Writing

A Muse to Amuse

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=laughing+clown&iid=255537″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/255537/clown-stretching-his/clown-stretching-his.jpg?size=500&imageId=255537″ width=”339″ height=”480″ /] 

Recently, I had a conversation with a writer friend that revolved around this question:  Are humor writers considered “true writers” by other writers?  (That sentence is so crowded with writers, let’s wait a minute for the smoke and superfluous adjectives to clear…)   

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a humor writer (can I hear an Amen! from one of my regular readers?), however, to make us all feel better, let’s just say that I favor the funnies for my fiction.  But, I didn’t start out that way.     

In grade school, during the time of my life where my dad insists I was at the height of my comedic element (I did a killer, “southern preacher” impersonation), I chose to write as my pre-pubescent self thought real writers wrote — deep, and with a whole lot of swooning going on.  Even though I was devouring the funny stuff in my reading life, I was a serious writer, writing serious pieces,…seriously.  Did I mention I was seven? 

When the plague of puberty swooped down and sucked the remaining performing funny bones out of my body (Dad’s words, not mine), my newly altered sense of humor, sarcasm, took hold.  I could snark with the best of them.  Still, my writing was all tragedy and drama — the thought process being that if it wasn’t painful, it wasn’t real.  Yes, I was a ball full o’ sunshine.  

Then, on a whim during my Sophomore year in college, I took a class called, Forms of Comic Vision.  I can’t remember one thing we read in that class, but I do remember thinking that the instructor was a pretty hilarious fellow.  And, that he was intelligent.  And, that he wrote some fantastically hilarious and intelligent stories.  (And, that he looked like Harrison Ford in his Indiana Jones professor-ship days…mrreow!)    

I'm freakin' hi-larious! I wonder if anyone else will ever read this?

My warped and twisted view of what constituted a “writer” evolved with every assignment.  My eyes were opened — I believe, I believe! (there’s some of that preacher).  A true writer was a person who wrote, whether it was serious material…or not.  I had previously dismissed humor writing as easy — as not requiring the satisfactory amount of brooding and teeth-gnashing — and, I was wrong.   

Even worse, I had been forcing a writer’s voice on myself that was coming out a lot like Peter Brady’s in the “Time to Change” episode — off-key, fake, and so very annoying!  When I started incorporating humor into my writing, well, it just seemed to fit.  Others could write the prose which held a beauty and eloquence that moved me to tears.  I would write the middle-grade vomit jokes that would move them to…the bathroom.  

Have I been the only one in history with humor-writing prejudices?  I don’t think so.  Which brings me back to the original question:  Is there a stigma that humor writing is easier to do, or less valid because of its material?  Is there a “Writer’s Club,” so to speak, that doesn’t allow smarta–, I mean, humor writers to join? 

Erma Bombeck, who has been deemed as the “mother of all humorists,” once said: “When humor goes, there goes civilization.”  I’m glad my muse decided to change her costume to something a little more colorful.  “Writer’s Club” member or not, nothing says civilized like a red rubber nose and a good vomit joke.

34 thoughts on “A Muse to Amuse”

    1. Definitely funny writers can be great writers (and vice-versa), but I still wonder if the lesser known (or fledgling) humor writers are as respected, as say, their more literary counterparts?

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      1. That’s true, I do think you have a good point there. Kind of sad, isn’t it, that you have to write about serious life and misery to get proper respect as oppposed to things that make people laugh!

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  1. I don’t think comedic writing is easy, especially if combined with tragedy. I don’t know the exact quote, but in Foer’s book, Everything is Illuminated, one of the main characters, he mentions that the best way to tell a tragic/moving story is through comedy.

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  2. I have never thought of writing comedy as easy. In fact, to me, it’s harder to write than any other. It’s just too easy to make it read as fake, or that you’re trying to hard. The “writers club” to me is anyone who puts pen to paper or fingers to keys and makes words show up. What they write does not matter. Happy Writing!

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  3. One tip I read about writing humor went something like this: “In order to write a good comedy, make your characters think they’re in a tragedy.” I think your swooning fits in this category 😉

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  4. Erma Bombeck – there’s a blast from the past. Used to love her.

    Over here in England there’s been much lamenting about the lack of humour in women’s writing by Tracy Chevalier and Daisy Godwin -judges for Mxlexia Short Story Competition and Orange prize respectively- for example.

    I find it easier to “write funny” in blog posts – why is that I wonder?

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    1. I’ll have to look up that magazine, thanks. I think blog writing is more like having a conversation, so maybe that’s way it’s easier to “write funny.” It’s casual chit-chat among cyber friends.

