O Clodia, Catullus wrote Rome,
that you could but open your home
to my swift hot invasion,
and don't mar the occasion,
with lauds to that dolt - Cicero! Hm!
Above all else, I delight in cleverness. When reading, that often means puns and other forms of wordplay; with visual media, there can be the additional dimension of a character's actions mirroring or contrasting with their mannerisms, dialogue or accent.
These days, puns are underappreciated, relegated to opening-monologue punchlines and thrown-together internet memes. (Walken on Sunshine, anyone? ) Back in the day, it was different: Shakespeare, for example, included them in some form in every single one of his plays. One memorable example is Mercutio's dying comment in Romeo and Juliet: "Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man."
Similarly, my favorite comedy is the 1992 flick Noises Off!, a comedy of errors about a theater troupe rehearsing a comedy-of-errors. It helps that every one of the film's ensemble cast either already was, or went on to become, a name actor.
A number of times; I quote it a lot, too. (FYI: Julie Hagerty, who plays Elaine, is one of the aforementioned "name actors" in Noises Off!)
What makes it work so well is that it's a send-up of not just its source material (the 50s movie Zero Hour!) but of the entire disaster film genre. It comes back to what I said before: pick your trope, veer off, and see whether you can land it safely. And maybe even solve that drinking problem.
Dinosaur FactoriesThere used to be smelly old dinosaur factories,
Offensive to all of our senses olfactory;
The public complained they were dissatisfactory
In the rate of production of things pteridactory.
Those factories were, as I've heard, quite eyesores,
And each day they sent out big earsplitting roars
The government issued a ban, furthermore,
And that was the end of the great Dinosaur.
Why I Don't Write HaikuThe thing with haiku -
you start with this deep message
and then run out of
You mean, besides cheesy puns?
We're all shaped by our experiences. Mine includes learning the hard way that just like rock beats scissors, fists beat snark. Often to a pulp. So disparaging comments evolved into self-deprecating jokes, and from there into light satire.
Humor is the ability to surprise and delight; so when I run with an idea, it's often at a 90-degree angle from what you might expect. There's an element of whimsy in much of my light verse, and a kind of absurdist reality with my humorous prose. It's a classic writer's trick: pick a trope, subvert it, and see what follows.
And wordplay, of course, plays a big part as well. It's more than just puns: you have homonyms and contronyms, clever acronyms and made-up words, lighthearted rhythm and rhyme, unexpected turns and twist endings.
Fighting IntoleranceMy fellow Americans and Swiss, and Provolone, and even that fellow over there from Tibet:
No more shall we, as the saying goes, stand alone! It is time to let our pressers I mean, oppressors know that their rancid regime is about to rind down excuse me, wind down.
For far too long, we cheeses have been treated as second-class foods. Grains and meats garner all the glory, while we languish half-forgotten in the endmost dairy case. It's no surprise that many of us suffer from low self-esteem! And occasionally, heartburn.
Some people will actually go out of their way to avoid us! What have we done to earn such scorn? We are certainly not ashamed of our history and our heritage as curdled milk. Perhaps there is a subtler, more sinister reason?
(By the way, who let in the representative from Limburg? Somebody, please, open a window!)
Well, no more shall we allow them to string us along; we demand our own thick slice on the pantheon of foods! We are
The Original HipsterRelocated. Grew beard.
Muckraking!Rake deflowers dirty hoes, spreads seed.
I'd say to start by paying attention to what catches your eye; if it stands out, there's a good chance there's a reason. Listen for syllabobbling and Freudian slips: they might spark ideas for wordplay.
Read jokes. Listen to jokes. Tell jokes. Get a feel for timing: are you trying to cram together too much too fast, or taking so long your audience loses interest? Experiment and discover which kind of humor best fits your persona: silly (Dave Barry), sneaky (Ellen DeGeneres), snarky (Dennis Leary), surprising (George Takei), surreal (Tim Minchin) or somatic (Rowan Atkinson).
In general, if it surprises and delights you, find a way to share that with others. According to the ads for every online dating site, they'll love you for it.
Performers? That's your takeaway? No love for the alliteration? Aw, man...
All kidding aside for the moment, the issue with writers is that their narrative voice can be at odds with the reader's impressions, often deliberately. (Witness how many romance writers are actually male, for instance.) Onscreen, for the most part you can't hide what you look like; and rightly or wrongly, that will color your audience's perceptions and expectations.
