Comedic Elements



Applying to Poetry

Similar to Prose

What’s prose you ask?

The ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse.

The same elements that are used to create comedy and humor in prose are often used in poetry to achieve the same effect





Figurative Language (simile, metaphor, personification, alliteration)

Rhyme and rhythm (Shakespeare did this very well)

Let’s look at a poem

Billy Collins

“Introduction to Poetry”

I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

Limericks – Ogden Nash

“The Centipede” “Further Reflections on


I objurgate the centipede,

A bug we do not really need.

At sleepy-time he beats a path

Straight to the bedroom or the bath.

You always wallop where he’s not,

Or, if he is, he makes a spot.


Is gharsley.

“The Abominable Snowman”

I’ve never seen an abominable snowman,

I’m hoping not to see one,

I’m also hoping, if I do,

That it will be a wee one.

Shakespeare? Funny?

You bet your bard!

Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

More Shakespeare…

Sonnet 135

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,

And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;

More than enough am I that vexed thee still,

To thy sweet will making addition thus.

Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,

Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?

Shall will in others seem right gracious,

And in my will no fair acceptance shine?

The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,

And in abundance addeth to his store;

So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will

One will of mine, to make thy large will more.

Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;

Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

The Health Food Diner – Maya Angelou

Describe the speaker’s attitude(s) toward the restaurant? Prove it.

What aspects of this poem contribute to its humor?