Today was the day that I was supposed to take a break from my labors and work on a humorous essay that I could sell/publish/give to a journal. Or any publication, really.
I was looking forward to this task, because I like writing funny, because I needed a break from revising some decidedly unfunny parts of my novel, and because August is trickling away to nothing and if I don’t write now, I’ll be up to here in class prep work and nothing will get done.
So I sat down, hellbent on being funny. And you know what happened? I pulled a Fozzie Bear.
Nothing I write today is funny. Oh sure, I managed a funnyish status on Facebook and a moderately amusing tweet this afternoon, but really? Everything else is so much wocka, wocka.
This is not a problem I often have. Normally, I can find the funny in my writing, but I think the trouble today is that I’m trying to be funny. Writing humor is like writing love or writing scary. It only works (for me) when I sneak up on it. I do best at writing humor when I’m concentrating on some other aspect of the piece.
It’s like hunting. Actually, no. My only knowledge of hunting comes from watching Elmer Fudd in Warner Bros. cartoons, so let me relate it to something I’ve actually done.
Writing humor is like being a jilted education reporter on deadline. You see the school board member who hasn’t been calling you back at a press conference for something else at City Hall. You know she sees you. You need her quote, but you can’t head straight for her or she’ll bolt. So you pretend you don’t even see her, and you sidle up to the Superintendent of Schools and the Teacher of the Year because they’re standing between her and the door, and hell, you could use a quote from them as well, why not? And then, just when she thinks you haven’t even seen her and she can make a quiet escape back to her Suburban in the parking lot, you step right out in front of her and BAM! That slippery vixen is trapped. What’s she gonna do? Vault over the Teacher of the Year and make a break for it? I think not. “So sorry your phone doesn’t seem to be working, ma’am. Lucky we happened to both be here at this fine event. I might have never gotten your comment.”*
And that’s how I think humor ought to be written.
*This specific situation is fictional, but the tactics are real.
When I’m trying to write something funny and it’s just not coming, I take a brain break and watch a bunch of British comedies. Wooster & Jeeves is a particular favorite, but it can produce some iffy prose, so I employ it with caution!
Thank you! I love this strategy!