I Dream of Sarcasm
I have a dream that someday, in the not too distant future, the unfunny people of the world will be able to walk into a mega-huge department store, locate the HUMOR aisle, and actually, purchase the OLIVE WINKS SARCASM STARTER KIT for the incredibly low price of $29.99. A picture of me looking cute and fabulous will be on the cover of every box, and floating above my head will be a word bubble that says, “You’ll never be me, but you can be more sarcastic—for a price.”
I have another dream, one in which Olive Winks, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who has already invented a device that permanently eliminates frizzy hair for womankind, comes up with an iPhone app that allows people to download millions of sarcastic quips straight to their brains (without any pesky side effects). My app becomes a record-breaking bestseller on the Apple App Store, and I make billions of dollars, some of which I spend on clothes, shoes, and a beach house, and the rest I invest in worthwhile charities, including the founding of the Olive Winks Institute of All Things Hilariously Sarcastic and Witty.
What Is Sarcasm? And Why Can’t I Download To My Phone?
To answer your second question first: no, you cannot download sarcasm to your phone. Not yet, anyway. You can, however, learn to be more sarcastic, if you’re willing and able to do every single thing I say exactly as I say it, no questions asked. (By the way, if you didn’t pick up that I was being sarcastic there, then you REALLY need to read this entire article and take detailed notes.)
As for me, I come by my sarcastic nature honestly (it’s just in my genes), but you, too, can learn to be more sarcastic. It just takes time—and copious amounts of good coffee, and a willingness to mock pretty much everything, and access to the entire Billy Murray film library, starting with my personal favorite, the infinitely sarcastic movie Groundhog Day.
But first, you need to know what sarcasm is. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, sarcasm is defined as “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.” In layman’s terms, being sarcastic is all about using irony to mock a situation or a person (preferably, in my opinion, a person who is deserving of mockery). Expanding on that definition, I would add that being sarcastic is more of a way of looking at life and the world around you. Being sarcastic is about always looking for two things in every situation: humor and tragedy.
However, I can (and will) be more specific. Read on to learn some of my best tips on how to be more sarcastic and make people laugh.
Sarcasm Tip #1: Seriously, Don’t Be So Serious
Nothing is sacred to a truly sarcastic person because of a truly sarcastic person, despite his or her acerbic wit, always looks for the humor in every situation. Now, that doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to offend someone’s religious beliefs or political leanings, nor should you make sarcastic quips about human tragedies. But it does mean that you should not take things too seriously, starting with yourself. Some of the greatest actors and actresses of our time are relentlessly sarcastic, and they often make themselves the butt of the joke.
Take, for example, the adorable and talented actress Anna Kendrick, who starred in my absolute favorite movie of all time Pitch Perfect. Part of the reason she is a star (and why she features heavily in the fantasies of guys the world over) is her sarcastic side, which she displays on Instagram constantly. Just check out the photo below of Kendrick wearing PJs in public with the caption: “PJs in these streets #Brooklyn.” Her willingness to poke fun at herself while still looking amazing makes her that much more endearing.
Sarcasm Tip #2: Um, Hello, Study Sarcastic People!
For some folks, being sarcastic comes as naturally as breathing or walking. For others, being sarcastic is a skill that must be learned and cultivated, and one of the best ways to do that is easy: study a sarcastic person. Now, if you’re a friend of mine, you don’t need to go far to see what sarcasm looks like; you just have to show up to Epic Game Night (with box wine and donuts) at the not-so-luxurious apartment of me, Olive Winks. But for everyone else, you have to find a sarcasm guru, an individual who you can study and mimic. Fortunately, in this advanced technological age, all you need to do is get on social media and follow another of my personal favorite sarcastic celebrities: Chelsea Handler. Handler, whose book Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, is a textbook on how to be sarcastic, and I highly recommend it to any burgeoning sarcastic peeps out there. However, if you don’t read (and only lame people don’t read), then you can take the easy way out and follow Handler on Instagram. There, you’ll find tons of examples of how to be sarcastic, like the photo below, which was accompanied by the caption: “My awkward phase came in my early 40s.”
