Humor Calamities


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

CRAFT
 
 

Calamity noun – an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress.

Humor may cause the odd bit of emotional damage, but humorists rarely sink the Titanic…other than metaphorically. Ergo, for this discussion, damage is not the keyword in the above definition. Comedy writers are more often faced with occasional bouts of distress. While this distress is certainly emotional, there’s no need yet to check yourself into the nearest mental health facility. Most humorists are no crazier than normal folk, who, as we all know, are just plain batshit.

Sometimes it’s the crazy people who turn out to be not so crazy. – Kevin Spacey

Being funny on demand is a mental discipline, and if you’re aware of a couple fairly common pitfalls, it’s much easier to take them in stride.

An amateur knows how to get into trouble. A professional knows how to get out of it.

External Distress
Can you produce 1000 words on a particular topic today?

If your answer is yes, then you’re a writer.

Can you produce the same 1000 words with ten killer jokes today?

If your answer is yes, then you’re a comedy writer. That is, until the day when you get hit with the flu, your bank returns the check for your car payment for no particular reason, your screaming children all want ice cream for dinner and help with homework avoidance, and your spouse mistakenly takes her multivitamin from the Ambien bottle.

Note to self: You live in a ground floor apartment. Don’t jump.

There are days when life just kicks you in the groin. Granted, this happens to nearly everyone at some point in time, but heart surgeons, police officers and taxi drivers don’t have to be funny. Comedy writers do, whether they feel like it or not.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for curing a crappy day. Simply realize that you already know how to handle all the crap that has absolutely nothing to do with your writing.

So, take your flu meds. Mail a new check for the car payment. Properly feed and water your children; help them finish their homework and put them to bed. Convince your sedated spouse that she should also go to bed. That is, handle your life as best you can, then sit down and write just like every other day. With luck, you’ll finish work and leap into bed before the Ambien wears off and your wife will still be loopy enough to think your eagerness is romantic instead of desperate.

Life’s crap can’t stop you from being funny. It’s actually fodder for future jokes.

Internal Distress
Some call this a crisis of confidence; it’s the day that you discover that you’re a fraud. You can’t really write funny, and you’ve just been fooling everyone.

BUT…

For how many years now have you been fooling everyone?

Even veteran comedy writers have an inner voice that occasionally tells them to panic. That’s what scotch is for.

Of course, if you don’t have time for a hangover, there are other remedies.

  • Read some of your old work. Prior success builds confidence that you can succeed once again.
  • Research your new topic. The more you know about something, the easier it will be to exploit new humorous angles.
  • Work on something else for an hour. Sometimes, the mind just needs a break.
  • As a last resort, try to lease an apartment on a much higher floor.

However, I don’t recommend that last one very highly.

Writers have the same insecurities as everyone else. And like most others, you will get over it, and you will be funny again. Hopefully, in as short a period of time as possible.

Book Cover image

“Hilarious!”

Conclusion
Writing comedy is work. Granted, it’s fun work, but it is still occasionally subject to stress and fear, much like any other profession. However, consider that staring at a blank page is not as stressful as brain surgery, nor as fearful as night landings on an aircraft carrier. Realistically, a humorist’s worst case scenario is a joke that flops or a vicious papercut.

Being funny on demand is a talent that one continuously develops over a lifetime. The occasional panic attack is just one of the perks.

Parting Funny: My father always said, “Be the kind they marry, not the kind they date.” So on our first date I’d nag the guy for a new dishwasher.Kris McGaha
 
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What Are Your Favorite Lies?


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

JUST FOR FUN
 
 

Most of us are familiar with a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain (among others):

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

However, to truly appreciate this important insight, one has to understand the tremendous benefits that lying bestows on our daily lives. The fact is, we love lying so much that, if no one else is around, most of us lie to ourselves.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

Frankly, no one is that good-looking, although there is one waitress at my local pancake house who deserves honorable mention.

I can stick to my budget.

Oh look, a flying pig!

I will use my gym membership.

Not unless it comes with an app that will do the sweating for us.

On that last one, note that the abysmal dropout rate at everyone’s gym makes perfect sense. Paying someone so that you can be bored, miserable and occasionally injured is about as sensible as investing your 401K in lottery tickets.

The Truth About Lies
First, let’s ignore social pleasantries, such as: “I’m fine.” “I’m doing well.” “My spouse still has the hots for me.”

Yes, they’re lies, but these are basically mindless kneejerk responses. They’re chaff, not wheat. A genuine lie requires an intent to deceive. In reality, we learn to lie because in many situations we will be penalized for telling the truth.

