Humor is… complicated.
There are a lot of ways to kill a joke. It can go wrong, be misinterpreted or just simply not be funny. While plenty of that can be chalked up to the subjectivity of humor, comedy really comes down to timing and delivery.
What is funny?
That's like asking, "what is art?" or asking someone to describe the color red. You'll get a different opinion from everybody but the only real truth is that you'll know it when you see it.
Humor isn’t universal, but there are some universal comedic devices a person can rely on when crafting a joke. My favorite being misdirection. Much like a magician using sleight of hand, misdirection sets up an audience’s expectations and then betrays them. It’s like a lie, but funny. Wordplay is an excellent tool for misdirection, so many words can mean multiple things, especially in different contexts--like peace and piece. That’s why it’s so important to be in tune with and connect to your audience. Lead them to think you’re talking about one thing, only to adjust the perspective and change the meaning at the last second. The combination of two (often disparate) concepts coming together unexpectedly will create a reaction in the audience. Bonus points if you’re able to get their own minds do the connecting.
Here’s some advice for when you’re having trouble with comedy:
First: stop trying to be funny. Odds are, you’re having trouble because you’re overthinking the joke. For a lot of people, humor is organic and working too hard to be funny is a surefire way to alienate your audience--unless that’s your brand of humor. Admittedly, some people are in to that, but it tends to work best in context. It’s hard to build a joke around having a hard time building a joke.
Second: think about your audience. Who are you trying to impress or amuse? If it’s just you, then write what you think is funny. Screw what anyone else thinks. However, if it’s anyone else, you’re going to want to consider your audiences’s potential biases, experiences, and what you have in common with them because you’re gonna have to. If they have no idea what on earth you’re talking about, they won’t have any emotional connection and therefore no laugh.
Third: relate to your audience. Writing what you know is never more true than in comedy. Sure you can tell a joke about growing a garden, but you’re going to have to ground it in something relatable.
There’s a whole bunch of other steps but, honestly, there’s very little I or anyone else can do to teach you how to be funny other than to recommend that you--
Four: keep trying. You’ll get there, it might just take a little digging.
Exactly like when you’re burying a body in your backyard.
Remember, there’s a fine line between a funny clown and a terrifying one. So next time you want to terrify and/or amuse your audience, remember a little slight of hand can go a long way. Especially because you can't force someone to laugh--although you can always try to surprise a laugh out of them.
(If not, a tarp and shovel will definitely do the trick).