It’s me, Frank J. Fleming. I’ve written a lot of satire. I started writing at my blog,, (though now that’s mainly run by Harvey, who is either a completely different person or a pseudonym of mine — I’ve never been clear on that) and I now write at
The Babylon Bee and have written a comedic science fiction novel, Hellbender,
which has a lot of satire in it. So I thought I’d give tips on how to write satire, since everyone other than me is terrible at it.


a good satirical headline.

The key to satire — especially political satire — is a great satirical headline. This is so easy if you follow a simple formula.

First, pick a subject your audience doesn’t like. Let’s say you all don’t like Bernie Sanders (even though he’s adorable). Next, grab a headline for him. For instance, “Bernie Sanders Promises to Pay Back Everyone’s Student Loans.” Now, take that normal headline
and simply add to the end of it, “What an Idiot.”

“Bernie Sanders Promises to Pay Back Everyone’s Student Loans; What an Idiot”


Now you have a satirical headline that’s going to be a big hit. Since you know your audience doesn’t like Bernie Sanders, they’ll all read the headline and say, “He is an idiot! This is funny because it’s true!”

Just make sure you’re making fun of someone your audience doesn’t like, because if you make fun of someone they do like, that’s what you call “bad satire.” And then you’re going to get mobbed and probably doxxed. A good strategy for that is to own multiple houses.

Ha, you idiots; I wasn’t even at that house you doxxed! That was a burner home!

Fill up the rest of the article.

After the headline, you need to write the rest of the satirical article, because that’s the custom. But I’ll give you a tip: No one reads the rest of the article. When you have a great headline — especially combined with a funny picture — everyone just laughs
at that and moves on. Kids these days don’t have attention spans for big blocks of text, what with their video games and YouTubes and boom boxes. So don’t spend any time on the rest of the article. Just do what I do and mainly fill it up with text you cut and pasted from random Wikipedia articles.

Both males and females grow to an adult length of 24 to 40 cm (9.4 to 15.7 in) from snout to vent, with a total length of 30 to 74 cm (12 to 29 in), making them the third-largest aquatic salamander species in the world (after the Chinese giant salamander and the
Japanese giant salamander, respectively) and the largest amphibian in North America, although this length is rivaled by the reticulated siren of the southeastern United States (although the siren is much leaner in build).

Find a good source for jokes.

People are always asking me, “How do you come up with your ideas?” Well, it’s easy. When big news breaks, I just log on to Twitter and see what people are saying about it. And then I steal any jokes people have that I think are funny.

I really think Twitter is the best place to steal jokes. People are just constantly putting jokes out for free, and you can grab as many as you want and no one can stop you. I mean, a couple of times the police have come to my house and said, “We’ve gotten reports you’ve been stealing tweets.” But they never have a warrant. So I just say I’ve never heard of Twitter and tell them to scram. I can see from the look in their eyes they really want to shoot me and plant drugs on me, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Still, to protect yourself, you may want to make a dummy account on Twitter to use for logging on and stealing jokes. A good way to make a pseudonym is to take your first and last name and then just switch the first letters of each. For instance, if your name is
“Sarah Hoyt,” your pseudonym will be “Harah Soyt.” No one will know. Unfortunately, that technique doesn’t work for me (or most comic book characters), so I’m kinda stuck.

Explain the joke.

One big problem with satire is people not understanding something is satire. This is a big problem with all the people who work at Snopes. They’re always trying to disprove satire I write and report me, which is scary, because Trump just passed a law that will
deport anyone accused of making fake news.

I don’t want to get deported to Mexico! I mean, it sounds trivial to sneak back into the U.S., but still, that seems like a bit of a walk.

So make sure you explain your joke well so everyone gets that it’s a joke. For example, let’s say we think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is dumb (even though she’s delightful) and want to write satire about it. We do something like this:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Accidentally Strangles Herself While Tying Her Shoes Because She Is So Dumb [This Is a Joke and Not a Thing That Really Happened]

The proceeding is a satirical joke and not a real thing that happened.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tried to tie her shoes the other day — a thing even a child can do but is hard for her because she is dumb — and instead accidentally strangled herself on account of her stupidity. And we’re all glad she’s dead because she’s a socialist.

The preceding was satire. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not dead and whether or not she is a stupid is an opinion reasonable people can disagree on.

There. Now we have a very well written piece of satire that makes itself very clear as to what it’s doing. We kept emphasizing that AOC was dumb so people understood the point of the article. And we also made it clear it was just a joke so no one would get confused
and no government agents would break into our house in the middle of the night and shove us into a box and ship us out of the country.

Be smart in choosing your targets.

