Thursday, September 25, 2014

Funny, Is That You?

Shirley Jackson, one of my favorite authors, wrote stories so scary they inspired Stephen King. She also wrote funny stuff about her family. How can that be? Because Shirley Jackson was one smart dame, that’s why. 

Or as one of my professors told me, “Literature deals with the heart; humor deals with the intellect.”

Thus we see: Smart people know what’s funny. Kind of. Most of the time. Sure. Sure.

I write funny stuff. That’s what people tell me. I’m often stunned when people tell me this, because when I’m writing the funny stuff I’m never laughing. Mostly, I’m steamed or annoyed or moody or itchy.

I’ve actually been at parties where I was introduced as “that funny lady who writes funny stuff.” After which people stared at me—waiting—for me to break into my standup routine, I guess. Sorry. Don’t have a standup routine. All I have is my life. Funny. You bet.

Unfortunately, a lot of modern humor falls into the category of “bathos” or “low comedy.” This type of humor often deals with excrement, sex, farting, or being drunk enough to include all of the above.

My husband, a guy I laugh with and at quite a bit, found me one day pounding away at my laptop.

He said, “What’cha writing.”

“I’m determined to win this national humor writing contest I’m always entering. I’ve been second in the nation. I’ve been honorably mentioned. I’ve been a semi-finalist. But I’ve never won.”


“Because I don’t drink.”

“What are you talking about?”

“A lot of the winning stories have to do with getting drunk, staying drunk, anticipating being drunk, or mocking the drunken.”

“But you don’t drink.”

“Yeah, but I’ve been around a lot of little boys who can fart the alphabet. I bet I can fake it.”

He left me to it.

I watched a romantic comedy the other day that relied quite heavily on bathos for its comedic comedy. One of the gags included the clogging of various toilets by an unwanted houseguest. Bathos = excrement. 

All I could think was, “Who’s going to clean that up?” I did not laugh.

One of my kids (who shall remain nameless so I won’t have to pay her a dollar every time I use her name) decided pooping was too gross and she was not going to do it anymore. She was above pooping. She was three. And a real pip. 

For two weeks she was good for it. The problem with the no-poop challenge is the human body. Not only did this kid poop, she pooped constantly—just not a lot. Think buffalo head nickel size spots, times 1,000. It was disgusting.

Finally, concerned that the kid was about to explode, I stripped her naked, stuck her on the baby potty, stuck a box of prunes in one hand, and a cup of prune juice in the other and said, “Don’t get up until you take a dump.”

What came out of that kid was . . . beyond description and not the least bit funny. 

The best part of this story is that she now has a kid of her own that’s pulling the same crap about pooping. 

Bathos = excrement.

Humor is tricky, and I’m always surprised by what people find funny. It’s never what I think it’s going to be. 

I have another grown kid who laughs every single time you say the word, “Poop.” She has the soul of a little boy who can fart the alphabet.

Linda (Humor Writer and Thrill Seeker) Zern

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