Humorous Nonfiction Essays Online

Updated 2/16/18

If you have a sense of humor, why not use it to make some money instead of wasting your talent on graffiti? There are ample economic opportunities for people who can see the lighter side of life, or skewer the darker side with a well-aimed quip.

The publications below want to make their readers grin, chortle, guffaw, smile knowingly, and sometimes take you seriously until the last possible moment. Satire, sarcasm, revolting college humor, one-liners, witty bon mots, sentimental slop, whatever you're good at, some magazine on this list will pay you for it.

Happy submitting!

(Note: You can find more paying markets on this page: Paying Markets.)


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McSweeney’s 

This is one of the most popular, and, in my opinion, funniest sites on the web. (Feel free to disagree.) (But you'll be wrong.) Chances of acceptance are remote, but it doesn't hurt to try. The Quarterly pays on acceptance, but in keeping with their "no rules" policy, they don't say how much. The Internet Tendency may pay in "unusual" currency or not at all. It's hard to tell.

The Morning News

"The Morning News (TMN) is an online magazine of essays, art, humor, and culture published weekdays since 1999. In addition to our features, each day includes our headlines, with links to the most interesting news items, articles, and oddities around the web. At TMN, we believe in good writing, tight editing, wit, curiosity, making mistakes, and solving them with tequila. We speak through what we publish."

MAD Magazine

"We welcome all humor submissions and the best way to know what we’re looking for is to take a look at what we’re doing now! Originality and visual humor are especially prized! We’re interested in material focusing on evergreen topics, such as dating, family, school and work, plus topical material about celebrities, sports, politics, news and social trends. In addition, we will consider submissions for our Fundalini Pages and annual MAD 20 (The Dumbest People, Events and Things of the Year). We also welcome submissions for our Strip Club (artist-writers or artist-writer teams preferred)."

The Funny Times

"Our print publication pokes fun at politics, news, relationships, food, technology, pets, work, death, environmental issues, business, religion (yes, even religion) and the human condition in general. Not much is off limits, so do your best to make us laugh. Plus we’re advertising free, so whatever we like, we use. We pay upon publication, not acceptance, and the rates are $25-$40 per cartoon based on reproduction size and $60 each for story."

Happy Woman Magazine

"Happy Woman is a parody publication. We are looking for articles that spoof items one might read in magazines like Cosmopolitan, Glamour or Good Housekeeping, O or any publication of that sort."

Skirt!

"Part feminista part fashionista our mission is to publish a monthly magazine that speaks to all sides of a women’s personality - their work, their play, their families and their creativity, through one of kind content and effective advertising." Themed issues. Note: Open to local Charleston-area freelance writers only.

Cracked

"If you are a funny/smart/creative person, Cracked.com is the single best opportunity you will ever come across in your life. No experience necessary. We will pay you if it's good. You talk directly to the editors — no form letter rejections. Your work could be seen by millions of people. We need articles, photoshops, infographics and videos. Take your pick." Pays $50 per article for your first four articles, then $150 afterwards

Salon

"Salon welcomes article queries and submissions. The best way to submit articles and story pitches is via email with the words “Editorial Submission” in the subject line. Send your query or submission in plain text in the body of your email, rather than as an attached file." Topical and political humor. No fiction.

Glossy News

"If you write satire, or you’ve just always wanted to, consider submitting your story to Glossy News. Our stories are regularly picked up by HumorFeed and Google News as well as many other leading news aggregators, so if you think you’ve got the chops there’s no better time. No more must you limit yourself to enraged letters to editors or mere blog posts, now you can put your brain where your mouth is… and that’s as sexy as it sounds." Offers prizes.

College Humor


"Wanna write articles for CollegeHumor? One of the biggest comedy sites on the internet? A site that generates millions of pageviews per day and once bought a stuffed banana for like $4 grand? Well guess what - YOU CAN! All you have to do is send an email to Articles@collegehumor.com with your pitch, and our editors will work with you to craft the perfect article. Even better? If your article submission gets accepted, WE’LL PAY YOU MONEY. For a single page article, we’ll pay you $35. For a larger multi-page article, we’ll pay you $50."

Dorkly (Obviously related to College Humor)

"Wanna write articles for Dorkly? One of the top sites for drawings of unusually-jacked Pokemon? A site that generates millions of pageviews per day and pays its freelancers a reasonable sum? Well guess what - YOU CAN! All you have to do is send an email to Articles@dorkly.com with your pitch, and our editors will work with you to craft the perfect article. Even better? If your article submission gets accepted, WE’LL PAY YOU MONEY. For a single page article, we’ll pay you $35. For a larger multi-page article, we’ll pay you $75."

Saturday Evening Post

"We accept humor submissions for the Lighter Side. Submissions must be between 1,000 and 3,000 words in length and previously unpublished. Please send articles as Microsoft Word or PDF attachments to editors@saturdayeveningpost.com with Attn: Lighter Side in the subject line. If sending a pitch or query, writers should include one or two writing samples of their work as Microsoft Word or PDF attachments. Please include contact information: name, address, phone number, email address, and Twitter handle (if applicable). In lieu of email, see hard-copy guidelines above." Pays $25-$400 per article.

