How to Write Funny Lyrics, by Michael Pollock

Jack Thompson
5 min readJan 23, 2022

The Comedy Songwriting Manual

Welcome to the first book I’ve looked at on the subject of writing lyrics.

The foreword gets you in. At barely two pages long, it’s like the rest of this book — to the point. Brief intro done, chapter one starts straight away.

On page thirteen.

You’re shown what areas to probe for song ideas. You’ll get the Ws — Who, What, Where, When and Web. Can I find something more exciting to read?

Not really.

This book’s quick fire, so unlikely to bore, while the Who and Why are used to enhance song possibilities.

This goes further, with a good number of ideas explored across a short number of pages.

Pollock takes you through rhyming, and what to write. It’s an adult topic, so I used my adult hands to grab my copy and pick off the 3+ sticker.

To work through ideas, he advises you to roll them around near the front of your nose, like lottery balls.

What is this guy on about? Let’s see. First number — 9. Second number — 11. Call out to a badly injured nasal cavity.

Careful with some of the humour within the book.

Early on, as the author says, you’ll find this isn’t grandma’s rhyme book. Because it talks about dirty things. So apparently grandmas can’t be dirty.

Does Michael Pollock discriminate further? Check out those old mommas holding them signs. Things are about to get rough.

A third of the way through the book, there are complications. Your nostrils…the damage is too severe. While it was all easy rhymes before, you’ll now approach some unheard of concepts. Things like bridges, the chorus, repetition.

Brand new to me as well.

Then page 59 hits you with something really unexpected. While the book was keen to move things forward, it’s suddenly a much longer chapter.

For reference, that’s about 6 times the size of any from a James Patterson novel. The author who writes with different names and whose books are broken up into 1 line sections.

Chapter 1

The man ran into the bank.

Chapter 2

He pulled a gun on the getaway driver.

Chapter 3

Along came a punchline.

That was imaginative. So imaginative. As they say, creativity at play.

I Didn’t Finish (working title)

Michael Pollock rhymes with….

And song rhymes with thong.

Does it fit, or will you see a stray Pollock?

Get off the beach quick.

Back to Funny Lyrics. The “long” chapter’s about 40 pages. It’s not hard going though. The workload’s reduced as Pollock takes turns writing with you. You’re all set up with the info from previous chapters, and allowed to get on with it.

There are also blank lines in the book to write your own lyrics, if that’s your thing.

Then just when you think it’s going well, be careful. That’s due to the adult words within — like arthritis and eyesight.

Really, there are adult words, so if you have learned to read, you’ll recognise them when you see them.

And now I mention it, you might even await them with bated breath.

That might be a clue.

Here are some more. Blind date. What will be your fate? You’re running late.

You don’t have a clue.

So anyway, keep it out of sight. Even though the book’s 10%ish Pokemonesque Funny Lyrics typeface drew you in, certain words aren’t meant for children.

Like arthritis and eyesight.

Back to the long chapter, and it’s far more intense than what proceeded it. Pollock warns against frustration, to take it easy, and not throw the book against a wall. Instead, take it rock climbing and claim the fall was an accident.

“The harness was affixed when the book started the ascent, officer.”

It’s the same idea for chapter 6, that things alternate between you and him, with a bit more difficulty thrown in.

Which means, that while the previous crocodiles were of the blow up variety, this time they’re inflated.

So it’s…

He does one, you do one. He does one, you do one. He does one, you do one. Hey, come back. Right now!

The book moves from writing, to a tiny recap and some advice.

That done, the final pages consider working with a composer. It’s good to know for those without music writing skills (particularly the little tip about word flow).

And if you’ve stuck with the book ’til the end, you’ll have written a number of songs that can fill up a trash can.

Unless they’re good, then you’ll quickly move on to other things. Better things.

Like reading my articles.

Verdict

The first half builds your skills. The 2nd is about practising them, and watching your unfunny creations spring to life.

But don’t despair. There will be someone out there who enjoys laughing at your songs and finds it funny that you’ve spent your time on something so pathetic.

Wait, wait… that’s not a personal insult. Just a general thing.

What I mean to say is, that the book stands pretty much alone, in funny song writing advice. There are books on stand up, characters, general writing, screenplays, while this is a bit different.

It gives you ideas on song titles, areas to explore, rhyme schemes, how to get the ideas down, and more on choruses and bridges. Then a bit more.

It achieves this in a relatively small number of pages, which, if you’re interested in a topic, and, like adding excess, commas to a sentence, makes it a worthy a read.

Pros

Covers all the bases on how to write funny lyrics. It gives you a process which means you won’t need to wait for inspiration.

Cons

Most of the comedy involves rhymes. Good for song structure, but keep in mind you want to be funny, not just cute.

Other thoughts

This is a nice book. Now you’ll have to learn the piano to challenge Tim Minchin.

Length

144 pages. Take off 2 for the index, another 30 for blank pages and spaces for your own lyrics, and the lead in, as the foreword itself starts on page 9.

Make it about 112 pages. Also keep in mind the book’s compact dimensions, which make it shorter still.

Quicker readers will power through this in a day. Slower and dedicated readers will be through this in under a week. Both groups will be slowed considerably by writing lyrics as they go.

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Jack Thompson

Writes serious book reviews. Other ideas in the works.