EXAMPLE: Which of these excuses would you give your boss for being late to a morning meeting?

A. I got stuck in traffic.

-OR-

B. I was out drinking tequila shots until 2 AM, slept through my alarm clock, and then, as soon as I forced myself awake, completely unexpectedly, my wife rolled onto her back.
 

Face it, if ‘B’ were the truth, you’d still choose ‘A’, the harmless little lie.

What Are Damned Lies?
A betrayal of trust is the most often noted characteristic of a damned lie.

Our intimate relationships are supposedly built on trust, however from the donning of a virginal white wedding dress to the later testimony under oath in divorce court, lies tend to pile up. Although men have a reputation for being more at fault, psychological studies show that men and women are equal opportunity liars. However, those same studies note that only about ten percent of relationship lies can be considered a betrayal of trust, which demonstrates two things: Both men and women have been caught telling damned lies, and (since they were caught) neither sex is particularly good at it.

“It’s recessive genes. Our baby’s red hair and green eyes come from my side of the family.”
“Honey, we’re black.”

On a more public scale, American society is riddled with damned lies, which we either rail against or complacently accept, but rarely change.

EXAMPLE: Does the average congressman, who spends forty to fifty percent of his time soliciting campaign funds in order to stay in office, really represent your interests?

I suppose it’s possible. That is, if you happen to be a well-funded gun lobbyist, an oil company executive, or a Washington-based but very discreet call girl.

Of course, government does have some traditional safeguards. Damned lies in politics are strictly forbidden by an Ethics Committee, composed of—surprise—politicians. So, we can at least be comforted knowing that the toddlers are standing guard over the cookie jar.

Statistics – A Unique Case
Statistics are not always the worst lies, but they are the most flexible, more so than a boneless gymnast.

According to a recent article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, there are nine ways that politicians manipulate statistics in order to deceive voters.

Only nine? Amateurs!

Cover image: "Sexual Evolution"For American politicians, distorting statistics is a fine art, and no professional artist limits himself to just nine colors. American politicians can bias and\or pervert statistics in uncounted ways. And if they can’t, they’re more than willing to hire a PR staff who are experts in what’s called ‘spin.’ That’s from the ancient Greek ‘spineratus’ which means, to polish a turd.

Now, most of us don’t have staff available, however we can still manipulate statistics to our advantage using the easiest method: Lie.

The US Department of Education’s 2016 Student Assessment shows 98% of students who had their homework eaten by a dog covered the paper not with algebra equations, but liver sauce.

Is this fact or fiction?

Who cares? Everyone you know is too lazy to check.

Conclusion
The truth is out there: We love to lie. In fact, people who are honest all the time are either hated or dead.

No, those jeans don’t make you look fat, honey, but you do have a small moon orbiting your butt.

Statistically, that husband is one of the dead ones.

Parting Funny: What I wanna know is, which wine goes with Captain Crunch?George Carlin

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Slapstick and the Novel


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

CRAFT

 

Note: Today’s post is a bit longer than usual due to the inclusion of a short book excerpt, but—hang tough—it’s worth it.
 

Slapstick or physical comedy falls into the love it or hate it category, but you may be surprised to learn that it is one of the only universal forms of humor. Slapstick can be found in every country and every culture. As such, it shouldn’t be ignored by any humor writer.

Maybe you hate The Three Stooges, and maybe Gilligan’s Island is not on your Top Ten List, but the fact that they are still in syndication generations after their original production is testament to slapstick’s popularity with all ages and every demographic. In spite of this, many writers ignore this form of humor when writing novels and articles, feeling that slapstick can’t be made funny on the printed page—simply not true. Slapstick can be used everywhere, but it may take a bit more work in printed formats.

You can find slapstick scenes in many novels. Funny faces, funny appearances, funny actions, funny situations, and the occasional heavy dollop of the just plain stupid. Likely, one of the best explanations appears in the opening to Kurt Vonnegut’s 1976 novel entitled, Slapstick:

It is about what life feels like to me.

Slapstick Challenges A Writer’s Descriptive Abilities
It’s easy to put a pratfall on film. One only needs a good premise, a director who’s not a moron, and a great comedic actor or actress. When describing similar characters and actions in print, you have to paint a picture—assuming adequate caffeine, easy enough for a talented writer. However, a slapstick picture should deliberately accentuate:

  • Comic action
  • Comic characters (physical and personality traits). This can include personality clashes, and personalities clashing with action (fish out of water, etc.)
  • Additions—add comic flourishes external to the main action
  • Consequences of comic action
  • External forces—deliberate interference with characters and action

Essentially, slapstick can utilize all aspects of the scene. Everything is funny with the right perspective and carefully constructed description.

