How to write a funny protest sign

Right now, everyone’s mad about something. And during a time of high-visibility, ultra-Instagrammed civic engagement, we have more opportunities than ever to amplify our infuriated opinions.

 

You only have one piece of poster board to make your point, and you want to hit home.


This is about getting a laugh—and it’s about using humor to make a serious point.

But what makes for a funny and powerful protest sign? Let’s look at what makes these signs hilarious and important, and talk about how you can be not just bitter — but better.

 

Be passionate (but open to understatements).

 

If you’re thinking of going to a protest, but you feel so lukewarm about it that you’re tempted to carry an anti-protest sign, think again. That’s a dick move. Unless you’re counter-protesting – which should ignite equally passionate feelings – there’s no reason to show up just to yuck someone’s yum.

Here’s an exception missed by the people who made the post I linked to above: If your “lukewarm” sign is deliberately ironic, understated for comic effect, and/or flat-out sarcastic. For instance, this lady, from that article:

That’s not the face of a someone who’s “a little upset.” That’s the face of a woman who has brought home the bacon, fried it up in the pan, and gives zero f*cks if you feel like a man at this point. If you want to harness the power of sarcasm, think of the thing you would love to SCREAM at people. Then, think of how you would dial that all the way back to where it’s totally ludicrously understated. For instance:

At a rally for DREAMers: “Please let my friends’ parents stay here to actually parent them.”

At a protest against bullfighting: “This is bull.”

At a demand to take down confederate statues: “Didn’t these guys lose the war?”

 

You see what I mean.

 

Go big. Comedy is about being genuine, and then exaggerating—taking your point to the max. Things just aren’t bad, or hellish, they are almost literally HELL, says this woman:

Use comparisons. This is one of GOLD’s own  5.5 types of jokes! This girl’s sign is hilarious, awful, and true. By comparing dress codes to guns, she’s highlighting their ridiculous nature. What’s more is she’s actually raising two important issues instead of one: girls’ dress codes and gun control. Comparisons are great for multifaceted protesting—and for, you know, being funny.

 

This is where corny works.

I’m not usually pro-puns. Used wrong, they can be so corny they make you cringe. However, when you’re working with a fortune-cookie-sized message, you have to employ whatever will work in a small space. Be punny, rhyme like the wind, indulge your inner dad.

Use your age. It’s funny when kids swear. It just fucking is. Also, kids are usually more observant than adults — we’re not so cynical, and we care a lot about the world around us, despite the stereotype of the bored and angsty teenager. Take your unique point-of-view and apply it to comedy! This kid probably has uttered the words “I’d rather die than go to math class”. That’s something kids say. They don’t usually follow it up with calling people a-holes. That’s the punch. Solid.


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut. She is currently a student of Competitive Swordplay (member of Fairfield High School Fencing Team.) She is also an alumna of GOLD Comedy’s pilot workshop series!

 




“How are your college applications going?” And 4 other questions to never, ever ask your niece at the dinner table

I have always imagined the summer before my senior year of high school would be exactly like Grease. I would spend my days soaking up sun at the beach, at some point falling in love with a beautiful boy from another country, all the while maintaining my perfect hair, body, and makeup. It is now, however, quite clear to me that Sandy did not have a cell phone or a high-powered mom, because my days are mostly tied up with text messages about getting groceries, bringing the car to the car wash, and every rising senior’s favorite questions: How are college applications coming along? Have you emailed the X College rep yet about visiting? When are you going to sign up for your SAT?

 

I and every other senior do not need the stress acne brought on by the same forced and uncomfortable college conversations with everyone we meet, so I’ve decided to save myself and all others in my position a trip to the dermatologist by writing out all the questions we need blacklisted. To every nosy aunt, well-meaning younger brother, and unrelated adult just trying to “connect with the youth”: Please spare us applicants the unwanted dinner-table small-talk and take a close read here before asking any questions related to college, the application process, and/or our future. (Any questions you want to ask about me that are not on said list may be directed to my secretary, a.k.a. my thirteen-year-old brother who also has no time for your b.s.)

How is the application process going?

There are two types of seniors: those whose tiger parents forced them not to get a job this summer so that they could have more time to sit alone in their dark room tearing their hair out over the 13th supplement about “why X University,” and those who actually have a life. I personally have not made myself a Common App account, and this question is only going to remind people like me that they are losing the college process. The tiger children, on the other hand, see this question as the reason that their eye will never stop twitching. To be safe, stay away from this one at all costs.

What schools are you looking at?

I will personally give $10 to any person who has asked this question out of genuine interest, because every time I’m rattling off my list to someone I can see their eyes glaze over until I name their alma mater. They will then go on a rant about how [insert elitist university here] is such a wonderful community and truly understands the meaning of deep learning. To every person who has subjected me to such a monologue: Your name has been added to a loooong list of people who will not be receiving my holiday card come December.

What school is your first choice?

Based on acceptance rates, every senior knows that by answering this question, they’re most likely setting themselves up for a bunch of “I’m sorry” phone calls around decision time. Instead, I think people should start asking prospective students about the top choice schools of their worst enemies, so then when decisions come out the whole family can have fun basking in the beautiful warmth of karma.

What’s your major going to be?

This one comes mostly from my family members. I used to answer it honestly, telling people that I am interested in a lot of subjects but that I ultimately want to do something related to storytelling, until I realized that the only reason such family members are asking is because they want to ensure that someone will be able to pay their nursing home and medical bills while their own children are off “finding themselves” (read: smoking weed on a beach in Thailand). I now tell them something like finance or econ, which is of course every seventeen-year-old’s dream. Long story short, teenagers are going to tell you whatever they think will end the conversation fastest, so why waste anyone’s time with the chit chat?

I know a girl at X University who is exactly like you! Do you want me to connect you two?

Every time someone’s offered this I end up having an awkward brunch with a four-foot tall pre-med who is so high strung that she tears out bits of her own eyebrows, and the only similarity between us is that we both look vaguely Jewish. So thanks, but no thanks. If I wanted to meet other people of my ethnicity, I’d just call up any Hollywood executive.

 

Now, you may be wondering, what questions are fair game to ask teens? Pretty much anything else, besides whose alcohol you found in their closet or which suitor you saw sneaking out their bedroom window. But when it comes to college, let us come to you.

 

Got any college-question horror stories? Tweet us @GOLDComedy!


Kaitlin Goldin is a student, writer, performer, and devout McJew based in the Bay Area. She is currently a senior at Marin Academy in San Rafael, and she plans to go to any college that will let her in. She spends most of her time listening to true crime podcasts and fawning over Broadway actors who are gay and twice her age.