When you think of an English Literature curriculum, you can bet that the classic will be there to drown you in boredom. Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, and so on and so forth.
In the short story section of your curriculum, there will probably be great but depressing stories there too – Lamb To Slaughter, Thank You, Ma’am, Sniper, and so forth.
It’s time for something less serious. Shake it up by adding funny stories to your classroom. Funny stories need a lot of technical tweaks to give your readers a belly laugh, they aren’t simple and can give your student a lot to think about without being depressing.
To get you started, here are 9 funny short stories that your students will love.
We are starting off this length of laughter with Terry Bisson’s They’re Made Out Of Meat. This story is from the perspective of aliens looking down on children and commentating on their lives.
Using absurdist language, the aliens discuss their favorite part of human life, which we would consider everyday activities.
The aliens can’t make heads or tails of the situation in front of them. You can use this story to discuss perspective, base knowledge we take for granted, and how an outsider could perceive your daily life.
As a task, you can ask the class to write about either a fixed concept like detention, a sports game, or lunch in the cafeteria. Or you can have them write about their life.
Let them play with words, and mess around with visual concepts for a fun lesson.
My Financial Career is a sorry story about an anxious man who makes all the wrong decisions when he enters the bank.
He hates the bank, hates money, and hates having to talk to people about either. He has just been promoted and wants to put his money somewhere safe, but in his rush to get everything over and done with, he keeps making errors.
Too proud to admit he’s done anything wrong, our main character becomes stuck in a socially embarrassing situation, where he has to pretend as though he meant it all along.
If you need a story that shows character creation through little to no interaction, this is the story for your classroom.
Laurie is in kindergarten. He comes home and his mother asks him how his day was. Laurie replies telling the story of the naughty kid called Charles.
Charles hit a teacher, Charles did this, Charles did that. All this talk of naughty Charles makes his mother worry about how the school is affecting her poor boy.
We are told the story from the mother’s perspective as Laurie gives his insights about Charles.
When it comes to the parent’s evening, they search for Charles’ mother, only to learn that there is no Charles in the school.
So, was Laurie talking about himself, or did his stories go wild?
You can use this short story to explain how suspense and action can be “off-screen” and still draw the reader in.
This story is the most recent. It was written in February 2021, when the only exercise we were allowed was a short afternoon walk.
Written by Emily Delaney, the walk has been personified. In this story, we are in a relationship after our short afternoon walk. There is a wonderful empowering beginning, with endless possibilities it can lead to. The relationship then turns sour as blame and confusion settles in and you realize it isn’t perfect.
It all leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that it isn’t working, and something is wrong.
Although this story is a silly comment on a talking walk, it touches on the real emotional stress we went through when the Pandemic hit.
Written by The Onion, you can shake your head and say that this isn’t a short story. The Onion writes parody news, and satire based on real and current events.
Satire is very hard to pull off, as it needs to be realistic enough to almost seem real, but obviously fake enough to draw a laugh from the audience. Normally, if you are the target of satire, you don’t understand what it all means.
In this story, we follow a news report of a car crash caused by Wealthy Teen Wenwroth.
Arguably, the best line in the entire story is “Wentworth escaped unscathed and unpunished, however, when his airbags deployed and a team of high-powered attorneys rushed to the scene and rescued him from the brink of personal responsibility.”
It’s silly things like this that can show your class how you can write sophisticatedly and cleverly without relying on buzzwords or slapstick comedy.
A Dish Best Served Cold is a spoken story. In the story, we hear about a man whose identity was stolen. The events leading up to this moment involve a Domino’s Pizza employee, revenge, and a cold pizza.
Verbal stories are just as important as written ones, and from this story, you can see emotion, hear the beat of the pace and listen to the laughter of the audience.
If your class doesn’t like to read, you can start their journey with spoken pieces and remind them that audiobooks exist.
Although it can be hard to annotate and refer back to spoken stories, that doesn’t mean they cannot be enjoyed.
The story of the greatest detective alive starts with a cliched outfit and a man sitting at a desk solving puzzle after puzzle waiting for his next case.
As his secretary enters the room he shouts “Ah, it’s you” correctly identifying the first mystery of the day.
The story goes in this seriously stupid manner, leaning on cliches and using them as the butt of their own jokes.
This type of writing shows how you can write comedy by using what you know and throwing it back into the reader’s face.
As a visual component, you can show your class movies such as The Starving Games or Vampires Suck.
They use the same technique of showing the cliche in a loved movie either by saying what would really happen in these situations, by showing how the “camera magic” really works, or simply by poking fun at the genre.
This story is unique. It comes in the form of letters. They are written by a kindergarten teacher and are sent to a parent of a boy named Niccolo.
It starts as a casual scolding of the kid, but the child becomes unexpectedly gruesome, and the two end up in a political war.
The child manages to control the classroom and soon gets her kicked out.
These polite and direct letters create a comical “correctness” to the absurd situation happening at school.
The letters will create a good laugh in your classroom. Ask your students to pinpoint how the story flows and why the comedic outcome is so strong.
After they complete that task, get them to write their own messages of comedy. It can be in email, text, TikTok, or Snapchat form, as long as it makes sense to a reader.
Written by Marget Atwood, this story is about constructive criticism, perceptions of the era, and breaking a story to fit a new mold.
The speaker is trying and failing to tell the classic tale of Cinderella. However, they are cut off at every point as a heckler or constructive critique cuts down every word they use.
Calling the girl beautiful puts pressure on girls of today. Calling her a girl, when she gets married at the end either infantilizes her or says a lot more about the man she’s about to marry.
Although all of the points that Atwood brings up are true, we cannot rewrite old stories without changing them completely.
This political satire reminds us that the tales we loved from years ago will not have the same social ideas as the tales we read today.
Instead of making a story more appropriate, we should recognize the time frame it came from.
While it teaches us this, it also tells us how descriptive words can affect the tone of the story. A cabin in the woods has a different vibe than a cottage in a forest, and yet they say the same thing.
In Marget Atwood’s story, stripping the adjective changes the tale before it even begins.
Comedic stories have just as much emotion, insight, and power as other genres. So give your students something to laugh about as they ponder the meaning of these stories.
Focus on language use and choice words, which help the jokes land.
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