That's why actors like Leslie Nielsen have struggled with typecasting, while authors such as Bill Bryson and David Sedaris haven't. When either one releases a humorous memoir, it's warmly received; and when they decide to switch things up, their latest offering is judged on its own merits.
Previously, I'd perceived your particular pique apropos playful puns. Plus putrid poetry. Plainly, I'm perplexed.
TapewormNobody ever mentions tapeworms when they think of creation. Somehow, we didn't make it into Genesis. I guess parasites didn't sound that epic to the ancient Jews.
We were there, though. Well, one of us was. Most everybody came in pairs back then, but being asexual beings, nobody really enforced the quota with us. Its name was Bob, pioneer of our kind. Like I said, not epic-sounding.
The anonymity doesn't even really bother me that much. I mean, nobody ever makes an effort to harm tapeworms until they find out we exist. It was the same back then; Adam hadn't the foggiest idea that Bob was sharing in on his meals, but hey--food was free, pain didn't exist, and
we all had to live somewhere.
No, what really bothers me is that we got kicked out of paradise for something we didn't even do. Eve wants to eat an apple? Fine, I'm down with that. Eve wants to get herself and he
Trouser, SnakeA natty pair of trousers came upon
A gracile set of stockings, quite by chance.
"Milady, say the word and I'll begone,
But firstly I must ask if thou wouldst dance."
"Of course, milord; but only if romance
And not a one-time fling dost thou propose."
"Thou hast my promise," acquiesced the pants,
Even as he sidled toward the hose.
In a manner unbefitting gallant clothes
He sought to lay himself upon her silk;
"Stop, cad!" she cried, "So thou'rt one of those!
My mother said to watch out for thy ilk."
Much wiser heads have voiced it best and first:
Those Worsted wools have always been the worst.
Sestina: Dick and WangRichard, whose nickname is Dick,
set out to make wieners.
He approached the cock
and grabbed the metal rod
to kill it when--Ding-dong!
the doorbell rang. It was Wang.
Wang Long, who insisted on Wang,
called out: "You there, Dick?"
He didn't reply. The rooster clucked. Ding-dong!
the doorbell sang. Dick needed to make wieners.
He hefted the rod
and swung at the cock
but missed and hit the table. Bam! The cock
squawked and ran. "What was that?" said Wang.
Dick replied, "Nothing!" and raised his rod
to swing again. Bam! Another miss. Bam! Dick
really needed to make wieners.
Wang hit the button: Ding-dong!
it rang again. Ding-dong!
it sang again and the cock
ran again to avoid becoming wieners.
Dick sighed and in the background, Wang
asked if he was alright. Dick
sighed again and let go of the rod
which fell with a loud clatter. The rod
rolled on the floor. Ding-dong!
the doorbell went and Dick
walked to the door and opened it. The co
Well, I used to belong to a group which could only keep in touch via phone calls and actual written letters; and now... I'm dating myself.
It's an example of a paraprosdokian, or garden path sentence: it's been set up in such a way that you're led to expect one meaning, and have to 'back up' to a different one. It's also a double entendre, in that the original interpretation also works, in a wink-wink sort of way.
So now tell me: did the explanation ruin the joke?
The Asparagus Evening
A vegetable that was once savoured
by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Good for them.
It's my first time; and I'm apprehensive.
Four small trees sit on my plate.
They're awaiting their crown
of ghee and mashed egg.
They sit there; menacing.
Taunting me, waiting for my reaction.
The condiments are passed around.
It's my turn next.
Mission: Garnish said vegetable.
Ghee; drizzled. Egg; smothered.
The drinks have been toasted,
good health was wished for all.
Cutlery is gently knocked
against our plates as
we prepare for the meal.
Dinner has begun.
I'll start with them and
get it over as quick as possible.
My fork penetrates the thick green skin
of the stalk.
I take my first cut.
My Father tuts.
No, no! I'm doing it all wrong!
Did he expect me to take lessons before we sat down?
He instructs me;
start from the end and
work your way up to the head.
That way, the taste gets better.
It was obvious by now, that
Massacre of the InnocenceGeorgie Porgie threw an orgy
just outside L.A.,
where Jack Be Nimble grabbed his thimble,
outing him as gay...
Little Jack Horner bought Time Warner
before the bubble burst,
though Jumping Jack Flash saw the crash
and liquidated first...
Jack said Jill was taking the Pill
to ward off impregnation;
the Three Blind Mice have lobbied twice
for victim's compensation...
Little Miss Muffet had her tuffet
and Little Bo Peep married a creep;
lamb chops gave him gout...
Jack Sprat's wife went under the knife
for Lap-Band surgery,
then Third Little Pig struck it big
on reality TV...
Old King Cole's gone on the dole,
exposed as a pretender;
while Wee Wil
I do; I'm the wittiest person I know. Except for everyone I know who happens to be wittier.
Absolutely! Let's take Douglas Adams, for example: the Hitchhiker's series started out as a stream-of-'what the hey?' radio program: perfect for transcribing to the written word, though not so much for the TV show that attempted to follow it.
But for my money, his best series features Dirk Gently, a down-on-his-luck detective who actively relies on coincidence and fate to solve his unusual cases. The ongoing crazy juxtaposition between the supernatural and the mundane, as well as the books' bizarre but internally-consistent leaps of logic, is a large part of its appeal; even after you found out whodunit, you're willing to reread it just to watch 'em done it again.
For me, the Dirk Gently books work better because there's a smoother narrative flow. H2G2 started out as a series of vignettes, which Adams was sometimes still finishing up even while the tapes were already rolling. This catch-as-catch-can mindset is reflected in the books (and again in the movie) where the radio serials were rewritten and rearranged to make somewhat better sense.
Whereas the humorous asides (that turn out to be clever foreshadowing) scattered throughout Dirk Gently are evidence of a more coherent master plan — almost holistic, if you'll forgive the minor pun. Adams's reorganization of the Hitchhikers books brings them close to that ideal; but I think if anyone tried to bring them any closer (Eoin Colfer, I'm looking at you ) some of their magic would wind up being lost.
Which is as good a reason as any to stop and enjoy a spot of tea. A long, dark spot of tea.
The book wasn't terrible; it was just a little too planned-out, a little too enamored of its source material. Colfer might've been trying a little too hard; kind of like those Whedon wannabes. Which is understandable: there's a lot of pressure in trying to live up to expectations based on someone else's success.
Day 191Every morning I stand, shivering a little, measuring up my body.
Is my bum a little bigger? Are my breasts a little smaller?
Is it my imagination or is the skin on my thighs a little rougher?
It's a good thing there's no way for me to examine my insides-
or I might be there all day, checking out my heart, my kidneys,
my digestive tract. Is it my imagination or is my liver a little bigger?
Much Ado About Sound and Fury"His majesty seemed in a better mood this eve. One might almost say he was amused."
"King Claudius, amused? I was standing beside you, my friend; but I noticed no such thing."
"Did you not hear him chuckling as we took our leave?"
"That was a chuckle? To me it sounded more of a chortle."
"A chortle? Don't be ridiculous. It was quick and free, with a bit of a lilt at the end. Such clearly denotes a chuckle."
"A lilt it may have had, I'll grant; but 'twas also deep and throaty. Almost sinister. If anything bespeaks of chortling, 'tis that."
"Sinister? My dear friend, I love you like a brother: but such utter foolishness has never before forced its way past your lips."
"You don't deny it was as throaty in the middle as lilting at the end?"
"Of course not! King Claudius is a powerful man; 'tis no surprise he has the voice to match. I merely suggest that you and I of course mean this in the most loving of ways have clearly misplaced half your wit."
"No offense is taken; I shar
ConfessionI told my little brother
That Santa Claus hates him
And the elves all sit around
Throwing darts at his picture;
I told him that the Tooth Fairy
Zapped the Easter Bunny
With her Fluoride Ray of Death
And then got hit by a truck;
I told him that alligators live in sewers
And boa constrictors in toilets
And spiders and scorpions
In little boys' beds;
I told him Jurassic Park was real
And it happened in Ohio
And when it failed they'd started planning
To buy our city park;
Yesterday I told him the Boogeyman
Was coming after him tonight
And he'd better find a place to hide―
And that's when he started to laugh.
So I asked him what was so funny
And he said the Boogeyman wasn't real
But Mom was, and she was standing
Right behind me
And boy did she look mad.
It's a tricky balance. The more familiar you are with a genre, the less likely you are to make rookie mistakes ("I know; I'll do a comedy involving time travel! Bet no one's ever thought of that one before!") but also the less likely you are to think outside the box. ("Time travel comedies? Meh; they've been done to death.")
