Be Funny or Die

By Joel Morris

The secret rules that make you laugh

Monday, 17 July 2023


BIG NEWS. The manuscript has now been fully edited and sent in to Unbound.

Publication will be in March 2024. And... the title has changed.

The original intention was to write a book that would reveal the basic writing techniques behind making good comedy, and explore the science that explained why our brains liked certain sorts of jokes, and didn't like other sorts of jokes.

I hoped it would be accessible, and maybe the book would be appreciated by other people in comedy, and the sort of deep-dive comedy fans who liked my podcasts. A writing guide, of interest to writers, and to people who aren't writers, but are interested in how writing works. That sort of a book. "You're writing the sort of book that might have two copies stocked in larger branches of Waterstones" was a phrase I heard from publishers when I went to them with the proposal. Fair enough. It's a nerdy topic. I know. But nerdy books are important too. So I wanted to write it anyway, even if it was just going to delight eleven people and me.

But in researching and assembling the book, more and more stuff revealed itself, and the book changed - as books do. Why go on a 'writing journey' to answer a question if you already know the answer? You're meant to find things out, and maybe surprise yourself. Writing takes AGES. So there ought to be something in it for you, the writer.

What I found out was pretty thrilling. I didn't know a lot of this before I started, and the fizz of discovery was part of the process...

I noticed that the implications of the science and the philosophy behind comedy seemed to say something fairly amazing about being human, and about where we find ourselves as joking-creatures. The more stuff I found out, the more excited I got, but I didn't realise how much the original book *had* changed until I sent the manuscript in, and the publishers said "oooh".

What that means is that this is a) a better book than I was expecting (which is lovely) and b) a book that might be interesting to more people than we all anticipated.

So we've changed the cover and the title to something that better describes what's inside.

It's now called BE FUNNY OR DIE.

You will see from the cover that this book is now planting its feet wide apart in the actor's stance from Blackadder III, and it is, of course, roaring in the traditional manner.

I've disovered that comedy and how it cascades through the processors in our brains is very important to who we are as thinking, speaking, reality-constructing, philosophical, perceptual, social, tribal creatures. We've evolved to joke, and joking has helped us evolve. By playing with stupid ideas, we've got cleverer, not dumber. Our ability to be daft is essential to our survival. Nothing is 'just funny', there are reasons for it, and they're very simple, with some complex implications.

It's been amazing finding this out.

In summary: it's not just fart jokes. (Though it is *also* fart jokes.)

I'm dead excited.

Tell your friends.

Joel x

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Lee Grant
 Lee Grant says:

If we pay more money, do we get the 'enormous trousers' to complement our required reading stance?

Always wondered if they approached Kenneth Williams for Kenneth Connor's role in that episode of Blackadder.

The casting of Hugh Paddick leads me directly to Julian & Sandy - two out of work actors, taking on other work to fill their fridge - which is almost what David Keanrick and Enoch Mossop are doing by tutoring Prince George.

In my comedy fan's parallel universe, Elton and Curtis wrote Keanrick and Mossop as a chance to put Williams and Paddick together...because if you could, you would.

posted 17th July 2023

Marsha Shandur
 Marsha Shandur says:

I absolutely LOVE this development!! I was already extremely excited to read this book and am now a thousand times more so!!!

posted 23rd July 2023

Joel Morris
 Joel Morris says:

Thank you both!

And, yes, the Julian and Sandy thing had struck me before (because it's so exciting to see Paddick back as a thesp), but I'd never connected the idea with Kenneth Connor maybe being a Carry On 'If Wet' replacement for Kenneth Williams. Great thought... He smashes it, though, and Paddick is so wonderful too.

posted 24th July 2023

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