word bytes?”) from various comedians, but nothing that really grabs your attention. If you’re looking for insights from professional comedians, Comic Insights by Franlyn Ajaye is a much better option.
My Favorite Part
The aforementioned 13 “Rules” (referred to as The Building Blocks of Funny) are great for setting the stage of being funny. Each one is relevant to comedy and Macks helps explain the context of each of the rules. Perhaps the best insight comes from the rule of Understanding the Hidden Truth: “Every great joke uncovers something. Funny people say out loud what the rest of the world is thinking.”
The book fails to live up to it’s ambitious name and only starts the discussion on what it takes to “be funny.” I don’t fault Macks, what he attempts to do is very difficult, he just doesn’t set the right expectations about what he’s able to deliver.
Rating (out of 5):