Sarcasm Tip #3: Have Impeccable Timing
Bob Odenkirk, a comedian and the Emmy Award-winning star of Better Call Saul, once said: “Comedy is tragedy plus timing.” Being sarcastic, which is one of the most popular methods used in comedy, is also about having (and learning) expert timing. There is a common misperception that all sarcastic people, whether they are famous or not, are unbelievably smart and quick and witty. This, I believe, is false. Sure, some sarcastic people are intelligent and “good on their feet” as the saying goes. However, that isn’t always the case.
But what every sarcastic person has is impeccable timing. Every sarcastic person knows how to read a room, knows how to listen to the ebb and flow of a conversation, and then when the moment is ripe, he or she knows how to unleash a hilarious one-liner, stinging barb, or acerbic quip.
Sarcastic Tip #4: Use Key Words And Phrases, Sarcastically
Here’s the truth: most of the comedians and comediennes we know and love spent years (and sometimes decades) perfecting their craft. They drove ten hours across three states to do a fifteen-minute spot at a comedy club for thirty bucks. Or they spent god only knows how many hours writing sitcom scripts, just to be ignored by every agent in Hollywood before, finally, catching a break. My point is, the professional funny people, the witty and sarcastic stars that we watch on TV like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler spent a whole lot of time practicing how to be funny and how to make people laugh. Now ask yourself this: do you really want to eat up that much time trying to learn the Tao of Sarcasm?
If your answer is yes, then stop reading this article immediately, and go hit an open mic at a comedy club. If your answer is no, you don’t want to spend years paying your dues, but you do want to be more sarcastic, then read the next paragraph.
Good, you’re still with me. So in order to be sarcastic, you don’t need a 20,000-word vocabulary like Shakespeare or a genius IQ like Einstein. What you do need to do is learn when and how to say certain phrases. Go get a pen because I’ve written down several of my favorites, and I can’t text these gems to you. Ready?
1. “I’m so happy for you.” A big component of effective sarcasm is a mockery, so a good time to use this one is right after someone in your social circle, preferably a conceited and/or annoying person, does a humble brag. See my brief dialogue exchange below.
FRIEND: I’m sorry I’m late to your birthday party, Olive. I was registering online for my fourth marathon.
OLIVE: I’m so happy for you. (Remember when you deliver your line not to oversell it. For maximum effect, your tone should be deadpan.
2. “Good luck with that.” Personally, I’ve gotten some of my best laughs with this one, and I tend to use it when one of my friends is attempting to explain how she is going to change the habits of her boyfriend or husband. But really most sarcastic people have this particular response in the chamber and ready to fire at will. Again, I provided an example below.
FRIEND: Olive, if I can just get Mike to stop leaving the toilet seat up, I think he’d be Mr. Right.
OLIVE: Good luck with that.
3. “I’m not too worried about it.” Remember when I said earlier that sarcastic and funny people can make fun of themselves? Well, in the right context, an impeccably-timed “I’m not too worried about it” will make the room erupt with laughter. Review my example below for more.
FRIEND: Olive, you have a big, red, angry zit on your forehead, you’re out of clean panties, and it’s date night.
OLIVE: I’m not too worried about it. (In this situation, the comedy is about panic and my seeming nonchalance about it. Of course, I feel riddled with anxiety because of the zit and the lack of acceptable underwear on such an important occasion, but my willingness to downplay the importance of the big date is what makes this even funnier.)
Sarcasm Tip #5: Read Up On The Greats
Unfortunately, you cannot simply text yours truly 24/7/365 whenever you need to be funny and are experiencing a mental block. And, truth be told, only fourteen people actually have my cell phone number, and of those fourteen, I respond to maybe six whenever they text me, but only if I’m not reading Charlene Harris novels, watching This Is Us, or beating my boyfriend at ping pong.
So, no that we’ve established that I have very strange telephone etiquette, let me make a final suggestion: read the works of funny, sarcastic people. I’ve made it easy for you by compiling a list. Enjoy.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
Brain Droppings by George Carlin
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Being sarcastic might be hard at first but with these tips, you should be able to master sarcasm.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé