Friday, April 3, 2009
the process of being funny
I have always envied comedians - especially improv specialists. I would watch them perform onstage, and marvel at how they could be so funny without any (apparent) effort or preparation.
One of the qualities I have always loved about my best friend is that she seems to live with one foot squarely in the realm of the sublimely ridiculous at all times. I have occasionally thought of funny things to say, myself... but usually about 13.75 hours after the comment would have had the most comedic impact.
When I began writing for my blogs, I was delighted to discover a latent funniness creeping into some of my posts. I didn't know where the humour came from, but celebrated its presence nonetheless.
Since joining Twitter, however, I have begun a grossly unscientific study of how words become funny. (And in the process have laid a lot of rotten eggs. I might humbly add.)
My first observation is that funny stuff can indeed bubble up spontaneously from the netherworld. I don't know exactly where ideas come from (although I have always been fond of Stephen King's explanation: His muse comes along and shits on his head), but I have learned that - sometimes - funny ideas are just there for the taking.
I have also observed that funny can't be forced. Many's the time I have been setting up what seems like a really awesome joke... only to choke at the punchline. Which never comes.
Other times, I can't seem to stop the flood: One funny idea will lead to another one, and then another one, and then suddenly EVERYTHING within my puny reach seems ripe for ridicule.
Which leads me to yet another observation (that I first made years ago while watching that episode of ST-TNG where Data tries to figure out what makes things funny): usually "funny" also involves "laughing at somebody's pain or hardship."
Which in turn has made me kind of ambivalent about humour, and even more determined to stay on the "Force" side of the laughter fence (as opposed to going over to the Dark Side). (Not to be confused with the DarkTime, Laurie.) (Laurie is my aforementioned best friend (who may very well be the only person ever to read this post), and she owns a canary who calls night-time "The DarkTime." Nevermind.)
I recently blocked a Twitter follower who was upset that I had made a joke out of one of her tweets. I'm not proud of what I did (although it was funny). I am determined to use my powers for good. Which in the end (I find) is leading me to what I like to call the "Lucille Ball" school of humour... i.e. Making Fun of Oneself First and Above All Else.
(I have a spectacularly huge amount of material to work with there. Thankfully. Although it does seem to entail injecting an astonishing number of menstrual references into my tweets. Sorry about that part.)
Another observation I've had is that sometimes (most of the time, perhaps) I can't think of any funny thoughts at all. And I've had to come to terms with the fact that I can't be making myself giggle every moment of the day. (Heaven knows I'll save a lot of money on Depends if I don't.)
My most recent observation is that humour is like a muscle: The more I use it, the stronger and more reliable it becomes. And what I love most about my new-found comedic sense is that it's making me see the world in a different way. I'm always looking for the snort-milk-out-my-nose underbelly of every situation, now. And suddenly, the world is much more interesting. Without the addition of recreational drugs, I might add.
Which reminds me of a true story: Last night I was on the phone talking to a friend with whom I've recently been reconnected, and at one point in the conversation he said, "Do you mind if I roll?"
And I, in my total obliviousness, though he said "row." As in row on his rowing machine, or something. Which would have been fine with me, although a little bizarre. I didn't realize he was that much of a work-out nut.
Just to be safe, I asked, "What???"
"Do you mind if I roll?"
"R-O-L-L?" I stubbornly spelled out, picturing him now physically rolling back and forth on his living room floor. Just for fun. Which would also have been bizarre, but hey - to each his own.
Then the penny dropped, and I realized he was talking about weed. Which he then explained he used to unwind at night and make his subsequent working hours the next day more bearable. To which I responded, "I think I use Twitter that way."
So if nothing else (and it's not chopped liver), my Twitter activities are preventing me from taking up a much more expensive habit. And avoiding the subsequent loss of brain cells.
Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/emelgy