At a minimum, you should probably make yourself aware of the trope, and any notable examples of skewering it. For this, TVTropes is your friend...if by 'friend' you mean someone you invite over to hang out with you all day, causing you to get nothing productive done. And then you decide to invite them back tomorrow.
Finger foods. You're not gonna want to tear yourself away long enough to stop and cook.
arborescent angstthe grass is depressed
and scarred from
even the flowers are blue
hiding a deep dark
while the cool kids ignore
fat slow unwanted
and avoid the compost heap
since learning it's full
these are my roots
i wish i could
We're All Mad Here I stand on a balcony overlooking a hedge maze. Not your wimpy, little kid hedge maze, I'm talking seven-feet-tall, two-feet-thick, don't-you-think-about-jumping-over-me bush. There are stairs to either side of me leading to a fountain with some faux-Roman statue of an anatomically unfortunate man and two entrances to the aforementioned labyrinth. The light is the distinct quality of rainy afternoons minus the precipitation, the weather cool and crisp. There is a periwinkle cat dozing on the balustrade to my right, tail curled around it with evidence of uniquely feline contentment.
Well, this is picturesque, I think to myself, when the cat stands, stretches with spine-straining satisfaction, and leaps down to twine 'twixt my legs. Its fur is thoroughly downy, with tufted ears and an insistence for cuddling. I crouch down beside him to better please his demands.
Just as we settle into mutual
Does the humor have to have an agenda or an overall meaning? Not necessarily; you can be goofy for goofiness's sake. (Cf. Dave Barry, or Shel Silverstein's poetry.)
Does having a position or a theme in mind add to the punch of the piece? When done right, I'd say it can; but humorists have to be wary of troweling it on too thick. Audiences, including readerships, aren't stupid; they don't want to be preached at. (Satirists get a bit more of a free pass; absurdity is one of the hallmarks of the form.)
Classic humor with a message includes Robert Heinlein's Glory Road, Cervantes's Don Quixote, the bulk of Christopher Moore's novels, and just about any short story by James Thurber or Mark Twain.
The Angry Monkey and The PlumThere once was an angry monkey.
He was angry because someone had stolen his plum.
It was the best plum he had ever tasted.
He tasted it and tasted it and tasted it until suddenly it wasn't there anymore.
Somebody must have stolen it!
The angry monkey wondered who it could have been.
Nobody else had been around him at the time; the thief must be invisible!
Or stealthy like a ninja.
Yes, that sounded right. It must have been a ninja.
The angry monkey vowed to find the ninja.
He looked everywhere for t
Religion Free DVD PlayerAs an avowed atheist, I've always despised overt religious subtext in my movies. So when I ran across a back-alley electronics shop offering "Religion Free DVD Players", I snatched one up faster than a Southern Baptist preacher could call out, "Hallelujah!"
Set-up was a breeze, thank Nobody. So the first movie I popped in was one of my favorites, The Wizard of Oz.
Well, by the time the angelic Glinda introduces herself to saintly little Dorothy in front of the Munchkin choir, I was already beginning to suspect that something might be off. And it only got worse, as her ragtag band of pilgrims undergoes their yellow-brick hajj to the Emerald Mosque: complete with the decadent drug-fueled temptation to abandon the journey; the air assault by, and subsequent ritual stoning of, Satan's winged minions; the circling of the Ka'aba while searching for its concealed entrance; the ultimate purification of Evil with a convenient bucket of holy water; the climactic meeti
FailsafesThe New Rochette Nuclear Power Facility No. 2 control room had a lot of lights, all of them square and neatly arranged in various states of blinking and non-blinking.
New Rochette Nuclear Power Facility No. 2 Control Room Night Operator Barry Lewis would occasionally stare ahead at the rows of lights before him and imagine them to be the multi-colored panels of a disco floor. Upon this floor he would dance away the long, monotonous nights and let the syncopated music flowing through his head block out the low hums and drones of a myriad of partsnone of which he had ever bothered to become intimately acquainted with.
His job, as was stated by his supervisor at his first day of employment at the facility, was to make sure none of the lights would turn red even though they never would, as every possible bug and technical glitch had been squashed out following the incident at New Rochette Nuclear Power Facility No. 1, previously known as the Rochette Nuclear Power Facility as there h
Thank you for providing me with the chance to riff on one of my favorite topics. And maybe even offer up a few chuckles along the way.
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