Sunday, May 30, 2010

knock-knock



I admire writers who can be funny.  Bloggers, especially--a funny blog is the best.  But writing humor is difficult stuff.  My sense of humor is understated.  I'm the kind of person who makes quiet, wry comments to the person next to me in the back row.  I'm the kind of teacher who is rarely ever completely serious but also rarely ever completely joking.  Only the quick ones catch on which is which.

I value funny.  At almost every job I've worked, I've had a co-worker who regularly made it a point to tell me jokes or share funny comics with me or otherwise make me laugh.  But it's so easy for humor to fall flat on the page.  I can't always predict what humor I'll enjoy.  I've definitely enjoyed Douglas Adams several times over (even this sort of bizarre Apple IIe computer game that I recall playing somewhat a lot as a teenager), and David Sedaris is absolutely golden, especially because after listening to him on This American Life and such, I can never read one of his books without hearing him actually narrating the stories in my head.

Recently I read Douglas Coupland's novel, The Gum Thief, at the gym.  I'm not sure I'd say that the purpose of the book is to be humorous.  I mean, to be honest, please do not ask me any time soon what the purpose of this book is.  I loved it, and I have no idea what I think about it yet.  But anyway, this was a book that caused me to allow spontaneous explosions of surprised laughter to escape me while I was running in ellipticals with my ipod stuffed in my ears.  Who knows how loud I laughed? 

What are your favorite funny writers?  They don't have to be writing to be funny...my favorites are often the ones who just are funny. 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like The Boy Who Loved Bananas.

--Jabber
http://www.kidscanpress.com/Canada/The-Boy-Who-Loved-Bananas-P5714.aspx

And I like Curious George!

--Monkey

Lisa said...

I love David Sedaris's humor so much. Like you, I hear him narrate, even when I'm reading it. Right now I'm reading some Dorothy Sayers mysteries. Lauretta Hannon, a Georgia writer, is very funny. So is Steve Hely who write How I Became a Famous Novelist. And Larry Doyle who authored I Love You, Beth Cooper.

elissa said...

ooh, thanks, Lisa, for the great suggestions! someone else I know was just talking up the Hely book. :)

amy said...

Humor is so subjective... when I was reading George Saunders for class, everyone told me I'd love him. "He's so funny!" Well, I did enjoy what I read... but I don't think I cracked a smile the whole time. It's not that I didn't get the jokes -- I could see which parts other people were probably laughing at. It just didn't work for me, and I don't know that I can pinpoint why.

I remember laughing at And Then We Came to the End, though I don't know if I would call it a "funny novel". And the novel I just finished, Sag Harbor -- I found myself laughing aloud while reading that a number of times. It wasn't really jokey -- it was basically about kids getting into scraps, but there were these moments of intense recognition that I just had to laugh at. I also thought that Nick Hornby book was pretty funny in parts, though sometimes his humor falls flat for me.

As for writing funny... I'm not sure I agree that it's hard. I think, if it feels hard, it's probably not working. I don't know, that could just be me -- I can never manage to be funny on purpose. Usually I'll set out to write something serious and profound, and my first readers tell me, "I didn't expect it to be so funny!" Well, um... neither did I. ;)

elissa said...

amy, yes, the hornby book made me laugh in a lot of places, too...mostly with things like absurd dialogue or completely odd plot points where I'm like, "I cannot believe this is happening!" and I agree about it being difficult to be funny on purpose. I mean, I think it's hard because I'm not able to sit down and say, Okay, I'm going to write something funny. It would sound forced and cheesy and if it actually made people laugh, it would be because they were groan-laughing. people who can write humor on purpose impress me, I guess. and yes, sometimes what others find laugh-out-loud hilarious, I'll barely smile.

I've laughed while reading Then We Came to the End, also!

brittanimae said...

Fanny Flagg--so funny, so random, so unexpected. I still remember reading her diatribe on men and balls in Fried Green Tomatoes--I think I was still laughing a week later. And Mark Twain. Never gets old.

elissa said...

great suggestions, britt! thanks for commenting! :D

CDP said...

I also love David Sedaris, and I sneer at people who say he's not funny, because he's hilarious. If you have never read Wodehouse, especially the Jeeves and Bertie novels or the Lord Emsworth novels, he was absolutely hilarious. I also love Haven Kimmel and Merrill Markoe. Currently, my kids are enjoying the sophisticated bathroom humor of the Captain Underpants novels. God help me.

elissa said...

cdp, I'm so glad you brought up Wodehouse--my student teacher was reading one (can't remember which book) during silent reading and frequently cracked up while we were supposed to be silent! He would pass the book over and make me read sections, and you're right! Hilarious! And oh, Captain Underpants. We haven't "discovered" those books here quite yet, but the bathroom humor phase can't be far off now! Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

Man said...

Stephen King can be hilarious at times.

Kristan said...

Sedaris is a good one. And I think Nora Roberts does a good job keeping her humor in her stories.

That's all that comes to mind right now (sorry my brain is fried!!) but like you, I really admire humorous writers, because that's not a strong point of mine. I would LOVE to be witty like Jon Stewart.

ALT said...

I really love GOOD OMENS. That book made me laugh out loud so much as I was reading it. (This was years ago, BUT HEY.)

Way to rock, Monkey Mama. :p