Jonquil Chesterton's Definitive Guide to Fun and Funniness

play by Belinda Lees , illustrated by Tohby Riddle

Learning intention

I am learning to experiment with humour and structure when creating imaginative texts, so that I can develop my skills with crafting humorous plays.

Success criteria

  • I can analyse the types of humour in a play.
  • I can identify jokes I find humorous.
  • I can analyse the structure of a play.
  • I can compose a humorous scene.
  • I can adopt the correct style for composing a play.

Essential knowledge

Watch the video Perspective from The School Magazine. Discuss the fact that perspective influences what we see in texts and the way we see it. Emphasise our personal attitudes, values and beliefs all shape our perspective.

Discuss types of humour with students, including they are aware of the following terms:

  • Satire: irony, pun or exaggeration used to criticise someone’s shortcomings
  • Slapstick: where people trip over or make themselves look silly to make others laugh
  • Parody/spoof: making another person look silly for comedy.

To find more on humour view the page Comedy Facts for Kids from Kiddle.

Discuss which of these types of humour others might find insulting or upsetting, such as satire of parody.

Read once through the play, Jonquil Chesterton’s Definitive Guide to Fun and Funniness,

assigning roles of characters from the play to students. Discuss the following:

  • Why are the Funsters holding the Festival of Overbrimming Fun? (They meet regularly to share jokes and find fun together, something that began after the Ferocious Fire of Frenzy devastated their community)
  • What type of humour is their hot coals dance? (Slapstick as the dance most likely looks humorous)
  • What type of humour does Chesterton use? (Satire/parody, he tries to make the audience laugh by insulting them)
  • How do the other characters react to this? (They do not like it and they ask Chesterton to leave)
  • What lessons could Chesterton learn? (That often people don’t like having jokes made at their expense)

Emphasise the difference in perspective between Chesterton and the Funsters, with Chesterton believing the jokes to be funny while the Funsters do not. Discuss ways comedians might anticipate any differences in perspective of how their jokes might be received. For example, they might avoid making jokes that might insult others or hurt their feelings.

Discuss other jokes Chesterton could make instead, instructing students to share their favourite jokes. For example:

  • Why don’t cats like online shopping? They prefer a cat-alogue.
  • What do you call a lazy baby kangaroo? A pouch potato.
  • When do monkeys fall from the sky? Ape-ril showers.

Note: Jokes from 150 Funny Jokes for Kids that will get the Family Laughing Together from the Today show.

Jot some of these ideas on the board. Place students in groups of four or five and instruct them to discuss their favourite jokes. Tell students to note their favourite jokes in their workbooks or on digital programs such as Google Jamboard. Instruct students to search online for further ideas of kid-friendly jokes.

Inform students that they will be developing the play to include humour that the Funsters will find amusing. Refer back to Jonquil Chesterton’s Definitive Guide to Fun and Funniness and draw students' attention to the fact that it features only one scene. Tell students that they will be composing a second scene where Chesterton returns to the Festival of Overbrimming Fun, this time making jokes that entertain the Funsters. Gradually release responsibility by composing an example text collaboratively first. To do this, complete the following:

Discuss how the play is structured, ensuring students note the following:

  • The play includes a list of the characters names written in capital letters at the beginning
  • The play is given a title, and the scene number is written at the top of the scene
  • The characters names are written along the left side of the page, with the lines of dialogue directly next to them
  • Action is written in brackets as stage directions.

Discuss some of the students' favourite jokes and collaboratively compose a brief scene to be added to the play. For example:

Scene 2

(Chesterton returns to the stage and the Funsters watch nervously, hands in front of their eyes)

CHESTERTON: Hello again Funsters, this time I have some really funny jokes for you.

JOY SMILEY: We do hope so.

CHESTERTON: Here we go, so why don’t cats like online shopping?

JOY SMILEY: Hmm, this is off to a good start. I don’t know Chesterton, why don’t cats like online shopping?

CHESTERTON: They prefer a cat-alogue.

(Funsters hoot with laughter)

JOY SMILEY: Very good Chesterton, that’s more like it. Anymore?

CHESTERTON: Oh, I have plenty. What do you call a lazy baby kangaroo?

JOY SMILEY: I don’t know, what do you call a lazy baby kangaroo?

CHESTERTON: You’ll like this one… A pouch potato.

(Funsters fall about laughing, clutching their stomachs)

JOY SMILEY: More! More! More!

CHESTERTON: Oh, this is going well. OK then, when do monkeys fall from the sky?

JOY SMILEY: Oh, do tell us, please!

CHESTERTON: Ape-ril showers.

JOY SMILEY: Oh Chesterton, you are the best!

(The Funsters erupt into applause while Chesterton looks on, smiling widely)


Place students with a partner and instruct them to complete the following:

  • Identify your favourite jokes
  • Consider how you might include these in a play
  • Compose a scene with Chesterton sharing at least three of these jokes
  • Include the Funsters’ and Chesterton’s reactions
  • Use the correct structure when writing your scene.

Allow time for students to compose their scenes.

Assessment for/as learning: self-assessment.

Instruct students to re-read their plays. Tell them to use the list of criteria they were provided with when composing to self-assess their plays. Students should discuss their ideas before responding to the following questions in their workbooks:

  • Which of the criteria were you successful with?
  • What did you find challenging?
  • How might you develop your scene further?

View Effective Feedback from the NSW Department of Education for further information on the types of feedback.