Are Facts Funny?


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

Remember television’s police drama, Dragnet? (What a dinosaur!) Sgt. Joe Friday kept his witness from drifting off topic with the simple admonition, “Just the facts, ma’am.” While facts are certainly important to a police investigation, they have a multitude of other uses, including tickling ye olde funny bone.

Some facts are standalone funny.
Facts can be amusing without any effort from the writer to enhance their humor. Their truth is inherently funny, such as:

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is the fear of long words.

If facts relevant to your story or novel are amusing in their own right, including them at an appropriate spot is so incredibly easy that it should almost be considered an oversight not to do so.

There are no topics without facts.
Finding relevant facts is easy. Thanks to our wonderful friends at Google (or other search engine), finding information on just about anything is easier today than at any previous time in human history. The trip to the library is usually replaced with the trip to the keyboard, or for those more mobile, with a reach into one’s pocket or purse.

STRONG CAVEAT: Don’t automatically dismiss that trip to the library. A good reference librarian is a writer’s best friend! Even better, many are available by phone or will answer questions online. Even if the topic of your writing is obscure, there is information available somewhere.

Reference librarians answer nearly 6 million questions a week.

Note also that having a library card gives you access to many online resources on the library’s website. These can be invaluable, and it’s sincerely unfortunate that about one-third of our population is unfamiliar with the services that their local library provides.

Where’s the funny?
Okay, you’ve got the facts, so where’s the humor.

Genuine facts are funny in two basic forms:

  • Inherently funny – standalone as mentioned above
  • Easily distorted – twisted for humorous purpose

Distorting the Facts
It’s very easy to distort facts into a great gag, and you should have no fear that your reader will accept your gag fact as literal truth. Very few writers are targeting their prose at the village idiot, and there really is no way to save an idiot from themselves. So, distort away entirely guilt free.

It is a scientific fact that your body will not absorb cholesterol if you take it from someone else’s plate. – Dave Barry

Being left-handed is the mildest form of retardation known.

There is an obvious note of silliness in most distorted facts, which is just plain fun! This is an opportunity for the writer to unleash his class clown persona and lampoon, mock and tease the universe at large. Sacred cows now need to run for the barn because the pen really is sillier than the sword.

We’ll discuss mixed and botched metaphors in a later post…maybe.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
No one likes a liar, unless that liar makes you laugh.

There is nothing wrong with creating your own un-genuine fact out of thin air. Yes, it’s a lie, but just pretend you’re a politician and you’ll have absolutely no shame about lying your ass off!

For example, feel free to custom design your own “authoritative” statistics:

Studies show that your odds of winning the lottery exactly equal the odds of your teenager volunteering to wash dishes.

Or, rewrite history:

The Republican National Committee was founded in 1856 by South Dakota Congressman Ebenezer Beelzebub.

Does it matter that South Dakota did not become a state until 1889, and therefore had no congressmen in 1856? No more than the supposed accuracy of calculating the odds of a teenager washing dishes.

Facts, distorted facts, and outright lies are simply additional tools in the humorist’s toolbox. And they can be great fun. Just ask Ebenezer Beelzebub!

Parting Funny: Why is it called tourist season if we can’t shoot them?George Carlin

Next Up: The Comic View

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Write, Edit, Gag


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

Writing a novel is not for sprinters; it’s for long-distance runners. There are so many rules to consider concerning story arc, character development and descriptive passages. To top it off, you also have to consider nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, punctuation and all the other grammar goop. It’s just so… Well, it’s an incredible amount of fun is what it is!

If a character annoys me, I kill him in the next chapter. I wish divorce court was this easy.

Telling a good story is paramount, as are a few other necessities, like finishing your manuscript.

He hangs around the train station with a sign that says, ‘The End Is Near!’ Must be a novelist.

Cover image: "Sexual Evolution"However, let’s assume that you have completed writing your first draft (Kudos!) and are now addressing either a rewrite or an edit. Revising your work is a process unique to each writer, however there is one constant: This is your opportunity to transform good work into great work. There is no easy way to describe this process, but you have many tools available, perhaps the most important is excision. That is, deleting both the ‘not so good’ as well as that passage that you ‘just love’ but is not moving your story forward.

How many times you revise your manuscript is also unique to each writer, however let’s assume that the proper number is somewhere between one and infinity.

BUT…

Let’s add one more.

The Final Gag Read
Everyone wants to add a touch of humor to their writing in order to gain that extra bit of editor and reader appeal. It’s likely that you made such an effort while writing the first and each subsequent draft. However, post editing is the ideal time to give your prose a humor boost.

Why?

  • Immediately after intense revisions you know your story (plots and subplots) intimately.
  • You are now more familiar with your character(s) than you will ever likely be in future.
  • You can probably recite by rote much of the dialogue that you bled over while writing.
  • Every scene and situation is familiar. Without looking, you can probably list the scenes that would benefit from a little comic relief.