A Sample Slapstick Scene
Below is a short excerpt from my book,
Sexual Evolution: A Naughty Comedy of Social Madness.

This scene describes a failed assassination attempt by a quite obsessed, quite insane, and quite inept assassin. Note the add-ons to the primary action, both in the descriptions and, in this case, the addition of a few fictitious quotes\comments.

Setup: Our assassin, Gwen, is a television news anchor; she shoots from the unfinished floor of a high-rise building under construction, and the mentioned ‘DST cartridge’ is a memory storage device like a DVD.

    Gwen Taylor was back in her assassin’s window looking at MacClaren the Pig through her purse-sized binoculars. He was talking on the phone again as he tossed a DST cartridge in the air. He caught it repeatedly and sent it back toward the ceiling tiles with a flip. MacClaren stopped and pulled a single sheet from the buff file folder on his desk. Gwen knew exactly what he was doing.
    Figuring more ways to denigrate women.
    Setting her binoculars on the floor, Gwen opened a large packing case and pulled out a shoulder-fired rocket launching tube. “No mistakes this time. I just lock it onto a heat source and push the button.”
    Toasted Pig MacMuffin–MacClaren!
    She shouldered the weapon.

Time to die, you bastard!
The theme of all James Bond films.

    Sighting the rocket on MacClaren’s desk lamp, Gwen pushed the launch button. A geyser of intense flame shot from the end of the tube. The bright flash temporarily blinded Gwen.

And the rocket’s red glare…
Francis Scott Key
Lawyer and poet
Lord knows, he was no musician

    The anti-tank rocket, model MX-43 Rev. 2, had been stolen from a National Guard Armory and stored for several years in the damp basement of a popular Italian deli and pizza parlor/cocaine and methamphetamine distribution center. Gwen purchased it from a career criminal, who she’d previously used as an informant on a racketeering and political influence story. The little missile was then bounced around for nearly a week in the trunk of Gwen’s BMW. It was a truly marvelous example of American craftsmanship, which despite long storage and abuse, launched on command without hesitation. The rocket flew out the back of the tube behind Gwen, straight across the eleventh floor, missed two pallet loads of drywall, and accelerated out the empty window on the opposite side of the building.
    After exiting the building, the rocket flew two blocks to the river and crossed in less than a second. It had locked onto the Mid-Town Jaycees clambake on the far riverbank. Fortunately, no one was attending the cooking fire when the missile hit. The huge pot of Redstone clams blew sixty feet in the air and rained their now severely overcooked seafood dinner into the Jaycees’ laps. Also fortunate, the Jaycees were drunk enough to laugh at flying clams. It didn’t matter really. They still had corn-on-the-cob and a huge variety of potluck pasta and potato salads available. No one would die of starvation or poorly aimed rockets.
    The only known injury was a very small and very mild, clam-shaped burn on the tongue of a toy poodle, named Polo, which was both the Jaycees chapter mascot and honorary public relations director. The lucky pooch couldn’t resist the opportunity to steal away with his share of this seafood bounty falling from the heavens.

No animals were harmed in the making of this film.
Hollywood film disclaimer
A common lie to soothe the social conscience

Only one animal was harmed in the writing of this book.
Don’t care. It wasn’t my dog.

    The Jaycees chapter president, having caught a clam on the fly, sucked the neatly cooked morsel from its shell and continued to tap a second icy keg of Budweiser. “The clams were better last year,” he announced. It didn’t occur to him to blame the strange taste on the chemical residues of an explosive warhead and expended rocket propellant. “Probably that damn global warming.”
    When Gwen’s night vision returned, she was surprised to see MacClaren, sitting at his desk, chatting on the phone and routinely tossing his DST cartridge in the air. The Pig was supposed to be barbecue. She looked into the empty launcher tube. The rocket was gone. “Why isn’t he dead?” Gwen asked aloud.
    Her words gently reverberated down the empty tube. Gwen felt completely numb. She had failed once again. Her body began to shiver and quiver uncontrollably. Her tears burst forth, and her vision blurred into a blood-red haze.
    “Dead Pig. Pig dead. Dead Pig. Pig dead,” Gwen recited her new mantra as she collapsed into a fetal position on the concrete floor, hugging her now nicely warm ‘rocket tube thingy.’

