Q. My company publishes a monthly employee newsletter. My boss asked me to write a funny quiz. I’m not exactly a stand-up comic. Help!
A. Ah, the funny quiz. Lucky you! It’s not often that a company has an official sense of humor that they are willing to display for all to read. This is going to be a great assignment for you!
A funny quiz is typically one where the questions and answers have no real purpose other than to make the quiz taker laugh. Although almost anything goes, there are some taboo subjects. Off hand I’d say that anything that pokes fun at a specific person, or groups of people, as well as anything that’s anti-semitic, racial, sexual, political, or religious should be off limits. Remember, what one person thinks is funny can offend someone else. Even seemingly innocuous subjects like “hillbilly” or “redneck” jokes might not be funny to someone who lives in the mountains or the deep South (like I do).
You can think of a funny quiz as a series of one-liners with multiple-choice punch lines. Because you are writing for a company publication you have a built-in “affinity group” as there is bound to be some common subjects that are company related and could be made into something funny.
For example, if you work for a software development company then you might have a question that asks:
What’s longer: A CEO’s week or a programmer’s week?
If you’re not laughing then you have never had a programmer tell you that the project will be ready in a week.
You need to walk a fine line even when using subjects like this in your funny quiz. Say that your company just posted a 4th quarter loss because a new software product missed its launch date by a “programmer’s week”. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that you are about to tick off a lot of people if you add that question to your funny quiz.
Try to avoid wornout jokes or cliches. A funny quiz should be funny, not lame. For example, still on the software train of thought, a question like…
Q. How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb? A. None. They don’t do hardware.
…is older than the mystery meat in that Tupperware container in the back of the lunchroom refrigerator. No one is going to laugh at that one. No laughing = not a funny quiz!
The best thing to do is to keep an eye out for humorous, safe things to poke fun at and then write a funny quiz question. My advice is to start right now and don’t wait until one hour before deadline. The only thing that’s less funny than a lame funny quiz is no funny quiz at all!