The Extrahuman Union

I Am Not Funny

Posted on: February 11, 2011

I tried something different with my political writing this week: I used humor.

This is a terrible idea, as anyone who has ever tried to be funny knows.

During the 2008 campaign, there was a moment when John McCain tried to write an editorial for the New York Times and had it sent back for editing. As someone who has dealt with editors and I thought this was hilarious, so I whipped up a piece about John McCain having an angry email exchange with the editor at the Times in which he ranted, typed in all caps, and put random words in quotes. Because he is old, you see! In light of that, I thought the email address I gave him, cactusjack1936@aol.com, was particularly brilliant. I sent it in to the Hartford Courant and they ran it.

It was a total bomb, and looking back on it, I can see why. The humor wasn’t all that subtle, and the ageist jokes were less amusing than they were kind of mean. I don’t think my mother liked it very much, either. The experience did give me a lot of respect for people who can write consistently funny stuff, day in and day out. It’s not easy. I can’t imagine trying to write funny columns or routines all the time, much less try to be funny in a format as long as, say, a book.

Every once in a while, though, I want to try something that isn’t either serious, horribly depressing or dry and analytical. I think we’ll call that “expanding my horizons,” since that sounds a lot better than “plea for attention.”

Let me know what you think!

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8 Responses to "I Am Not Funny"

I like the humor of this latest piece – well played! I especially like that you address those who may still be cowering at the knees of the Winter Warlock.

The oil thing actually happened–we had to have the guy come back because he couldn’t get into the backyard! I had to carve a path for him.

“When I was little, I thought I would be ::WHAT?::
A big comedian on late-night teevee.”

I’m a lot older than 33, and I’m still not, but that never stops me from going with what my heart and/or head tell me are funny. Good on you for taking on the likes of McCain and (slight spoiler for the book here) Lieberman, who deserve every bit of [insert age/class/whatever protected classification here]-ist humor you, or anyone else, might throw at them.

If one person LOLs at something I find funny, I feel my work here is done.

It’s impossible to resist taking a shot at Lieberman. 🙂

Yeah, I’m not funny either. I always tell my kids – you’re funny when you’re not trying to be funny. They don’t think that’s funny. It’s not. But it’s true. Someday they’ll realize that everything I tell them is true. Even if it’s inappropriate.

You’re absolutely right, though–it never works to try too hard. If I start out thinking, Today I will be funny, it always ends in failure!

First of all, that article is pretty awesome, and I died when I got to your definition of liberal at the end.

Secondly, I know I’m not the funniest writer in town, but the Jane book is pretty dependent on humor to stay afloat, and I have got to tell you, the moment I started trying to be funny was the moment that all my funny skittered away to cringe in the underbrush like a small frightened woodland creature. Not that humor and jokes magically appear fully formed in a puff of smoke, it takes as much work as any other kind of writing, but it has to come about at least somewhat organically, I’ve found.

::shrug:: Anyway, I think you’re funny.

I know my people well… 🙂

And yeah, I know what you mean about the funny. If it’s not clicking, it really can’t be forced. If I sit down intending to write funny stuff and I’m either not feeling it, or I’m in the wrong frame of mind, it just doesn’t work.

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