You are now an expert on your manuscript. Put that expertise to good use BEFORE you move on to the next project and lose yourself in another story.

Gag Placement
A good joke cannot, despite our desires, be placed just anywhere, even in a humorous novel. There are a few caveats that one should consider:

  • Story Flow – No matter how good the joke, it can never be permitted to disturb the flow of your story. Beef up the humor only where it enhances your story.
  • Character – Your character has his\her own sense of humor. Humor must be in character. That is, a minister does not tell risqué jokes, no matter how good the laugh.
  • Dialogue – Good dialogue has a rhythm that flows, never jarring the reader (other than intentionally). Never disrupt that rhythm for a joke.

That’s a lot of don’ts!

You’re not my mother. You can’t tell me what to do!

Be mindful of the negatives, however a final gag read of your manuscript can pay huge dividends if done well. That touch of humor that you add to your writing will be perfectly placed, and your editors and readers will thank you for it.

Special Note
Every once in a while, I come across a book, article or video that I think is exceptional. The following link was posted by a member of Goodreads’ The Humour Club, Dan Martin:

Chuck Jones – The Evolution of an Artist

This short video is nine minutes of advice from a master of visual comedy. Thanks, Dan!

Parting Funny: Do you know why it’s so hard to solve a Redneck murder? ‘Cause there’s no dental records and all the DNA is the same.Jeff Foxworthy

Next Up: Are Facts Funny?

Holiday Greetings to One and All!
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Ye Olde Christmas Letter

Dear Friends and Relatives,

It’s time once again to send out my annual Christmas letter to update you on the comings and goings of the Lazarus McMurder clan during 2015. It’s been such an exciting year.

The children will all be home this Christmas! Joey made bail after selling his collection of Serial Killer Cards. I must say that we’re very proud of his initiative, and the entire family has agreed to be supportive. During the festivities, no one will mention the GPS tracker on his ankle.

Our daughter, Clementine is making amazing progress with her physical therapy. Her fractured hip was the talk of the hospital since most of the orthopedic surgeons so rarely see such an injury on a nineteen year-old. While the medical bills are a bit daunting, her employer has graciously assured our attorney that he will cover all of them. Apparently, he’s certain that he would lose a lawsuit should Clementine wish to file one. I think this is very correct and proper. After all, it should be the employer’s responsibility to make certain that there is no hand cream build-up on the stripper pole.

Our second daughter, little Evelyn is now fourteen and heavily entrenched in the expected teen rebellion. She no longer wishes to be called Evelyn or Evie, but prefers that we call her by her non-slave name, Evil. Frankly, I just take this in stride, but her father is having a difficult time accepting a daughter who is so fanatically Goth. He doesn’t mind the horribly dark eye makeup so much, but I suspect her spiked dog collar and other accessories annoy him a great deal. I got this impression when he came home from work and hung his coat on her nose ring.

Speaking of hubby, Lazarus is doing wonderfully this year. He received a three-paygrade promotion to assistant manager at Walk-In Mart after catching the manager embezzling. Fortunately, I have managed to convince Old Laz that we should consider this a merit raise since it was indeed his quick thinking that allowed him to get a Xerox of the cooked books. For myself, I’m just happy that he’s such a good provider.

Quick update on my in-laws: Thankfully, they’re still dead.

My mom and dad are doing wonderfully. Dad’s dementia has progressed to the point that he no longer cares that mom is boffing his old partner…and a few other businesses and civic organizations. I can at least be happy that at mom’s age, nymphomania is considered merely eccentric, and she tells me that her Senior’s Yoga class is a great help in keeping her limber.

At the ripe old age of eighty-eight, frail and feeble Uncle Mortimer is still disgustingly wealthy and a childless bachelor, thank God. (No gold-digger bimbo story to report this year.) The entire family thought that our windfall had finally arrived when he used the can of floor wax that we gave him for his birthday and his cane slipped. However, he took a header into his open refrigerator and an overly-large Christmas pudding. The EMTs said that his major injury was temporary hearing loss caused by an inconveniently deposited brandied raisin. I guess that’s a blessing since we love him dearly, and we want him to enjoy this year’s holiday gift, a ticket for a free bungee jump.

Lastly, I’m happy to report that I have made major progress this year. I’ve completely healed from that unfortunate Spandex incident last February, and I am once again teaching full-time since Unabomber Elementary declined to prosecute. I’ve also gotten some very positive feedback from a few feelers at the community college level, so I may soon be moving up to students who can genuinely appreciate innovative corporal punishment.

As usual, please skip this year’s Christmas gifts and send cash.

Note to Harriot Milken-Heifer: Food Stamps are not cash!

Merry, Merry!!

Delightfully yours,

Wanda B. McMurder

PS: I hope you enjoyed this bit of fun!

