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What makes humor writing effective? For this paper you will analyze the comedic text of your choice. Considering rhetorical appeals, theories for analysis, and using the language of stylist and rhetorical analysis, make an argument that a particular text is (or is not, or is meh) funny. As with any formal analysis paper, you will need to include evidence, examples, and well-reasoned argumentation to support your position.


MLA style formatting and citations

4-6 pages

Due date: 2/15

Weight: 100 points


Addendum: Gallery Walk Assignment

You will each be assigned a rhetorical term to teach to the class using a poster (or other piece of homemade art with my permission). The class will be divided into two groups--artists/teachers and audience/students. On the first day, one group will present its posters and the other will act as gallery patrons, walking around the room and learning the terms from the artists. The second day, the groups will switch.


Posters must include the term, a definition, example/s, and relevant design elements. You may use posterboard or a trifold like fifth grade science fair, markers, crayons, glue sticks, InDesign, Canva, Piktochart, or whatever you consider appropriate to your audience (the class), purpose (to teach the concept), and occasion (before analysis papers are due).


You will receive an email from Canva with a list of assigned terms.


McSweeney's Open Letter

Now that you've looked at the elements that make humor writing work, it's time to try your hand at creating some. McSweeney's Internet Tendency's Open Letters to People or Entities Unlikely to Respond department has a unique format and tone and you will need to work within the parameters of its conventions.


MLA style heading, title, and spacing

No citations

Length (look at the published letters, take an average, and shoot for the shorter side)

Due Date: 2/29


The Onion Satirical News Story

As with the McSweeney's letter, you'll be working with the style and tone of the publication. The Onion accepts and often publishes unsolicited pitches from freelancers, but remember that they usually accept or reject on the strength of the headline, so make sure this piece is tightly edited for maximum impact upfront. Make yourself familiar with the publication.


MLA style heading, title, and spacing

No citations

Length (look at the articles, take an average, and shoot for the shorter side)

Due Date: List has a unique format, perfectly suited to its online readership: the listicle. Typically "top five" style lists, these columns are often black humor and feature loads of profanity, but not just gratuitous profanity (okay, some of it is gratuitous). Pro has a discussion forum where topics are up for grabs and you can make a pitch directly to the editors.



In the age of YouTube, the comedic script is a major force in the industry. It's made celebrities (and rich people) of a great many unimpressive goofballs. Audience expectations for quality writing are getting higher, but it's still a wide open platform for comedy writers. You will write a script for a short video (or other performance if you've got one in mind) and record and share it. It can be a monologue voice-over, like Sad Dog Diaries or Honeybadger, or a full cast script like Precious Plum. You may choose to do this assignment individually or in a team.


You will submit the final product for the class as any of the following:

Reading: you can just come to the front of the room and read it aloud

Performance with actors: you may choose others to read or act the piece live in class

Video: you may record yourself, actors, cartoons, images, voice-overs, or whatever else you can think of, as a video that you play for the class.


What I am looking for here is a strategic choice of rhetorical modes. See "multimodal" assignment under my Freshman Comp tab on my website.

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