I don’t usually write humor. My short stories, the novel in my desk drawer, essays, and poems tend to be serious. Sometimes even a little dark. I have nothing against writing humor. Just my bent. But the genre also intrigues me. I think humor, defined as “the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech,” is difficult to do. And like satire and parody, it can make us look at ourselves and society just as deeply as more profound writings.
In a recent encounter with humor, I went to see Pulitzer Prize winning writer and humorist Dave Barry who wrote a humor column for 22 years for The Miami Herald. He participated in a two person panel with Ron Lieber (the “Your Money” columnist for The New York Times). Barry’s wit, stories, quick come backs, and wry observations played well against Lieber’s comments and kept the audience laughing.
Barry has said: A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how we express the anxiety we feel at this knowledge.
My humor writing is pretty minimal. I’ve written one poem for fun. It’s had a limited audience. Just my nephew. Here it is.
A Sad Saga in Three Chapters
What’s that pounding in my jaw?
Makes my nerves ragged, raw.
Get me to the dentist quick.
“Yes, my dear, this tooth is sick.”
His metal hammer resounds a rap,
“Does this hurt?” he asks. TAP, TAP.
I nod, captive, mouth agape,
and drool drips upon my drape.
“X-ray, x-ray,” says the doc.
Beep. The photo ray takes stock.
A fractured root. Alas. Tisk, tisk.
I’m off to see the periodontist.
“Specialist, your magic rend.
SAVE MY TOOTH. Please do attend.”
He pats my arm and takes a peek.
Sees the villain that he does seek.
Says the surgeon, “‘Tis sad this song.
The tooth is lost, it can’t last long.”
My blessed doctor gives last rites
to the ailing molar in his sights.
“Surgeon,” I cry, “your magic rend.
TAKE MY TOOTH. Oh, please attend.”
A needle long sticks in my gum.
I wish him evil – more than some.
Pinchers strong my mouth invade.
How I want my place to trade.
“Here it ‘tis, my dear, for you.”
He holds said tooth with root askew.
Peace at last comes to my smile
One tooth less is now my style.
Okay, I rest my case. And why just my nephew? He’s a dentist. Neither Dave Barry nor Ogden Nash are in danger from me. Limerick writers are also safe.
One day, as I browsed among literary journals and calls for submissions, I checked off a few that looked interesting. Then I culled through my work and found several pieces I could submit. One I submitted was a story called “French Pastry,” about a vain man who meets his comeuppance, a piece of French pastry. It was accepted by Dual Coast Magazine, a literary journal that admits it doesn’t mind having a bit of fun.
What makes good humor writing is a subject for another post and for my research. For now, I’ll leave you with three quotes from three pretty funny people.
“When humor goes, there goes civilization.” – Erma Bombeck
“Humor is something that thrives between man’s aspirations and his limitations. There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth.” – Victor Borge
You can only be young once. But you can always be immature. – Dave Barry
And then for humor, while enjoying French pastry, we can always watch politics.