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    1. If you could have sat in on some of my class discussions during college (except for my Comic Vision course), the professors seemed to think that any work that made you laugh wasn’t worth dissecting for merit. But, the pacing, word choice, etc., in humor writing could be applied to many different types of writing.

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  5. I’ve always thought that writing humor would be way harder than writing drama. Because it’s so subjective, it’s difficult to write something that a lot of people would laugh at (in a good way). One person’s funny is another’s meh.

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    1. Good point, but I, personally, never laughed out loud reading him…too busy reading the Cliff Notes. I did laugh a lot during the movie, Shakespeare in Love, though 😉 No more preacher — remember, bones have been sucked out.

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  6. I agree with Downith. My humor comes out in blogging but my fiction (while it has its share) is rarely driven by comedy and anytime I have a scene that feels too slapstick, I pull back or rewrite. Writing funny scenes well is tough stuff and I am highly admiring of those who can pull it off!

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    1. I have problems with that, too. “Is it too much? Not enough?” And, often something that seems funny to me one night, seems ridiculous two weeks later…

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  7. I think true humor- the one that makes you laugh not just because the guy just told you a fart joke but he also gave you something to think about while making you laugh, is difficult to write. But I’m afraid it’s also true that there is a prejudice against funny writers, they are considered to be without depth…

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    1. heehee…sorry, I’m like the kid who laughs everytime someone says, “underwear” heehee…there I go again. I agree that there is a big difference between simple slapstick and intelligent wit.

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  8. Are you kidding me?! I think that humor is so much harder to write! Good humor, that makes you laugh out loud, or chuckle inwardly, or even just go “wow, that’s so witty! I wish I’d thought of that!” – that’s hard to do. I have no doubt in my mind that humorous writers are serious writers. Honestly, I’ve never heard this issue come up!
    I guess it’s the same sort of thing I wonder about writing fantasy, though. I guess it feels as if anything that wouldn’t be put in the “literature & fiction” section of Barnes & Noble is somehow just a little less valid – and that’s simply not true.

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    1. So glad you feel that way, and I agree! And, I’ve never thought that about Fantasy (being less valid), so maybe we only see it when we’re the ones writing it?

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  9. “When humor goes, there goes civilization.”
    Amen to that!!
    I try not to be funny, but humour seems to creep into my writing anyway. Now, whether anyone else finds it amusing..?
    btw, I have and award for you in “50 posts later”

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  10. I love humor. When all is wrong and life is a mess, humor will cause one to lighten up and look from a more realistic perspective. Without humor life is drab and dry. Thanks for your excellent post!

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  11. You’re trying to get back at me for the sock monkey with that CLOWN, aren’t you… 🙂

    “Even worse, I had been forcing a writer’s voice on myself that was coming out a lot like Peter Brady’s in the ‘Time to Change’ episode – off-key, fake, and so very annoying!” – hilarious, and hits on the truth that a writer has to be true to his or her own voice. I do know what you mean about the stigma toward humorous writing as perhaps easier/less profound than more serious writing, and yet I am truly appreciative of a great wit and know that not just anyone possesses that nor could translate it effectively into writing. There is nothing more remedying than laughter, and I love stories that can make me do so, whether the tale itself is funny or the voice that tells it contains that edge.

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  12. I love humor writers and yes, humor writers are REAL writers. I especially love it when someone can weave humor into fiction. There’s nothing more fun than zooming through a story to find a belly-laugh or two hidden in the prose.

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  13. I used to have a melodramatic prose. I always thought my sense of humor was “different” because I never get the jokes.
    Then at the end of last century I started a comic book that was darn funny (at lest to me), hence the new informal title of “the Sweeties” – I LOVED those characters! And I discovered a brand new world.
    I think humor and comedy are the hardest to write and you need a special talent to do it…

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  14. I’ve bothered a lot of jokewriters in my time and I’ve concluded that the craft’s sole purpose is to make difficult writing look easy.

    And I definitely sympathize that annoying obligation to write “seriously” because there’s an enormous stigma against humor – it’s legendary that the great PG Wodehouse deserved a Nobel Prize but wasn’t going to get one.

    If you’re interested in the craft of writing humor, I’d suggest Sol Saks Funny Business — best writing book ever, hands down. As one of the few profs who though humor was worth dissecting, I could add a lot to that list but since you’ve already taken one class I’ll shut up now.

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  15. hey amanda,
    i have the reverse problem. normally i am a pretty humourous person with a fair share of one liners to keep the conversation going.

    But it is quite another story when i start writing…it is so deep, so intense…someone most unlike me. Have tried to tone down my writing…but not workingcant think of a single funny thing to write.

    help!

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