Imperfect Parent

"Anything that deals with any aspect of the lighter side of parenting — parody, humorous takes on parenting, satire, an “open letter”, take your pick. And if you are questioning if your humor crosses the line, then definitely send it in — we don’t want “safe.” We are a gloriously independent site that doesn’t answer to a board of directors or a huge corporate sponsorship. Use that to your advantage. We certainly aren’t afraid of offending some people, and you shouldn’t be, either." Pays $25 per article.

Reader's Digest

"Everybody’s got a funny story. What’s yours? Send us your joke, quote, or a funny true story—if it’s selected for the magazine, you’ll be paid $100!"

Listverse

This is an interesting site that capitalizes on the Internet craze for lists. You will find lists for just about everything on Listverse. They are looking for offbeat, unexpected, little-known facts, all written with a sense of humor. Check out some of their lists to see what they prefer. 1500 words minimum. Payment is $100 via Paypal only.

By Ruth W. Crocker MFA, PhD

Not long ago in a writing workshop, a colleague offered to read a personal essay I had written about a difficult life experience. My kind friend reported back that he felt as if I was dragging him, sad and depressed, to the abysmal end of the story. "I don't want to feel as if I'm being forced to feel bad," he said. “Where’s your sense of humor? And you’re not having any fun, either.”

Humor? I didn’t see anything funny about the story of my trip to Washington, DC, to see my husband’s name on the Vietnam Memorial for the first time - but - maybe I was taking myself a little too seriously. Perhaps Colette, the French writer whose husband locked her in a room to keep her writing, was right when she said that total absence of humor renders life impossible. Humor in nonfiction writing demands taking a firm, self-confident position about our “self” and then flipping the situation upside down. Writer Leigh Anne Jasheway calls this creative misdirection; engaging readers by taking them someplace they don’t expect to go, choosing words and metaphors that make readers giggle without knowing why. She says a smiling reader wants to read on even if the topic is inherently sad.

Where was my sense of comic relief? Obviously, I had forgotten that humor creates a bond with readers and cuts down on tension and anxiety. People need to cry and laugh. Humor fosters a sense of immediacy, a close personal connection. There was little to joke about in my essay, but there were some curious ironies that I hadn’t yet dug deeply enough to discover. As Dorothy Parker said in Writers at Work, “There’s a hell of a distance between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

How do I find my wittiness when I feel like I’m climbing a mountain wearing flip-flops? Is there a proven way to access my artistic funhouse? EB White said, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies.” But wait, how do Woody Allan, Steve Martin, Charles Lamb and Phillip Lopate inject humor? It turns out there are some methods in their madness.

Comparisons, using well-chosen metaphors, are one specific approach writers use to create an unexpected smile. Comic essayist David Rakoff, when faced with potential amputation of his left arm and shoulder because of cancer, quipped: “If they remove my left arm, how will I know when I’m having a heart attack?” Humor in grim situations humanizes the writer and shelters the reader, inviting them to laugh with us even as we travel in humorless territory.  A dash of self-deprecation, a small argument with oneself, and honest skepticism are also helpful.

Among Jasheway’s tools for adding a touch of comedy to writing is “The K Rule.” Words with the k sound (Cadillac, quintuplet, sex) are perceived as the funniest, along with words with a hard g (guacamole, gargantuan). (Perhaps I could say that the crowds of passengers at Union Station in Washington, DC, felt like a kangaroo roundup.)  Jasheway speculates that much of what makes Americans laugh today has its roots in Yiddish humor and these sounds come the closest. Readers are subconsciously amused just hearing these sounds.

Jan Hornung in Seven Steps to Better Humor Writing, says that whether or not a writer is personally funny is not important and please don’t tell the reader that something is funny. (This seems logical. I think I can follow this.) But do use descriptions with all five senses and let the reader discover the funny parts themselves.

Blending description, metaphors, and similes with dialogue is another way to generate humor. Hornung offers the sample simile, “we were wrestling around like two pigs in the mud, only he was enjoying it and I was just getting dirty.” Now we’re approaching something of which even Mark Twain might approve – or chance a smile.

It was the second part of my friend’s comment that created the most pause in my thinking. He was right. I wasn’t having much fun writing the story about the trip to Washington. And shouldn’t I be having some fun if I’m dedicating most of my time to writing? I had sucked the life out of my essay by taking myself too seriously. My father used to say about revising: “If you can’t fix it, get a bigger hammer.” I went back in and operated with hammer and tongs, glockenspiels and Guatamalas, and became the good-time girl. At least one of us is enjoying the essay, now.

Ruth W. Crocker’s nonfiction has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Grace On-Line Magazine and elsewhere. She holds degrees from the University of Connecticut, Tufts University, and Bennington College. She is presently Writer-in Residence at Riverlight Wellness Center in Mystic, CT and is working on a memoir about love and loss in the Vietnam War. Visit her blog at www.ruthwcrocker.com.

About the Author

GrubWrites

GrubWrites is a space for the writing and reading community to share ideas and seek advice, a place where writers at the very beginning of their careers publish alongside established authors. Book lovers, we bring you reviews, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to keep you up to speed on all things lit. Writers, this is your one stop shop for expert craft talk, opinions on how we learn and teach writing, and essential advice about the publishing industry.

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