The secret

The secret to good satire is that no one is as smart as they think they are, but some people are smarter than they appear.

OK, you could probably argue that this is the secret to a good story in general, or even that it's not really a secret. Maybe everyone knows this already. But in satire, or any humorous writing, a lot of the comedy comes from people trying to operate at a level that is higher than their capabilities, and getting into trouble as a result. So I maintain that, while not exclusively the province of satire, this truth is nonetheless a central building block of good satire.

And now that I think of it, I can attest from firsthand experience that not everyone is aware of this fact in life. I know a lot of people who think they're smarter than they really are, and even more who think they're smarter than everyone else. Maybe that's why this works so well in a story: we see it in the people around us every day, but not in ourselves. That's why everyone can laugh at the joke, without realizing that it's really on them.
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