How Humor Writing Makes Me Giggle
by Jean Youkers
I’ve always enjoyed writing humorous articles, often making myself chuckle when I’m wrestling with some crazy idea that just won’t stop, even when I’m trying to sleep. I recently took an informal poll of some of my writing colleagues at the Writers Breakfast Club to learn if others enjoy reading funny stuff and if so, what makes it work for them. The first person said he liked “warm, unaggressive humor” without cussing or mocking. He also likes “mundane things looked at from a rare angle.” Others said they like “everyday situations,” which can be funnier than stories that are made up. Parodies, dry humor and tongue-in-cheek writing amuse several other writers, as does “clever dialogue.” While this was not an exhaustive survey, I concluded that nobody dislikes humor writing (thank goodness!) and that various techniques appeal. Thank you to those who allowed me to pick your brains.
Looking back on my life so far, some of my most enjoyable moments have been seeking the humor in it. Considering whether there might actually be a method to my madness, I came up with some techniques that have worked for me over the years that I would like to share.
- Take one simple idea and allow yourself to be carried away with it. From an ordinary moment of boredom, stuck in the grocery store line, I entertained myself by speculating on what the next customer in line might be planning to do with 14 giant-sized boxes of Cheerios that I had surreptitiously counted in her cart. I then put these musings into an article called “Serious Cereal.” On another occasion, I noticed how many local restaurants had numbers in their names – Five Guys, Two Cousins, Six Paupers – and couldn’t resist a search for an establishment with a Four in its name. I persisted megalomaniacally in this pursuit until a friend finally took me to a Pennsylvania restaurant called Four Dogs Tavern. (I stole a coaster and hid it like a dog with a bone.) I couldn’t stop – next I proposed a variety of mergers and divisions to create restaurants with the number Three in their names. At the grocery store, I’m often stymied trying to retrieve an item from the top shelf, which causes me to think of dozens of creative ways this might be accomplished by a short woman. Eventually, I’ll have to stop random (short) shoppers to ask for their input. This is inevitable.
- Exaggeration may be your best friend. One story that I’ve written in numerous variations “Driving Lessons”, about my father teaching me to drive, is entirely true except for the exaggeration. Having a traumatic, seemingly interminable experience with a bathroom renovation, I wrote a story that made that adventure sound more like an alien invasion destroying my very sanity by making every torturous day sound even more so.
- Mining your own stressful moments for humor. Someone once told me, “today’s crisis is tomorrow’s funny story” and I have never forgotten that! Being an optimist, I seize my life’s worst moments as gifts from which hilarious descriptions can be fashioned, for example, our bathroom renovation. (See “Exaggeration.”) I well remember the night my husband and I wrecked both of our cars by colliding in our own driveway. High frustration raged on that dark and fateful night. I knew it would one day make a really funny story – just not that day.
- Let go of the fear that you won’t be perceived as a “serious writer.” Life can be stressful (see above) and somebody needs to provide a little comic relief. Laughter is good for the mind and body and if we can provide a bit of it to anyone, it will be appreciated. And maybe you’ll become a millionaire. (See “Exaggeration.”)
- Write for the joy of doing so, rather than becoming paralyzed by your audience’s potential response. If I fall off my chair consumed by hysterical laughter as I write, then I know readers will at least experience a tiny chuckle. What I really like to do is what I did as a child – have fun writing, using unexpected words to create absurd images and use most anything I read to create parodies. And most of all, I love to exaggerate! Since I have been attending various classes sponsored by the Written Remains Writers Guild, I’ve felt liberated and encouraged to go ahead and do all of these things. One example follows.
Flash (in the pan) Fiction
I was cooking with gas, rolling down Kirkwood Highway in Wilmington, when suddenly I had to swerve to avoid an enormous potholder, not wanting to throw my mini-pan out of alignment. But alas, my front tong flew up over the crust and I hit a large blue US bread box.
I baked up into the traffic and simmered for 10 minutes because a hostile gourmet chef was tailgating too close on my buns. So I braised suddenly. He slammed into the rear of my vehicle, causing a multi-pan fender blender, involving another mini-pan, a compact carrot and two casserole dishes.
Bowled over, I jumped out and, already pre-heated, arrived at a roiling boil and did not mince any words.
Waving my aprons, I cursed at the driver. There was a big ugly spatula on my left rear fender and glass had spewed all over the counter. We forked over our recipes for insurance purposes but I still insisted upon calling the copper kettle to assess the situation.
Spoon, the gendarme arrived and I learned that my driving had been caught on caramel and I strained to understand that I was being sifted for reckless drizzling.
I asked if I could make a colander to my avocado but the officer said no dice.
So I sautéed up to him, battered my eyelashes and pureed in his ear, hoping to stir up his sympathy. He could have carrot less. A total fricassee ensued when he asked to see if I could walk a straight lime.
“What the kale? Do you think I’m marinated?” I cried.
“Asparagus the drama, ladle,” he said. He was so rutabaga; he had wild wire whiskers, sifty eyes and his name was herb.
I pranced along the sidewalk, buttering to myself, “What a crock pot.” I thought I was doing grate until he bellowed,
“This is no artichoke!”
I knew I was in a pickle; I was stirred, but not shaken still believing I might wok. Instead I was charged with reckless drizzling, driving with an expired refrigeration, resisting oregano and transporting coconut while marinated. The turkey put ham cuffs on me; my hopes were squashed, my reputation garnished and my rage was all to no arugula.
The copper kettle just threw me into the jello celery and threw away the kiwi.
© 2017 Copyright Jean Youkers
- Jean Youkers, a member of the Wright Touch Writing Group and the Red Dragonfly Haiku Poets, loves to write humorous articles, poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in the “Beach Days” anthology, “Delaware Beach Life” magazine, “The Cicada’s Cry: A Micro Zine of Haiku Poetry” and local publications. She frequently enjoys and benefits from attending the classes and workshops offered by the Written Remains Writers Guild.