Where’s The Funny?

Posted: October 31, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in Home, Me & Mine, Observations
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

“Everybody thinks they have good taste, and a sense of humor,
but they couldn’t possibly all have . . . “

In order to garner more traffic to my ramblings here, my faithful editor and BFF; Gow has done her best to drill into my thick skull to read other people’s blogs and to comment on them. I have finally started to listen to the Gow and to browse other people’s writing and leave oh-so-clever commentary. The Gow was right. It has increased traffic to my blog. I have also gotten to meet some amazing and insightful writers out there too. I make a concerted effort not to leave oh-so-clever snarky commentary. I leave sincere compliments. I think hard as to what to “say” to these humorists, satirists, and story tellers. There are some very talented, gifted and flat out amazing writers/bloggers out there; people who blow my bittersweet observations about poor cell phone etiquette and irritable bowel syndrome out of the water. I read some of these pieces awestruck, with my mouth hanging agape like a simpleton who took 8 years to learn to tie his shoe laces or to wave bye-bye. They make me realize how far I have to go as a writer.

There are also some writers out there who simply suck.

Far be it for me to discourage people who like, love, need to, or want to write. I have never and would never write any negative commentary to a fellow blogger. To date I haven’t gotten any negative commentary, which I would hope to attribute to having some small level of skill. I also have the benefit of a best friend and editor who shares my sense of humor, is a fan of my work, who I respect to tell me the truth and reel me in. As a result my crappier work doesn’t survive to see the light of computer monitors. I don’t delude myself into thinking the world is a polite place. I just spent the past 6 weeks in a cast and have had the pleasure of observing my fellow man (and woman) blithely stand by whilst I struggle to open doors, or crutch quickly to elevators that close in my face as their passengers stare blankly ahead pretending not to see the man on crutches. I imagine them all breaking out into loud and raucous laughter, high fiving each other and imitating my crutch skills after the elevator door closes and proceeds up. “Did you see that? He almost made it! HAHA!”

The worst commentary I have received has been from people being entirely too literal with my ‘over the top’ comedy. People may find me funny, people may not. People may think I am childish, stupid, crude or any number of things. But, people taking things too literally is the arch nemesis of comedic observations. “Why are the priest, the rabbi and Paris Hilton in a life raft?”

Why must I share a planet with these people?

Years ago, a struggling actor walked into a reading for a TV pilot (This is a story, not a joke) The TV show’s premise was about a local pub in Boston and the trials and tribulations of the staff and it’s regulars. The actor read for the part, was thanked and “we’ll let you know’d”. The actor wasn’t pleased with his reading and knew he wouldn’t get the part. Thinking quickly he turned to the pilot’s producers, casting crew and directors and asked “Have you given any thought to a bar know- it- all?” The show became Cheers, one of the most popular television shows of all time, and the actor became Cliff Clavin the annoying, yet loveable bar know-it-all. Watching the character of Cliff Clavin is funny and something we can relate to. Being up close and personal with an actual know-it-all is maddening. Some people aren’t proficient at creating funny, even though they possess a terrific sense of humor. Other people simply don’t have a sense of humor or an instinct for humor. It is important for these people to recognize this and not comment upon comedy until they have sought help.

“It’s a little known fact, there Carla, that some people don’t HAVE a sense of humor.”

My ex-boss Wayne had no sense of humor to speak of, although he had an inkling of the instinct. He never found anything funny, but like a comedic sociopath he understood certain reactions were expected of him in various social settings. It was fascinating to watch Wayne pretend to enjoy a joke or funny story. He’d pry off the miserable scowl that was pasted on his face, actually making a sound similar to that of the Tin Man before Dorothy and the Scarecrow gave him a lube job “….oiiiil cnnnn…oil can”. Then he would create what he imagined to be a smile, lift his head back slowly and say “ Haaaaaa … OK …” He needed practice.

A few years back I had a young woman reading my work religiously, which normally thrills me to bits. This woman was a fan, I suppose, but she seemed to miss the over-the-top style of my writing entirely and would comment on every piece and dispel every exaggeration. For example; if I was writing a piece about the long waits in a doctor’s office, the inordinate amount of screaming babies present and magazines so old they were written on papyrus. Her response was “I work in a doctor’s office and there is no way that you waited “three weeks” in the office to see the doctor. Most offices close at 6 or 7 pm. Also sometimes parents have to bring their children to the office because they can’t find a sitter…” After about 2 weeks of literal corrections and observations I finally wrote a piece about humorless people who have no business reading, much less commenting on comedy blogs. Maybe said people would be happier reading instruction manuals.

She got the hint.

Just as we can’t all be professional athletes, gifted musicians, successful businessmen…we can’t all be funny, and we can’t all have a good sense of humor. The key is to recognize these things.

  1. Gutsy post, ST.

    My secret problem that is not so secret now that I’m throwing it out there with the hope that nobody notices, is that I generally find (other people’s) blogs hard to read, largely uninteresting, and at times, painfully unfunny. And I have yet to find the will/cajones to say so in a kindly, albeit satirical and/or edgy manner because of fear of alienation. Which begs the question: Who is it we are writing for, exactly?

    Unfortunately much like everyone else, all I know is that I’m the funniest guy I know. I crack me up.

  2. Thanks Tim. Gutsy? Yes I suppose in a way. I was hesitant to write ( or more accurately to post) this piece as I didn’t want to hurt anyone. You say cojones, but I suspect it’s probably more a case of good manners with a splash of empathy. It’s a simple case of “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” I think cojones come into play, in that we don’t particularly want to deal with nasty backlash.

    Happiness can come in such small doses in this world and who the hell am I (or anyone) to rip on someone who isn’t terribly funny posting a blog under “Humor” I actually find myself more offended these days with all the financial spam being posted under humor which I wish WordPress would attend to. How are the major networks going to discover our genius with all that crap floating around?

    Also, as I am sure you know or can guess..writing and comedy are like a musical instrument. You don’t pick up a sax and start with the East Street Band. I’ve gotten better as a writer, and maybe some of these groaners will too.

    Another biggee is that sarcasm and dry humor can translate terribly in online communication.

    Thanks for weighing in.


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