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.
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.
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.
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.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.