Essay | Laughing and Writing

As an extremely late social bloomer, I'm finding that a sense of humor is important, useful, and completely difficult to utilize properly. I've been thinking a lot about comedy lately, it's something that I consider important to my person, but it was definitely not something I was inclined to. I've tried to examine what my sense of humor derives from, and it may be consistent exposure to David Letterman at a very young age.

That last sentence makes him sound like he's radioactive.

What I've been thinking about recently is their significance and how hard they are to pull off. First, look at commercials. The most successful ones, the ones that everyone remembers, are usually the funny ones. The ones with the amazing special effects, yeah, people will talk about those too. But if you're an ad executive, what's cheaper? A good joke that fits in 30 seconds, or 30 seconds of CG? These are ideal to advertisers because something about humor is more appealing to the human being than any other emotion. More than sadness, more than happiness, more than anger. Even socially, there is nothing more useful than the ability to come up with humorous zingers. If you're funny, people will remember you.

But it's not easy. Sit down to write a story. Judging from my own personal experience, and my most recent creative writing course, few people write a comedy. People work it in a little bit at best. Is this because humor is harder to write than basic sadness? I mean, look at all the angsty teenagers out there - there's more than enough sad writing to go around. Who sits down and writes humor? It's hard. It's harder to come up with a funny premise as opposed to finding a sad premise.

There could be a number of reasons I didn't see a lot of humor in my limited sample of amateur storytelling. We all thrived to tell great things about the human condition from our papers; Stories about death, life, love, faith, all those big themes usually reserved for notable and legendary authors. Does a focus on jokes somehow delegitimize a story? If a story is not serious, does it have nothing to say about life and the human condition? Is that why no comedy movie has won an Academy Award for best picture since Annie Hall?

All questions I don't have answers to, nor do I even attempt to really answer here. (I know, I know.) I think what makes it hardest to create is the subjectiveness of it all. Not even just making good humor, but making humor at all is the first obstacle. It's hard to deny when a story is joyous or bleak. There are a few debatable cases, probably, but only if the creator at the helm intended it or is simply poor. But it's very easy to deny what is funny. From my experience in trying to make people laugh (I'm trying not to be arrogant here - I certainly do not succeed a lot of the time) it's wildly variable. The things that were hilarious in your head illicit stock sounds of crickets, while the things you phoned in get audible approval from the coolest kids at school.

You can never, ever, really be certain if something will click. You can just know that it will probably click, but all you need is the wrong audience or readers or what have you to bomb. It's funny that the problem is with the receivers of the content, and not the creators.