The Terrifying Fear of Not Being Funny

As somebody who is constantly making snarky jokes on facebook, I didn’t think that writing a Daily Show/Last Week Tonight-esque bit for my remediation project would be too difficult. I was very very wrong. Since attempting the storyboard and subsequent script writing for this piece has caused to me to gain a lot of respect for the Daily Show writers. The Daily Show does two major things really well:  it informs and provides a political critique of current issues andalso it’s hilarious. The hard part is balancing the two. In my attempt to write a similar script on the topic of corruption in banking, I constantly found myself one of two questions:

(1) Is this even funny?

(2) Is this even informative?

The second question is easier to address. When content seems too driven by humor, you can add more serious facts and boring words like “sub-prime mortgage” and “collateralized debt obligation.” But when you’re not sure if something is funny, it’s not to objectively make it funnier. Humor is, after all, a very subjective thing. So about half-way through writing in my script, I started to question if any of my jokes were actually funny, which is a pretty demoralizing feeling. Luckily, this didn’t last long as I ran them by some friends who thought the content was hilarious. I learned that the best way to approach the content was by outlining the big-picture arguments seriously, but finding the most humorous anecdotes to provide as evidence. For example, the topic of investment banks disregarding client interests isn’t inherently funny at all. However, the famous allegation made two years ago that investment bankers at Goldman Sachs often referred to clients as “muppets” in emails is undoubtedly hilarious. Even without context, the following picture (of Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein and everyone’s favorite green puppet) is pretty funny in my opinion:


As I begin to finalize my script, here is what the first two pages look like: (with clips and quotes indicated in red)




Hopefully, if everything comes together nicely for the final cut, I’ll have a product that’s both informative and funny.


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