Favorite Jokes


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

Almost everyone has a friend who complains that they can’t remember jokes, but most of us keep one or two funnies on tap to tickle partygoers and other social contacts. After all, nothing is a better icebreaker than a good laugh.

Today, let’s take a break and I’ll share a few favorites in various formats:

Definitions
Definitions are great jokes. They don’t have to be formal definitions like those written by the delightfully twisted Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary. A humorous definition can be merely an opinion, preferably an outlandish one. Here’s one from my book, Conversations with Larry Xenomorph:

Gold – Nothing should be that expensive per ounce when you can’t put it up your nose.

Not PC Blonde

Book Cover image

“Hilarious!”


I was recently reminded by an online friend that even blondes are allowed to like and laugh at ‘dumb blonde’ jokes. She also stated that the American spelling, blonde, should drop the final ‘e’ since this is sexist (“blonde” is the feminine form of the male or neutral “blond”). Frankly, neither my dictionary nor my spelling teachers were PC, and I didn’t know that vowels can be sexist, although I did know that I, O and U can be expensive. Regardless, here’s a favored dumb blonde jokes:

A blonde tells an appliance store salesman, “I want to buy this TV.”
The salesman informs her that the store doesn’t sell to blondes because there’s just too much liability.
After unsuccessfully arguing, the blonde leaves the store in a huff, wholly determined not to be bested by a stupid appliance salesman. She is determined to buy that TV.
Returning home, the blonde changes her clothing, uses a wig to change into a redhead, alters her makeup and dons large sunglasses. Looking in the mirror, she’s convinced that no one would recognize her. She then heads back to the store.
“I want to buy this TV,” she again tells the salesman.
“I told you, madam, we don’t sell to blondes.”
“But, I’m a redhead.”
“No, you’re a blonde.”
“How do you know I’m a blonde?”
“Two reasons,” said the salesman. “One, I recognize your voice, and two, that TV is a microwave oven.”
(Original source unknown)
 

Quotes
Our wonderful world is chockfull of wits and wags, and if you hear a great line, tuck it away for future use. It’s polite to credit the original source, but in casual conversation it’s always perfectly acceptable to say, “I can’t remember who said…”

Note also that the classics offer humor that has stood the test of time, such as:

Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. – Mark Twain

Children’s Humor
No one enjoys laughter more than children, and having one or two favorite children’s jokes on hand is good practice since one never knows when an underage, little varmint might appear. Note that an adult sense of humor often fails to recognize a joke that is hilarious to a five year-old. If you don’t have any experience with your own children, a little experimentation with nieces, nephews or neighbors might help.

If hot dogs come from cows, where do chicken dogs come from?
-Frightened cows.

Relationship Humor
This is perhaps the favorite of adults because most of us know that a good sense of humor is as vital to a relationship as regular bathing.

Women just fail to understand how a man with two kidneys can’t afford to buy them fine jewelry. (Original source unknown)

Pick a few of your own.
If you haven’t picked out a few favorite jokes to share with friends and family, perhaps it’s time to pick a few, or better, write a few. They do come in handy.

Parting Funny: Studies indicate that four out of five people think the fifth one is an idiot.Kevin Nealon
 

Next Up: Write, Edit, Gag

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Do You Like Politically Incorrect Humor?


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

Humans are gregarious. We all very naturally form groups (usually within our own species), but it’s also human nature to disparage other groups. There have been many attempts to combat this natural exclude the outsider tendency, and the concept of political correctness is one such attempt, designed to eliminate language that may offend groups of people, particularly those groups viewed as disadvantaged. However, groups, even disadvantaged groups, are not immune to doing something foolish or blatantly stupid. Pointing out their foibles, especially with a bit of humor, is entirely fair.

In many instances, political correctness has been pushed to such ridiculous extremes that a three-legged dog is no longer disabled, he’s “paw-challenged”.

Since Spot lost that leg, he only chases cars with a flat tire.

If there is such a large possibility for offense, the question then becomes: Why do so many of us like politically incorrect humor?

It Works!
When humorists side with funny over political correctness their goal is not to deliberately offend anyone; they are merely doing their job. If people wish to take offense at a joke or a cartoon, they certainly have that right. However, every joke ever written is analogous to a beautiful new Mercedes which is painted a bright lime green. Some people like it; some don’t.

Sour milk has better taste.

Prolific and Popular
Politically incorrect humor can be found wherever one finds politics itself. If one man has an opinion, people practically line up to disagree with him. It’s our nature, and that in itself is indeed funny. Public opinion is even more fickle, and men have pondered and commented on this very human quality for ages, as seen in this quote from the ancient Roman senator and historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus (56 CE – 117 CE):

Things are not to be judged good or bad merely because the public think so.

