Truly Funny

Writing Your Story, Humorously

Truly Funny

A little humor can enliven nonfiction writing, and true stories can offer support to humor. This workshop with humorist and New Yorker “Shouts and Murmurs” contributor Shannon Reed will explore both of these angles.

First, you’ll learn the fundamentals of writing humor and begin to craft funny pieces together and individually. Then, you’ll look at how the same ideas can be applied in nonfiction writing.

Many nonfiction writers would like to incorporate humor into their writing, but worry that only natural comedians can write funny. That’s not true! This course will guide you through the fundamentals of writing humor, proving that it is both a craft and an art. You’ll also gain tools to help incorporate humor in your own writing, including the ability to sense when it might help and to understand what kind of humor would be appropriate to include.

During this workshop you will:

  • EXPLORE the fundamentals of writing humor;
  • COLLABORATE in writing humor in approachable styles;
  • DISCUSS the role humor can play in nonfiction; and
  • WRITE a new piece of work that incorporates humor.

The workshop is open to writers of all levels. Read on for the schedule overview.

Saturday, October 13, 2018
10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Advance registration strongly recommended.
The workshop is limited to 16 students.

$65 if registered by 10/1/2018
$85 if registered after 10/1/2018



Opening // Writing Humor is Writing

After an ice-breaker, the group will collaborate on a “Late Show”-style Top 10 list. Then, you’ll read Teddy Wayne’s piece “Dissecting a Frog” and discuss Wayne’s ideas about writing humor. Shannon will also offer suggestions and tips picked up from her years of writing humor professionally.

Morning // Shaping Jokes Into a Piece

You’ll apply the list of ideas/rules about writing to the group’s Top 10 list, making it … well, funnier. Shannon will then break down the various structures available to humor writers, and you will choose a format and topic and draft the beginning of a humor piece to share.

Mid-Day // Transitioning to Non-Fiction

You will examine at a few pieces of humorous nonfiction. As a group, we’ll briefly analyze how those pieces work, including the frequency and style of humor. We’ll consider the roles of hyperbole and dissembling in humorous nonfiction writing and look for examples of both.

Afternoon // What Do I Want to Say?

You will draft the opening paragraph of a nonfiction piece that incorporates humor. We’ll workshop these drafts as a group, again using the list developed at the beginning of the workshop.

Closing // Onward, Funnily

To wrap up, we’ll return to the idea of the Top 10 List and create a Top 10 List about the workshop itself. Using the list as a prompt, we’ll discuss a series of questions: what have you learned? What are the best practices you want to take away? What do you have questions about? What are your goals? And, of course, what was the best joke of the class?


Location // 5119 Coral Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

The lower level of our workshop and gallery space is wheelchair accessible. Free on-street parking is available.

Doors open at 9 am, event begins at 10 am. Breakfast and coffee will be provided. The workshop schedule includes a mid-day break for lunch at local restaurants. A kitchenette, with refrigerator and microwave, is available onsite for packed lunches or snacks.

Shannon Reed is a nationally-recognized humorist, frequently published in The New Yorker’s “Daily Shouts” and “Shouts and Murmurs” sections and on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Her work has also been published in Slate, The Washington Post, Longreads, LitHub, The Guardian, Real Simple, and many more. She is at work on her first book, a funny memoir about Broadway musicals. Her author website is

Questions? Please call us at 412-404-2975 or email our events manager, Hannah Waltz at