Two nights ago I started reading a new book. Nothing unusual about that, I may be one of the world’s foremost starters. Did you notice I did not say I am a finisher of books? Why is that? And why have I digressed into mindless musings two sentences into a blog?
Back on task… like I was saying, I started a new read. The reviews all but promised wet pants from excessive laughter. It is a fictional account of the life and times of an almost graduated seminarian as he stumbles his way through an internship at a very old, very proud, very large, very affluent, and very prestigious church whose name begins with “First.”
Joyce settled into bed with Mittens, our cat, and I read aloud the first three chapters. Sure enough, it only took a few lines and we were giggling. Both of us have served on staff at churches, so we found we could relate to the characters and situations. And, yes, working with the people that make up a church body (and staff) is a gold mine of humor. The author had the gift of capturing the anecdotes and weaving them into narratives that reminded us of people and places.
The next day I asked myself one of those vexing questions that probably should have been left alone… “Why did I find the stories funny?” Or, put another way, “What makes something or someone funny?” And finally, as a writer I asked, “How can I put down in words things that will make people laugh?”
Now I’m sitting with my hands looking like a church steeple trying to come up with reasons that will answer those questions. I think I’ve painted myself into a corner once again. Oh well…press on.
There can be no doubt that different people find different things funny. Some prefer the broad humor of slapstick, sight gags, and sophomoric jokes. Others enjoy irony, or double-entendres or puns. Situational comedy, people in uncomfortable and often bizarre circumstances, must be a real crowd pleaser—look at how many television shows follow that pattern. Then there is the dark side of insults and gallows humor. (I never enjoyed comedians whose stock in trade was insulting people.)
There can be no doubt that some people have a special gift for humor. My mind immediately races back to college and a fraternity brother…no doubt the class clown in high school. He was a nice looking young man who spoke as if he had a marble in his mouth. Not the whole bag, mind you, just a single marble that caused his East Texas twang to slide out with wet s’s. You always wanted to stand back an extra foot for fear of an unintended shower. With a voice that could be heard a block away, he spun story after damp story. It didn’t matter if they were real or not. They were funny.
Have I reached any conclusions on how to write humor? No, but that won’t keep me from trying.
Last night Joyce and Mittens nestled into bed, ready for a second night of giggles and grins. I read…they slept. Another lesson learned about humor…it is quickly extinguished by fatigue.