Thursday, August 11, 2011

Writing Humor: Not as Easy as it Looks!

Think of the funniest movie you've ever seen (me: Forgetting Sarah Marshall is definitely in the top five). Now think of the funniest book you've ever read (me: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is one I read awhile back, and I just ordered Jenna McCarthy's "If It Was Easy, They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married" after watching the hilarious book trailer. I anticipate this will rank up there in the hilarity category). 

Now take a moment and admire the genius of the authors and screenwriters who crack you up because let me tell you, humor ain't easy. 

And never has that been more clear to me than this week when I entered Nathan Bransford's Funny Writing Contest.

Here's what I learned from reflecting on how to write humor and reading other writer's entries:
  1. Humor is highly (HIGHLY!) individual
  2. Humor is highly contextual. And it take times to build context. Being funny in 350 words or less? Yeah...brutal.
  3. Humor is harder when confined to the written word, robbed of intonation, hand gestures, and face-making
Now that you're really depressed and stressed out, I'll share my entry, which is pulled from my narrative non-fiction work-in-progress. Which will now seem dazzlingly clever and infinitely hilarious. Let me remind you it's NON-fiction. That means it really, really happened. So not only will I seem like a super genius for writing humor, you'll also feel really bad for me for living through this. (SCORE!)


So far, my business trip is off to a less-than-stellar start. Despite the fact that my hotel is upwards of $600 a night, I’m starting to think it’s an establishment of questionable repute. Upon returning to my room after a day of being hard at it corporate style—over whiteboards, spreadsheets, and catered mini-muffins—I’d found housekeeping had indeed visited my room, and in addition to new generic mini soaps, they’d also left a fecal log in the toilet that had to have been at least ten inches long.

Duly impressed, I briefly considered immortalizing my discovery with a quick camera phone shot. I could even use my distinctly unfeminine ten-inch hand span for scale. But realizing this ploy would require closer physical proximity to a stranger’s excrement, I’d quickly discarded this initial impulse.

Getting down to business, I’d tried to flush with the pointed toe of one shoe. But instead of flushing, the toilet had flooded—spouting from the bowl like a veritable fountain. Perched as I was, precariously on one foot with the other midair on the flush handle, I’d been unable to retract my leg and run as swiftly I would’ve liked to safety.

So yes, I got poo-water on me. And that’s never good. But that was only the beginning.

Because the water had gushed forth like a geyser, by the time I was able to scramble in an ungainly fashion out of there, the contaminated water was already half an inch deep in the bathroom and rushing into the bedroom, where I was frantically running around, packing. I’d never seen a toilet belch forth so much water at such a velocity. It was this germ-phobe’s worst nightmare, live and actually happening.

Perched for safety’s sake on the bed, I’d called the front desk. By the time a bellhop—accompanied by a plumber—arrived, water was pouring out into the hall. I just hoped they didn’t think I flooded my own room. But from the looks they lobbed at me—“You, a 29-year old, slender slip of a girl, produced THAT?—they must have.


  1. I love this! Just as I loved your G+ posts even though I CANNOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO REPLY TO THEM (which is a real bitch since apparently I figured it out once before but can't seem to repeat the sequence). Anyhow, I am impressed and flattered all rolled into one! And also I'll never look at hotel staff the same way Ever Again. :)

  2. Thanks so much, Jenna! That's high praise--especially coming from you! [genuflect to the comedic queen]

  3. They must not have much experience with skinny people. I usually find that the skinnier the person, the more they poop. I mean... not that I've researched this that in depth or anything...

  4. I was just about to believe you, until I clicked your link and realized you're a statatician/adorably statistically obsessed/statistical now I'm kinda thinking that maybe you HAVE researched it. LOL. ;)