How Not to Write Satire

John Petroski, former Opinion Editor at a CCSU's The Recorder, is one of those visionary satirists whose work was not understood or appreciated in his lifetime. Petroski's work is actually so visionary that that it will not be understood in anybody's lifetime. Petroski's groundbreaking article, Rape Only Hurts if You Fight It, baffled the country with questions like, "Why would somebody write this and then sign their name to it?" Now, by following these few easy steps, you too can write Petroskian Satire.

Write First, Come Up with a Point Afterward

Some might say that satire is a pointed social criticism wherein a writer might argue for progressively more horrific results in order to shock the audience at its own apathy or complicity in various societal problem. In this way, such traditional satire is a complex agent of social change, gradually changing public perception and contributing to a positive social good. However, traditional satire is written by a bunch of ivory-tower pansies. Worse yet, it's hard to write. When you write satire, forget the pointed social commentary. For you, satire means, "pointed social criticism OR whatever you ended up saying that you sort of meant facetiously." If people tell you that your article is neither funny, pointed, nor particularly good, tell them it is satire. Come up with what it satirizes later. (If you're stumped, try, "insensitivity and bias in the media." That one usually works.)

Some traditionalists might say that your article should have a discernable point before publication. For example, your article on the historical role rape has played in the developement of Europe could become an insightful and devastating feminist critique of the glorified yet patriarchal classical era. You could also criticize the gradual erosion of privacy rights in the face of an ultra-nationalistic desire for security. Of course, either of these would require a lot of thinking and an lot of delicacy. You don't do either delicacy or thinking—so go ahead and write your "rape is good" article.

You Really Only Need One Joke

And it doesn't have to be told very well. Timing is everything—but it's also very hard. If you essentially repeat the same joke thirty times in your article, you're bound to get it one of those times.

Unspeakably Offensive = Unspeakably Hilarious

Since laughter can ease pain, make sure to laugh at people who are in pain. Apply your laughter topically by poking fun at sensitive areas. Also, it's the intent that counts. It doesn't matter if you're actually funny—only that you think you're funny. Numerous commedians have shown that even controversial or difficult subjects can be approached commedically. You can take this a step further. Hurtful things are not only potentially funny but intrinsically funny. Sure, a joke might fall flat—but so long as the next joke is even more over the top, nobody will notice the first. Eventually you'll get nervous, awkward, did-somebody-seriously-think-this-was-funny laughter. Now you've got them laughing! Keep it up! Mocking historically vulnerable groups is carrying on an ancient tradition. Think of it as a running gag.

Any humorist will tell you that humor needs incongruity. What's more incongruous than seeing something in print that nobody would consider fit to print? If you're having trouble finding extremely sensitive topics, just remember this simple acronym: HARM. That's Holocaust, AIDS, Rape, and Mohammed. Sound too grim? Add comically distorted caricatures of minorities and you get CHARM. All of these make great editorial cartoons as well. Can you design one with all five elements? That will get you international attention!

People Laugh at You When You're Drunk

You Must Come Up with Hilarious Ideas after Eight Drinks

Make sure not to edit it at all—you'll only make it less funny. And editing takes a lot of time you don't have. No time to sober up! Get that article to the press! And if it looks less funny the next morning? You must not understand your own genius.

Remember Your Duty to the First Amendment

The First Amendment protects your ability to spew whatever crap you desire. It would be fundamentally ungratefuly not to use this. If you are tempted to decide that something you have written should never see the light of day, be sure to publish it immediately. The terrorists want you to censor yourself—and if you're not every bit as offensive as they are, you are not using your liberties to their fullest extent.

Avoid Subtlety, Tact, and Care

Subtlety, tact, and thoughtfulness have no place in modern satire. Perhaps in the past, the satirist may have crafted stories as delicate and intricate as snowflakes—but those days are over. Today, the true satirist does not stop to admire snoflakes—he builds the largest snow phallus he can. Today's satire is an exercise grabbing whatever stereotypes you can and throwing them together. You might not know a whole lot about whatever you're writing about—but whomever's reading the stuff you write is at least as dumb and brutish as you are.