Humor in Context

I saw a sign on Saturday.  It was an ad for Snickers that said “If you just had a long conversation you’re probably hungry.”  This sign makes sense but is not particularly funny until you put it in context.

The sign was part of a “you’re probably hungry” series that included things like “If you can’t find the hat on your head” and “If you just stood in line to ride a lightpost.”  To add further context, I was at Six Flags.

It is this last piece of information that gives the sign its humor.  Clearly, if you’re at Six Flags, the implication of the sign is that you should be having short conversations interrupted by random bouts of screaming.

Even with the context, I think this is the weakest link in the series.  Standing in line for a lightpost is funny without thought.  The long conversation one requires too much thought for a sign in a theme park.

These are things that you can remember when writing as well.  If something is funny within the context in your head, make sure that you give readers that context as well.  And if it requires a bit too much thought for the situation, it might be worth leaving it out entirely or you risk pushing your audience out of their absorption with your story.