Also bear in mind that senses of humour are subjective. We often disagree violently amongst ourselves about whether an idea is funny, so please don’t be offended if we decide not to use an idea that you think is hilarious. Material included in The Chaser has to conform to the majority of the editors senses of humour – it’s the same rule we apply to ourselves.
In style terms, make your story read as much like a real news article as you can, even if its very silly.
Short is good, and try to end each para with a punchline.
The headline is crucial, and should be funny in its own right. We generally spend as much time on headlines as on the actual text of articles. And we usually get new writers to pitch headlines rather than completed articles, so we can suggest which ones we think are goers because they nail a particular satirical point (the angle), or are just funny idea, or true observations. Generally, if the headline (ie overall concept) isn’t right, it doesn’t matter how good the gags in the article are.
Anyway, enough lecturing from me, and well done to those brave enough to actually pitch something.
Here’s a few tips that can help you avoid common pitfalls in the writing process:
The world is our audience, but in order to reach people we have to leverage social media. This means that for most people, all they will see of your article is a headline, and that’s what needs to draw a reader in.
Our house rule since the 90’s has been writing should be “50/50” in that loosely 50% of the effort in creating an article should be spent on getting the right headline. In the age of Facebook that’s probably shifted closer to 90/10.
In professional comedy writing sometimes 100 good jokes might be pitched before a single one gets bought. We’re a little more forgiving, but we still prefer being pitched bunches of 10 potential headlines that we can pick one or two standouts from.
As ridiculous as the news is these days, we’re not yet a real news organisation. It can help to give some background on a topic, but at the same time don’t go over two sentences of dry content without throwing the readers a bone on the third. Remember this is the internet, people have short attention spans. Our general rule is aim for three sentence paragraphs, the first two explaining, the third comprising the punchline.
Subverting the readers expectation of how the paragraph will end is an easy way to get a laugh, and by writing this way, you can come up with your jokes first, then write backwards from there.
It’s an easy thing to do to write something that sounds funny but isn’t actually a joke. But just like we wouldn’t accept a tradie who built something that vaguely looked like a door without actually being one, we’re not looking for writers that only vaguely know how to build a joke. If you can’t go through your article and highlight the punchlines in four words or less, then you might want to go back to the drawingboard.
Come up with the jokes first. It’s much easier to frame a satiric story around some inherent ironies you spotted than it is to try and insert jokes into plain reporting.
It’s important you get the voice of the Chaser down before writing your article. While the AP guide is a great startpoint, the Chaser is just as much about what you say as how you say it. You can sum up the Chaser’s voice in threeish words: Self-important, irreverent, and centrist.
Unlike Clickhole the Chaser generally doesn’t do absurdism, and unlike the Backburner the Chaser’s politics cover a much broader church than inner-city leftism. If anything the Chaser’s voice is the Onion with an Australian twang, and a good dose of Murdoch tabloidism to boot.
If you are struggling to come up with witty one liners, remember the central tenants of satire:
Hyperbole, juxtaposition, lampoon, irony, puns/wordplay, misplaced focus, logical conclusions and illogical deductions
Find examples of these that apply to your topic, and you’re halfway to a finished article already.
It’s also important to remember that a punchline is best when it takes an unexpected turn from where your setup started out. Seinfeld calls this making the audience “make a mental leap” between two ideas.
It’s much better when pitching stories to include way to much and let us cut articles down. We generally run about 3-4 paragraphs on a story, but you should aim for around 5 paragraphs.
Sometimes jokes you thought were hilarious might be cut because they’re just not as funny to a fresh pair of eyes, and sometimes a joke you thought was easy or lame will be what makes an article golden.
We want to get the best out of our comedy writers, and this means editing, re-writes and sometimes taking advice from others. It’s nothing against you but we’d rather make the audience laugh than to keep in a joke that isn’t funny just to stroke a writer’s ego.
That’s it from us. So now for the most important tip of all: just get fucking writing!