How to Make a Comedy Zine (and Get People to Read It)

Comedy Features How To
Share Tweet Submit Pin

What are the ways to “do” comedy? Many professional goofballs would immediately say stand-up, improv and sketch. However, there is another way, and it is the zine.

ZINES WHAAA-?

For those of you who don’t know the term, a zine is a mini-publication anyone can make and distribute. They’re a super cheap way to get your ideas into print. For those of you who are somewhat familiar with zines, they’re not just about queer vegan anarchy and psychedelic cat poetry. There’s a whole universe of funny zines out there, all of which some of which are created by our publishing house, The Devastator.

Zines are great for comedians. They combine the low barrier to entry of Twitter with the “I like to touch things”-ness of traditional books. This article will walk you through making a humorous zine. Just remember, when you sell them, you have to give us 10% of your gross earnings, because that’s how zines work!

What kind of comedy zine should you make? That’s been called “The World’s Oldest Question.” We’ll say this: zines are a loose, experimental medium, so the types of humor zines run the gamut. Here are a few categories of comedic zines we’ve seen, which may inspire you. There is definitely overlap between these classifications, and probably many more types we haven’t even seen yet. (Funny zines is a cutting edge science.)

Booklet- A fake instructional and/or informational pamphlet. Check out the classic How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety by the American Association of Patriots, Field Guide to the Aliens of Star Trek: The Next Generation by Joshua Chapman, or our parody of Nintendo game manuals called Double Fisting.
Mini-Comic- A short, funny comic book. There are so many amazing mini-comics out there. We lol’d through Pretty Time by Megan Nicole Dong and Frankie Comics by Rachel Dukes.
Novelty – A funny, single premise concept, often mixing illustration and text. For example, our own Enemies of Twenty-Something Mega Man by Asterios Kokkinos & Paige Weldon or Ads for the Criminally Insane by Steve Steiner.
Autobio – A zine drawing humor from real life experience. Check out Never Date Dudes from the Internet by Awkward Ladies Club and Li’l Erwin by Erwin Ledford.
Magazine – A funny zine that draws elements / structure from traditional magazines, like The Von Fuego Catalogue and our upcoming Sad Bastard by Lee Keeler.
Collage – A humorous remix of disparate print elements, like the retro computer zine Scuzzi by John Pham, or Jazz by Shabazz Projects.
Anthology – Multiple comedians each contributing to a single funny zine, like I Love Bad Movies edited by Kseniya Yarosh and Matt Carman, and George Meyer’s legendary Army Man), with contributions from before-they-were-fame-guys Jack Handey and Bob Odenkirk.

MAKE AN ACTUAL ZINE

Now that you’ve purchased and read all those zines, it’s time to make your own. For a first zine, we recommend these classic specs:

•5.5 in. Wide x 8.5 in. Tall – The size of a regular piece of computer paper folded evenly twice.
•Black & White – You’ll save a lot of money if it’s not in color.
•12 Pages Long – Including the cover (front, back, and inside).
•Copy Paper – Print on regular ol’ 20 lb. “stock.”
•Saddle-Stitch – A fancy book term for “stapled together.”
•Self-Cover – The cover stock is the same weight as the interior paper. (Or to be fancy, make the cover color and use a heavier stock.)

There are many different elements you can use in your zine, like prose, drawings and photographs. You can find plenty of royalty free photos and clip art using Creative Commons Search. (Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons are our favorites.) You can find plenty of copyrighted photos and artwork on The Internet, and since it’s a tiny zine, probably no one will care?

Alright, you have a funny idea, you know what elements you’re going to stuff in there. But how do you lay it out? The answer will depend on your methods. If you’re planning to incorporate a lot of hand-drawn illustrations, cut-outs from magazines, or human hair, we’d recommend the old school method. That’s where you fold pieces of paper into quarters, put your writing and illustrations directly on the paper, photocopy, fold and staple. Here are step-by-step instructions with pictures.

“But what if I hate leaving my computer for any reason?” you might ask. If you’re using a lot of digital content anyway, you may as well layout the zine in a program like Adobe InDesign (instructions) or Microsoft Word (template). Word is easier for beginners, but once you start riding the InDesign train, you will never want to get off. You can take the fully laid out zine file to a local printer, or print and staple them yourself from home to collect a few DIY points.

SO WHAT NOW?

How do you get an audience for that stack o’ zines you just published? You could give them away to friends and family, if tiny amounts of money are no object. You could sell them to a zine-friendly bookstore or comic shop. Some stores will buy a few copies from you for 40%-50% of the cover price. Others will give you a “consignment” deal (or a “farty” deal), where they pay you later if they manage to sell any copies.

Buy a table at a zine fest or pop culture convention to exhibit your zine. We recommend zine fests to start, because the tables are cheap (usually around $50/day) and the crowds are friendly towards weird, funny new things. There are zine fests across the country. To find local ones, Google this: “[Name of Nearby City] Zine Fest,” then apply for a table on their website. Another idea: If you perform stand-up, zines are a cheap, unique addition to your merch table.

Of course, you can also sell your zine online. There are many free options for setting up a not-shitty-looking online store, including Storenvy, Etsy, and Gumroad for digital zines. Often with these eCommerse sites, a small fee will come out of each sale, or they’ll charge you for adding special features to your store, like coupon codes. Oh, and what paragraph about online distribution would be complete without a reminder to post previews of your zine on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram – and do whatever it takes to get it on Bing. Tru$t me, it’$ worth it. ($!)

IN CONCLUSION

1.Make funny zine.
2.Distribute.
3.???
4.Minimal profit!

Comedy and zines go together like those peanut butter and jelly candy bars from Trader Joe’s and that orange soda from Trader Joe’s. What better way to explore your sensibility and challenge yourself as a comedy writer than to experiment in a new format? So do it already, ugh.

See you at the secret zine meetings!

Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows are the founders and publishers of The Devastator, the only all-humor press in America. Their latest book is a “viral” sensation: Oh, the Flesh You Will Eat! by Dr. Vireuss.