There’s a saying in comedy: “Always punch down.” That means choose targets smaller and weaker than yourself. There’s a good reason for this. If you only pick on the poor and powerless, you’re never going to get sued for slander because they don’t have the money for that. It’s just common sense. It also reduces the cost of your satire insurance (oh yeah — buy satire insurance in case you get sued or need money to fight a deportation hearing).

The best targets for satire are the Amish. They don’t even have internet to know anyone is making fun of them. It’s completely riskless. I mean, they’ll always wonder why everyone is pointing and laughing at them when they ride around in their buggies, but they’ll never figure it out. The worst target for satire is President Trump. He is big and powerful and has nukes. Plus, I think making fun of him hurts his feelings.

Well, those are all my tips for writing satire. Or, better yet, just buy my hilarious new science fiction novel Hellbender and read that. I broke my own rule and wrote stuff in it other than just the title. And if you don’t like it, I’ve purchased five homes spread out across the country, so you’ll never find me.


Doug wasn’t sure whether he should trust Satan.

The red flag was that he said he was Satan. But the deal was good: Listen to Satan’s story in exchange for some donuts. And Doug only half-fulfilled his part of the bargain.

But maybe he should have listened better, because during his friend Bryce’s next scheme (theft with light to moderate treason—the usual), Doug and the rest of his friends—Lulu (the fun one) and Charlene (the not fun one)—end up with a powerful artifact, a small metal cube with world-ending power that Lulu decorated with bunnies. And now everyone wants the bunny cube, which means Doug, Bryce, Lulu, and Charlene are being pursued by an insane supermodel general, an army of sadists, a vast criminal organization, a smaller, more-in-startup-mode criminal organization, and an unstoppable killing machine—the worst kind of killing machine.

Doug and his friends may be a bunch of losers who aren’t particularly smart or good at anything, but they have one thing going for them: a really cool name for their mercenary group. And now it’s up to Hellbender to save the world—well, what’s left of it. It’s pretty ruined and war-torn already. But, you know, they live there, so they kind of need it.

It’s a mess, but that’s what you get for listening to Satan. Or half-listening.

90 thoughts on “FRANK TIPS FOR WRITING SATIRE – by Frank J. Fleming

  1. Don’t worry about being deported to Mexico, you can go crash at Fred Reed’s place; as long as you don’t diss any Mexicans in the process, don’t throw up on his rug, and call him before you show up at his door.

    1. Poor Fred. He faithfully follows the Narrative, but he’s no longer of-the-body and his former media comrades just ignore him now.

      One of these days his girlfriend is going to get tired of his sour grumping and give him the boot.

  2. Reminds me of what some New Yorkers write had to say about a serious book about Humor;

    “(author’s name) has gotten American Humor down and broken its arm.”

  3. Satire is dead, mainly because the writers of satire have essentially taken over the asylum and are running the place…

    I mean, seriously… Take the actual, accurate history of what’s happened in the world since about, oh… Say, 1982: Were you to get into a time machine, set the date for 1970, and then try to sell that “True and Accurate History 1975-2020” to anyone? Oh, my dear God… You’d be locked up in an asylum somewhere, dosed with Thorazine, and never, ever see the light of day again. It wouldn’t even sell as satire; even Tom Robbins would have looked at it, and said “Yeah; no… Way too far out there… Too outre, unbelievable… Not even slightly plausible…”.

    You show up with evidence tomorrow that we’re all living in a simulation, and that someone spilled coffee on the keyboard controlling the whole thing, dialing up the “implausibility factor” to about eleven…? I’m not going to be terribly surprised. We’re well past plausible satire, at this point, and I’m thinking that particular outrageous idea might actually be the most realistic explanation for the world I see around me.

    We badly need better writers. They appear to have hired Monty Python’s crew, and then chained them to their desks with IV drips of Percocet and LSD…

    1. “Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense.” Rod Machado, who is paraphrasing a lot of earlier observers. (I mean, the Battle of Leipzig? Seriously? No editor would let you get away with that.)

    2. Like I said before; we live in a low probability timeline.

      The more history you read, the more ridiculous the WTFs become. In this one, the American Empire fizzled out after Norton I (reign 1859-1880) failed to appoint a successor…

      1. Yeah; look at the chain of unlikelihoods that culminated in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, fertheluvuvgawd…

        I keep wondering if we’re not the result of some simulation run by a grad student somewhere, who’s failing the course, and has just cranked up the “unlikely” and “bizarro” settings on the program…

        Or, they’ve left for holiday, and forgot to turn the damn thing off. Our simulation is now running unattended by any responsible adult, and the janitor has been trying to keep everything working by jiggling the dials randomly.

        Any of that makes more damn sense than this being really real, ya know?