Cover image: "Sexual Evolution"
Nowhere is opinion more evident than in discussions of the pros and cons of our politics, religion, advocacy groups, popular movements and protest groups. Opinion invites counter-opinion, and no group is sacred when it comes to humor, nor is any group without its own humorists highlighting the foibles and funnies of their chosen opponents.

How Far Is Too Far?
The recent, horrific terrorist attacks in Paris had the authorities and the news outlets refusing to blame Islamic terrorists without concrete evidence. While this official view was somewhat noble and politically correct, the public perception was much more in line with Bill Maher‘s comment on his show, Real Time:

It was probably not the Amish.

Such humor may not be politically correct, but it does indeed help us deal with tragedy. Still, Bill took quite a bit of flak from the media for this and similar remarks.

Was he wrong? Was he insensitive?

You must decide that on your own.

Online Incorrect
The Internet offers politically incorrect humor on demand and in many forms—jokes, forums, cartoons, videos, etc.

Among many, many others, The Humour Club [Yes, British spelling.] on Goodreads has a popular thread entitled “Politically Incorrect” where you can try your hand at jokes, one-liners and cartoons with other humorists who find the politically incorrect to be just another tool in the humor writer’s toolbox. It’s worth a look.

So, How Far Really Is Too Far?
Frankly, there are no guidelines when it comes to writing politically incorrect humor. A writer must use his or her own judgement. The best I can offer is a few simple caveats:

  • Focus on the humor.
  • Don’t be mean-spirited.

There is a very real difference between creating laughter and fostering bigotry. However, it’s not a line that any writer should fear. In your heart, you know your intent, and you know what is funny.

Parting Funny: You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.Harry S. Truman

Next Up: Favorite Jokes

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Everyday Objects Are Funny


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

Guesstimates of how many objects are in the average room in a home or office vary from a few hundred to well over a thousand. There’s a good reason that there is no accurate statistic: Who cares?

Ma’am, we’re from the Government Accounting Office, the GAO, and we’d like to look in your drawers.

Before you get offended and stop voting for the current administration, you should consider the phenomenal number of uses for everyday objects. Naturally, we’re most interested in using them to create smiles and laughter, and with a little creative thinking, any writer can turn average household objects into… Well, into anything.

Purpose
Every object in your home generally has a purpose, even those objects that are designed to be merely decorative. The original purpose of an object is not necessarily amusing, however it can be when viewed from a humorous angle. For example, let’s try a shoelace.

He claimed that he was able to tie a shoelace faster than any human being on the planet. I was able to depart this conversation even faster.

Here the shoelace fulfills only its originally designed purpose, but demonstrates in one sentence that the character is a complete bore, causing a second character to choose a perfectly acceptable course of action: avoidance.

Killer joke? No.

However, it is mildly amusing and so much more effective than simply stating the obvious: ‘This character is a bore.’

Objects can also be used to show just about any character trait merely by their presence.

Hoops, drops, dangles, huggies, slave… She had dozens and dozens of every type of earring available, a collection easily worth three, maybe four dollars.

This character is obsessive and cheap—what a great combination!

Or, you can comment on the object itself, as in this unique and rather bizarre observation by Douglas Adams:

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

Bricks don’t fly. Thank you, Douglas!

Altering Purpose
Cover image: "Sexual Evolution"Have you ever used a piece of Tupperware to store something other than food? Likely, you answered, ‘yes’. Garages and workbenches across the country have plastic containers holding screws, nuts, bolts, etc. Bathroom cabinets have containers holding combs, elastic hair ties, tiny bottles of whatever, etc. This is a very common repurposing found in many American households.

Any object can have an alternative use, and with a little imagination, any object can have an amusing use.

Every marriage has difficult moments, when the honeymoon is over, when money is tight, and when your wife finds out that you’ve been warming your socks in her toaster oven.

Non-object Objects
There are many common “things” that we do not really think of as objects, yet they also fit in that wonderful category, useful for humor. Just a few off the top:

  • water
  • aerosol mist from any spray can
  • odors – though not necessarily offensive. Perfume is an odor.
  • air – a breeze, strong wind, etc.
  • the written word

A few examples:

I was drinking scotch and water, but we ran out of water so I diluted it with gin.

My husband hated my cats until I started using scented flea powder. This one is called ‘New Mercedes’.

For the written word, let’s consider this marvelous insight from Evan Esar:

A signature always reveals a man’s character — and sometimes even his name.

The point here is not to get focused on the word object as something that you hold in your hand or point to with your finger. Yes, solid objects are more common, but if you can sense it—sight, hearing, touch, taste or smell—you can consider it an object worth using in an appropriate humorous line.

Everyday objects are indeed funny. Just ask them.

Parting Funny: I know a lot about cars. I can look at a car’s headlights and tell you exactly which way it’s coming.Mitch Hedberg
 

Next Up: Do You Like Politically Incorrect Humor?

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