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What Are the Different Types of Funny Poetry?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated May 23, 2024
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Funny poetry can exist in any form or measure of poetry, granted that the topic or tone of the poem is humorous. Several types, however, are used almost exclusively for comedic purposes. The most popular of these are the limerick, the chastushka, and the clerihew. A specific type of double dactyl, often referred to as a "higgledy piggledy," is often used at the start of humorous verses. Themes in funny poetry are usually whimsical and absurd, often serving to tell a story, make an amusing observation, or to satirize people, places, and events.

The limerick is the most well-recognized type of funny poetry, due to both the sheer number of poems produced in the form and its unique structure. A limerick consists of five lines with an A-A-B-B-A rhyme pattern. The lines are typically written in anapestic meter, in which two brief unstressed syllables are followed by a longer, more emphasized one. Limericks can also be written in amphibrachic meter, in which a stressed syllable is flanked by unstressed ones; both anapestic and amphibrachic meters give the poem a light lyrical quality when spoken. Popular limericks include "There Once was a Man from Nantucket" and the examples found in Edward Lear's "Book of Nonsense."

Chastushki, on the other hand, are typically more abrupt-sounding than limericks; the funny poetry form takes its name from "chastit," which means "speaking rapidly" when translated from Russian. A chastushka consists of four simple lines that follow one of three main rhyme patterns: A-A-B-B, A-B-A-B, or A-B-C-B. Chastushki are generally regarded as more adult-oriented than limericks, with much of the humor coming from political satire and obscenities.

The clerihew is one of the most unconventional funny poetry forms, using irregular line structures as part of its humor. The poems are typically biographical, with the first line mentioning or consisting solely of the subject's name. The rhyme pattern of a typical clerihew is A-A-B-B, with abrupt shifts of meter between lines throwing off the poem's rhythm.

Although a dactyl usually corresponds to any metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable and two unstressed ones, two dactyls used in succession are often used to open funny poetry. These double dactyls are usually made of nonsense word pairs like "higgledy piggledy" or "hankety pankety" and serve to set a whimsical tone for the rest of the poem. Double dactyls are composed of two four-line stanzas, with rhymes in the last words of each fourth line.

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Discussion Comments

By SkyWhisperer — On Dec 12, 2011

@Mammmood - I tend to agree. I think the structure of the limerick lends itself to adult humor. What you have is a short poem with a quick, dramatic buildup and a punch line at the end. That’s what the limerick is, as far as I can tell, and it's the perfect structure for short jokes.

So for the punch line most people are inclined to expect some kind of a dirty twist so to speak, and that’s why limericks are easy to craft for adult humor. I realize that some purist might even insist that limericks shouldn’t even be classified as poetry, but I say hey, if it rhymes, it’s a poem.

By Mammmood — On Dec 11, 2011

Limericks tend to lend themselves to adult humor more readily than other poetry types in my opinion. I don’t know if that’s because some of the most famous limericks we all know (like the “Nantucket” one mentioned in the article) are that way, or if there is something about the structure of the limerick that makes it easy to twist into a dirty poem.

I tend to go with the latter interpretation. There is something about the abrupt cadence and easy rhyme of the limerick that makes it immediately compatible with lots of words that one wouldn’t otherwise say in polite company.

Let’s face it. The limerick is the easiest of the funny poems to put together too.

By Saraq90 — On Dec 11, 2011

@Tomislav - You will love to know that there are more where that comes from! Shel Silverstein has written quite a few books. And in my opinion, his best book (while many of them are good) is not a poetry book like "Where the Sidewalk Ends" but rather a book called the "Giving Tree."

In fact, my mother-in-law, told me of a present she gives to all of her friends and acquaintances when they have a baby. She gives them a sapling and a copy of the "Giving Tree" so that the child as they get older can appreciate the story and the growing tree.

Another source of funny poetry for kids is a website of poems by Ken Nesbitt, and all the poems are really accessible for all younger kids about pets and holidays (so therefore great for teaching because they can go with all those themes that are taught in preschool and kindergarten).

By Tomislav — On Dec 10, 2011

When I read the article title, it immediately made me think of a childhood book that was really popular in the nineties, "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Siverstein.

I don't know what the specific type of poetry he wrote was, but they were great for kids, very funny, and he had these wonderful and simple illustrations to go with most poems (from what I remember).

One poem in particular that I loved was about a girl going through her various symptoms of illness, till at the end of the poem she realizes that it is Saturday. Which is, of course, a great idea for the poem, but the way Shel Silverstein presents the symptoms is the gold in that poem.

I would try and give more details but I would not do it justice.

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