        1. If this is the case, I just hope that he, or she, doesn’t unplug the darned thing in order to plug in the vacuum cleaner . . .

        2. Most of the ‘history’ I had in school laid everything out in neat progressions. It wasn’t until much later that I found out those progressions were seldom neat, and that the closer you look, the more history looks like chaos. And a lot of it makes no flaming sense at all.

          Case in point: the Perry expedition to Japan. That not only made no sense, it turned into one of those, “Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!” episodes.

      2. Like I said before; we live in a low probability timeline.

        *Himself with a thumb on the scales, but still letting people be people* Oh, you don’t say?

      3. Yeah, well, it’s really hard to tell half the time anymore if it’s satire; some of the stuff I read has me go looking for the satire tag, only to find it’s not there, and it’s real. Poe’s law and all that, and you kinda have to be extra crazy with very little (for us) subtlety to get away with satire.

        Then, just for a bit of sense of relief, I read Florida Man news articles. Or Polish Man. Because. (That one where a woman stabbed …her husband? with a squirrel rather stands out, because her face really says ‘Bet you didn’t expect THAT one!’)

    3. The other thing about satire is for it to actually hit, it has to be fair to the target in order to hit home. To satirize the flaws of a literary genius, you can’t just portray him as a bad writer.

      Plus, of course, people have to be able to realize it hits home.

  4. Just to be clear–I only mildly resemble the “Doug” in “Hellbender”…that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…

  5. I remember when the DuffleBlog started, and after a few months, I almost dreaded the latest headline, because a month or so later, it would become true. There were times I wondered if DB planned to sue the DoD and POTUS for idea theft.

    1. If you like DuffleBlog, you’ll love DoctrineMan…

      I tell you what, I think that there are people out there in DOD who actually mine DuffleBlog for ideas, which is a terrifying concept.

      1. I bounced off DoctrineMan. A couple of the pieces he did made it clear that he was very attentive to what he said on the record for political ends, and I felt that I had extended too much trust.

  6. So, it isn’t funny if I make ‘jokes’ about mass murder that show I’m serious?

      1. No worries, they’re not black helicopters so they must be totally on our side. Whichever side we’re with today.

      2. Can you hear the steel wings,
        BEATING! (with modest apologies to Pete Townsend)

      3. Do you hear the beating blades?
        Beating a sound of angry men?
        It is the music of a people
        Who will not be ignored again!
        When the beating of the penned
        Echoes the beating of the blades
        There is a life about to end
        When tomorrow fades!

  7. Hey, if the real Frank J. Fleming is reading this:
    Did Rico make it at the end of Superego? Did he get the girl and live happily ever after? Because I really, REALLY wanted him to!
    Oh, and the article is hilarious!

  8. Unfortunately, that technique doesn’t work for me (or most comic book characters), so I’m kinda stuck.

    If you’re a comic book character, all you have to do is use your real name, but put glasses on for the picture you use for your avatar. No one will ever guess that the Frank Fleming with glasses is the same guy as the Frank Fleming without glasses.

    1. Or you can say the magic word and turn back into Billy Frank Fleming, a twelve-year-old newsboy. (Do newsboys even exist today?)

      1. Probably not as the control freaks don’t let 12 year olds run paper routes. Instead, Mom has to do it in the old Chevy station wagon.

            1. My condolences. ~:D

              There’s some guy around Hamilton who took his Buick Roadmaster wagon and cut a really nice flame job into the fake wood grain on the sides. Looks hilarious.

              1. Back in the 1980s a friend’s mother drove one of those enormous mid-70s full-size Ford station wagons. It had fake-wood panels on the sides.

                One day I went over to visit and saw the wagon no longer had badly faded fake wood grain; now it was sporting bright red brick. Dorothy had gotten tired of looking at the faded pattern and covered it with skilfully-applied wallpaper.

                1. Our van now has glow-in-the-dark lines down the side.

                  Because I got tired of people unable to see HALF A TON OF STEEL.

              1. Yes. Cost $7.50, no expiration (permanent plate/registration), and the only real restriction is that I’m not allowed to carry passengers for hire, which I’m not licensed to do anyway.

    2. “If you’re a comic book character, all you have to do is use your real name, but put glasses on for the picture you use for your avatar.”

      I wouldn’t know anything about that. [pushes up glasses]

  9. Alas, some of our dumber critics will probably miss the satire in the post.

    1. The really dumb ones will insist you were only claiming it is satire and that what you’ve written exposes your true hatred of [Oppressed Victim Group].

