The tricky bit is what that implies for attempts to be funny with the written word. After all, if you're speaking, you can control the speed of delivery and the timing of any punchline just by altering the rate at which you speak. You can't control the speed at which people read, can you?
Of course you can. I'm doing it now, more or less (mostly less). Everything that would normally affect the flow of writing, from sentence structure and length, to use of punctuation, to word choice is a vital part of getting the timing right in comic writing. A few of the more obvious ones, and their silly applications.
- Brackets. Now, most of us don't put that many brackets in our work, mostly because they signal that what you're about to say has no real place in the sentence, but is just an aside you thought might work. But comic asides and random non-sequiteurs are an essential comic tool (unlike a hammer, unless you happen to think that Timmy Mallett was funny). Terry Pratchett prefers footnotes. It's more or less the same thing.
- ... is possibly the most useful symbol going, because it both lets you slow the reader down and frequently primes them for what's coming... unless it happens to be a bus.
- In which case we need short sentences. Like this one. And this. And possibly this. But definitely not this one, because it's going to go on, and on, and on, and... Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. The point is that the very short sentence sometimes works here, even if you might normally join things with commas, simply because of the impact and the break in information. For me, the break gives you a moment to think that it's a normal thought, before hitting you with the odd one. Or possibly a custard pie, for the traditionalists.
- For extra impact, the funny bit gets its own paragraph. A tiny one. A little paragraph-ette running to just a line or two. And I've just realised that all these pauses are making me sound a little like David Tennant in full Dr Who mode, which isn't really what I was aiming for, so I apologise.
- Short words keep things sharp. Elongated examples provide an opportunity to produce a more lazily rambling effect. Before you stop. Neither is wrong, and I think that this is where the biggest opportunity to assert an individual taste in humour exists. I probably lean a little more towards the second than the first, but only because I've read too much Wodehouse. (I'm not entirely sure whether such a state is actually possible, but any port in an excuse).