How to Be Funny: Use them Oxymorons, Ya Moron!

How to Be Funny: Use them Oxymorons, Ya Moron!

I don’t currently have a full time job, but I still live a life of flamboyant excess, mostly because I have a certain mystique and reputation of don’t-give-a-fuckery that I have to maintain. I guess you can say that I just can’t afford to live like a hobo.

But being the tasteless aesthete that I am, I suppose I should get back to writing a blog post for people who won’t read it.

Today I write to you on the subject of oxymorons. I know what you’re thinking: “Cranky, why are you explaining to me the importance of idiots who breathe a chemical element with symbol O and atomic number 8? What’s the deal?”

Take a stimulant and relax, will you? Because it just so happens that creating oxymorons is an incredibly easy method to be funnier.

What the hell are oxymorons? Tell me now!

Oxymorons are phrases or expressions that consist of contradictory terms, often to humorous effect. These artful incongruities work well in plenty of mediums and situations, from high-brow literature to dirty limericks, from speeches to TV and films, and more. We often pepper our conversations with oxymorons in everyday conversations without even realizing it; “pretty ugly”, “seriously funny”, “alone together”, “business casual”, etc. The most common example that we’re all taught in school is “jumbo shrimp”, but because I’m sick of that one, I’m gonna show you how to shit out oxymorons that ROCK.

Give me some examples of oxymorons, you moron!

Plenty of well-known humorists, comedians, and other creative weirdos have used oxymora to whimsical effect. Below are some examples to get you in a steamy paradoxical mood:

  • “I am a deeply superficial person.” – Andy Warhol
  • “Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “I can resist everything but temptation.” – Mark Twain
  • “The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” – W.C. Fields
  • “I never said most of the things I said.” – Yogi Berra
  • “It’s more than magnificent-it’s mediocre.” – Samuel Goldwyn

While the above oxymorons are used for purely comedic reasons, for you more sophisticated readers, oxymorons can also be used to convey deep truths without losing their wit. Check out these examples of how others have used oxymorons to be insightful and amusing at the same time:

  • “There’s no one more depressed than a happily married man.” – Mickey Rooney
  • “The American girl makes a servant of her husband and then finds him contemptible for being a servant.” John Steinbeck
  • “Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.” – P. J. O’Rourke
  • “The truest poetry is the most feigning.” – William Shakespeare
  • “If you are a parent it helps if you are a grown-up.” – Eda J. Leshan
  • “When a man brings his wife flowers for no reason – there’s a reason.“ – Molly Mcgee


Oxymorons are essentially a two-part formula, and so are pretty easy to concoct. Just follow these steps:

  1. Pick a standard phrase or statement that you want to mangle.
    1. “Predict the future”
  2. Create an expression that contradicts the first one.
    1. “The future already happened”
  3. Then join them together in a logically illogical way.
    1. “I can only predict the future after it’s happened.”

This structure is pretty universal, and can be applied to numerous types of oxymorons. Below are a few other types of approaches:

  • Begin a statement by making a certain point, then following it up with something that directly contradicts it:
    • The movie was great until it started to suck.
    • She was wonderful teacher unless you wanted to learn from her.
  • Combine something absolute with something vague or indecisive:
    • My wife’s a little pregnant!
    • Old Man Thompson just had a heart attack, and is now kind of dead.
  • Restate something in a different way in the same statement:
    • I’m not going to let my job get in the way of my career.
    • I didn’t lose my keys. I just put them in a place that I can’t remember.
  • Create a contrast of connotations, wherein the affect of the words contradicts each other rather than the words themselves:
    • Majoring in music was the best mistake I ever made.
    • Nobody hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans.
  • Restate an idea in the same statement, but in a different way:
    • If you’re going to act like an adult, it helps to first grow up.
    • Reading is hard, especially if you use your eyes.
  • Create a description that contradicts itself:
    • Anyone in the mood for some planned spontaneity?
    • That’s some sophisticated stupidity right there, let me tell you.

I want some oxymoron exercises! I command you!

Now it’s your turn to take some literary laxatives and defecate some oxymorons. Turn the following statements below into phrases that contradict themselves in humorous ways.

  • A picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
  • Looks like they got up on the wrong side of the bed.
  • The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • The early bird gets the worm.

Since these are pretty common phrases and idioms, I thought they’d be easier to contort into something seriously hilarious. If you disagree with me, then I guess we’re not agreeing.

Share your examples in the comments below, and show off how stupidly smart you are!

Final Thoughts

One of the more notable aspects of oxymorons is how they encourage audiences to actually think about what was said, leaving dumb audience members in the metaphorical dust and smart audience members laughing from their own intellectual superiority. But by creating an artful incongruity that engages the crowd, by giving them something they have to piece together themselves, you increase the chances of eliciting laughter, and establishing yourself as a renowned nobody.

Anyway, talk to you later sometime soon!

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