      1. It’s a cover-up. Sarah Hoyt is really Harah Soyt in disguise, and she and Frank have engineered a sarcastic confession so that no one will believe it should the truth ever come out. We’re on to you, Harah…

  10. It also reduces the cost of your satire insurance (oh yeah — buy satire insurance in case you get sued or need money to fight a deportation hearing).

    And don’t forget the roadside assistance coverage. I don’t know how many times I’ve had a satire go flat and without a spare satire handy.

  11. The horrible thing about satire? Wait just long enough, it becomes real…

    (Insert long, “no way that could happen!” quote in…1995?…about MTF transsexuals engaging in women’s sports and winning because they can still out-compete the women.)

    1. Please, men competing in women’s sports is so last month.

      Women being required to wax male genitalia, that’s the latest frontier for trans rights!

      1. There are a few rules I consider essential to enjoying an unworried life. One rule is to never annoy people with access to my food (e.g., a wedding cake) out of my sight.

        Another rule is avoid antagonizing people applying hot wax to my private parts. This is doubled if I am asking they rip that wax away once it has cooled.

        Then there’s my rule about never pissing off your phlebotomist. That’s a very important rule.

        In fact, I place each of those rule ahead of never clicking on links to sites promising that smoking hot Russian coed cougars are eager to meet me for “no strings attached” gymnastics and discussion of investment opportunities from Nigerian bank vice-presidents.

        1. I just warn my phlebotomists. My veins roll, and they’re quite happy to spoil her or his (the ratio seems to be 10:1 female) day. I’ve never quite figured out why the back of my hand is the favorite place to (try, frequently unsuccessfully) start and IV or inject some goop in my veins. I have perfectly good veins in my arms that don’t roll quite so much. Usually. On a good day. [Man, I’d be one lousy junkie. I’ll count that as a plus.]

          With respect to other people I won’t tick off; the eye surgeons, and now the guy who’s going to have to cut a bone in my foot to debunion the thing. Not sure how many cuts, and I *really* don’t want to know in advance.

          1. “I just warn my phlebotomists.”

            Last time I was in to have blood drawn they told me to be sure to tell whomever the next time to use “butterfly or baby” needles. Veins are tiny. Went through 3 phlebotomists that last time. Ouch. Had bruising for a week. They seem to be able to draw blood from my elbow. But every single time they’ve had to give me something, it has been in one or the other hand.

            1. Usually, blood draws come from a sort-of cooperative vein in the elbow. I can get some impressive bruises when it doesn’t cooperate. (I get my clotting time tests via a blood draw. The fingerstick is easier, but the clinic that does them insists on hard appointment times; pain in the tail when you live 40 miles from there.)

              The hand veins are nasty; they look good, but they scoot and are shallow. One surgical nurse gave up and had the other do the IV start for my first cataract procedure. She let the other one do the IV for the second one a couple weeks later.

              *Have* had success, though. (I think they do the hand because it’s an outside vein; pretty hard for a patient to screw up the IV feed. I’m going from an ancient (1976) appendectomy experience, where they did the IV in my wrist. I managed to get it sideways a couple of times.)

          2. I like to shout “OW! OW OW O!” before they stick the needle in. When they panic, I tell them I was just practicing.

            It’s never too late for a fifth childhood…

      2. Naw, that’s last week. This week its “#WaxMyJunk” guy running “topless pool parties” for “LGBTQ2SFBICIAKGB twelve year olds” and no parents allowed. At the public pool. And the town pays for it.

        Its an update way down at the bottom. Not satire, actual hearing at township council.

        Which is why “Occasional-Cortex chokes to death trying to tie her own shoes” is more prediction than humor.

        We can’t lampoon the Left anymore. No headline, no matter how ridiculous or outre, can outdo them. They will top it.

    2. I remember when I was in high school, a decade ago, some of my (male) friends would joke about being a lesbian woman trapped in a man’s body.
      These days, we have TERF wars.

      1. Soon, we will have nationwide coalitions of gangs, and people-of-dyke will have to be careful what color clothing they wear, to avoid being attacked in the streets by people-of-trans.

  12. It’s a mess, but that’s what you get for listening to Satan.

    I was out drinking with Satan the other night. He was trying to convince me the Designated Hitter should be in use throughout Major League Baseball; I told him he was nuts, there’s too much scoring and too little action as is and the last thing needed was more batters who could only strike out or homer. He wanted to arm wrestle me over it but I know he cheats so I told him to go to Hell and walked out, sticking him with the bar tab.

    Now he won’t return my calls and unfriended me on FB. Satan’s a real jerk, y’know?

  13. The proceeding is a satirical joke…

    The preceeding is a satirical joke…

    “English is hard.”–Immigrant Barbie

    1. I don’t know. With Robert Mueller talking to Congress today, proceeding might really be the right word this time.

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