Cover image: "Sexual Evolution"Fear Not!
If you fear that slapstick will not translate to the printed page, now is the time to reconsider and give it a try. It is absolutely doable.

Will slapstick appeal to every reader? No more than Gilligan’s Island, the number one program in syndication for almost fifty years.

Isn’t that worth some thought?

Parting Funny: I just carved my initials into a tree, but only as a warning to other trees.
Bridger Winegar
 
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Defend Your Right To Wackadoodle


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

JUST FOR FUN

 

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but we recently dodged a bullet!

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has given up his plans to prosecute Exxon and other fossil fuel companies for the supposed “crime” of climate change denial. One motivation for withdrawing his case: Both sides of any contentious political debate have their fair share of liars and all-around wackadoodles exercising their right to free speech.

Granted, the New York AG’s case did have some basis in law; there are investors to protect from fraudulent information. However, most investors are only interested in a good return on investment. What’s a few ridiculously heinous lies in the prospectus compared to regular quarterly dividends and possible windfall profits? And here, Exxon looks pretty good, especially since green companies producing solar panels so rarely strike oil.

BUT…

A MUCH, MUCH more important issue is at stake:

We’re Americans!

Ergo, “wackadoodle” should NEVER be a criminal offense!

As American citizens, we are entitled to all the rights and freedoms that our ancestors fought to create, not the least of which is our constitutional right to believe any sort of inane crap that we choose!

Wear your fallacious, unproven, unsupported and wholly inaccurate beliefs proudly America, and fight—fight the barbarous minions of reason and critical thinking before they find another AG willing to criminalize our ignorance, our cherished delusions, and maybe, the occasional bit of gross malfeasance.

Naturally, living in a land of abundance, Americans have many choices for a cherished delusion. Consider these few modest examples:

Climate Change Denial
Yes, I know it’s a cheap shot to start off with a nouveau-classic (?), but this one has real legs. Look at the facts: Polar bears like to swim anyway, and whenever I call my Canadian friends in January, they always bitch about frozen pizza and frostbitten deliverymen. Explain that climatologists!

The Flat Earth Resurgence
Feel free to ignore billions of dollars spent on science education and pictures taken by NASA and other space agencies around the world. There are still brave souls who are determined to resurrect The Flat Earth Society. This is not, as scientists claim, mere contrivance. Every picture that we see of our lovely planet is on—you guessed it—something flat.

EXAMPLE: The pages of a book and our TV screens are both flat.

How could there possibly be more compelling evidence?

Very carefully constructed maps confirm that both a spherical Earth and a flat Earth are bipolar, but quite often, the Flat Earthers themselves excel in this regard.

Alien Abduction
A belief in alien abduction is a bit more problematic than most fringe beliefs since there’s never any hard evidence. However, mention that after the average alien scientifically examines and performs sexual naughties on an abductee, they always return them to Bucolic, Mississippi (or wherever) out of sheer disappointment in our species. Totally believable!

Also, when you consider the normal behavior of the average human male, flying halfway across the galaxy to cop a feel seems quite reasonable.

Bigfoot
Another tough one with little evidence. Generally, there are more hair samples on a bar of shower soap.

Still, it’s defensible. Adobe Photoshop can easily make that prom photo that you hate into a real collector’s item.

Astrology
Stick with the cultural argument. If astrology was good enough for the ancient Greeks and Romans, there’s no compelling reason that your sign can’t be a fruitcake.

Fake Moon Landings
The moon landings were not only filmed on a Hollywood sound stage, there’s now documented proof that it was a bootleg production. A simple records check will show that not a single one of the over 400,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and astronauts who worked on the Apollo moon landings has paid union dues to the Screen Actors Guild.

Note also, the fake moon capsules now on display in the Smithsonian and other museums supposedly landed in the ocean, but—try it for yourself when the security guards aren’t looking—none of them taste the least bit salty. Hah!

Psychics, Palm Reading and Numerology
Stick with a statistical argument. Statistically, all of the above are just as accurate as the reading of entrails.

Conclusion
There are many more delusions available. No one need go without. So, it’s vitally important that we stand up and fight, America!

Conspiracy theories, the paranormal, pseudoscience and general all-around ignorance—they’re as American as mom’s apple pie.

So, fight! Don’t let any government flunky criminalize our lies and delusions. Fight for your right to wackadoodle, or, sadly, we may indeed see a day when the citizens of a free country no longer have the right to swallow bullshit.

Parting Funny: Whenever I want a really nice meal, I start dating again.Susan Healy
 
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