I am an introvert. For reference, the definition of introversion (which I find highly suspect and somewhat insulting) is this:
in·tro·ver·sion /ˌintrəˈvərZH(ə)n/ noun the quality of being shy and reticent. the tendency to be concerned with one’s own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things. “the tongue-tied introversion of the self-conscious artist”
Even if we fail miserably, I suppose we can’t help but try to define introversion, since quiet nuts are hard to crack. But in doing so, others misunderstand us further and miss the point.
So, what is the point?
The point is, introverts are merely more thoughtful and their thoughts are loud even if they appear quiet. In the time they are not speaking, they are listening and observing, taking notes of the subtleties and nuances in human relationships and life’s oddities.
Even if not the first to speak up, they are potentially sitting on a powderkeg full of funny ideas that would make a great collection, once polished and put on display. And that’s just step one in our quiet quest for world domination. We might even be capable of more, given the chance to prove it.
Is a tongue-tied, self-conscious artist still capable of making art? Undoubtedly. And further still, is a “quiet” person capable of writing humor? Absolutely!
Read on, fellow introverts and curious extroverts, about how writing humor is something introverts do best:
On being “quiet” vs “loud”
Studies now show that this “quiet type” is only one of the four types of introverts. Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean shying away from the spotlight. Any thoughtful introvert will tell you that this initial definition does not, in fact, define who they are in the slightest.
Susan Cain, for example, has been vocal about the fact that introverts are not shy. Others have also said if they are reticent, it’s for a good reason. And finally, I know the author of Don’t Underestimate the Quiet Ones (They’re the Ones Who Actually Think) would be insulted by the insinuation they are only selfishly “concerned with their own thoughts and feelings and not external things.” Many introverted people even admit they are more extroverted than people realize.
If you are an introvert who might still have misgivings about humor writing or whether you are capable of it, you would do well to learn how being “quiet” can benefit you. In my previous article, Writing Humor When You Don’t Think You’re Funny, I dispelled the myth that humor comes naturally to funny people and they never have to work hard or try.
Famous humor writers collectively admit to being anxious and questioning when trying to write humor and assert that it requires a lot of introspection and time spent. Thinking and listening are two key traits necessary for writing humor. Without them, you essentially lose the ability to express yourself honestly, and without introspection you can’t provide the comedic element of self-deprecation.
And if you are often the one speaking, it’s more than likely you are not listening. Humor writers, such as David Sedaris, make their living listening, overhearing, and people-watching.
They call it “observational” humor for a reason.
Examples of funny introverts
When people often think of humor and comedy, they think of stand-up comedians. They think of being on a television show or in a funny movie. They burn these iconoclastic images of what is funny into their brain and assume every single one of those people is an extrovert in real life. To be funny is to be a clown, willing to embarrass yourself to get a laugh. To be loud and audacious is to be funny, right?
According to Scott Dikkers, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of “How To Write Funny” and the founding editor of The Onion, “Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Conan O’Brien, Ellen DeGeneres, Mitch Hedberg, Steven Wright and Richard Pryor are just a few famous comedians who are or were introverts. The list of behind-the-scenes writers and other comedy professionals who are introverts is probably even longer. It might be easier to make a list of the comedy professionals who aren’t introverts.” How is this possible? Many of the people on that list have been considered loud and outgoing by many of their peers, some even unbearably so. Dikkers also wrote about succeeding in comedy as an introvert if you would rather take his word for it.
How being an introvert feeds into comedy and fosters it
Now that you may have dispelled your own misgivings about whether you can be both introverted and funny, it’s time to “get out there” and further dispel the myth that introversion = laziness.
The most obvious way a budding humor writer can work on their craft is by writing humor, which in itself is a reclusive act. But they can also benefit by interacting with other humor writers. They can observe Youtube videos, Twitter, and other social media interactions, and other ways they “perform” and create without having all eyes on them at all times.
Improv can also help an introvert be better able to think on their feet. Comedian Steve Hofstetter wrote an amazing book about how his introverted nature changed forever when he started taking improv classes. This book points clearly to how improv is a great medium for introverted people and reshapes their thinking about how to be funny.
Improv can get the funny ideas and thoughts out more quickly for a more reticent introvert. But one of the greatest benefits is learning how to collaborate in a creative process and how it fosters communication. It is a tenant of improv that there isn’t just one funny person in the group stealing the show, but everyone actively works together to be funny as a whole. This can be a beneficial practice in helping extroverted and introverted people coexist within the same funny sphere.
But fellow introverts, I implore you to not attempt to shove yourself into a box where you are uncomfortable and don’t fit. Rather, find the thing that works for you.
Catharsis for introverts
Introverts consider themselves…introverted, for lack of a better word. For example, a person might prefer to maintain a level of personal comfort to chaotic performance schedules but still enjoy performing. They might initially recoil at the thought of public speaking but then actually be good at it.
So, what do you call a person who does not actively seek out and feed off attention much the way extroverts tend to? Or someone who can burn out from extended periods around other people? A drag? Can a person like that have a sense of humor or even be funny? Of course!
On the surface, introversion seems counterintuitive to humor. But contending with all of this new information, is it? Could it be that humor is a tool introverts use to cope with how their introversion is interpreted or how they interact with “external things”?
In order to accept that we can be both introverted and funny, we have to dispel some myths about what is “funny.” In the next installment, I hope to share three simple ways for all writers (even introverts) to start writing humor. After that, I hope to define humor as a genre and the evolution of it historically. Stay tuned!
Amy Ayres has three novels in progress and is querying two. When she is not in her office writing about terraformed planets, multiple personalities, and Irish folklore, she is hanging with her awesome tech-savvy hubby, stepson, and RubyCat. Visit amymarieayres.com. You can sign up for her Newsletter where she sends out motivational tips for new writers and her special brand of humor. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.