Monday, May 4, 2009

Thinking Funny


These random thoughts (below) appeared on editor Victoria Mixon's blog, in a post titled "Making Funny Funny." It's a talent I would gladly earn by trimming off a toe in payment -- to write like Ring Lardner ... James Thurber ... P. G. Wodehouse ... Will Rogers ... Peter DeVries ... Carl Hiaasen ...
Funny is a tough gig. Even clowns get a bad rap. I have a friend who goes bonkers at the sight of Bozo.

Writing funny is even tougher. It's a calculated enterprise, and requires, I think, the ability to write about the world on a fun house mirror, scribbling mightily with pens dipped in surrealism and cynicism, hyperbole and devilment.

Some are masters. Dorothy Parker, who turned words into stilettos. Ring Lardner, the man who wrote the funniest sentence ever:
"Shut up," he explained.

Others are wizards. Robin Williams on a flight of verbal fancy. Dennis Miller, referencing and sub-referencing quixotically amongst windmills of irony.

When the mash-up contest began, I knew my left-handed but normally useless ability to see off-kilter concepts might provide both a moment's entertainment and one more of the
Look at Me opportunities writer's crave.

Both are essential ingredients in most comedic endeavors.

Here is one of my first, a fender-bender between
Finnegan's Wake and Fahrenheit 451.
FINNEGAN'S 451
"Reader's Digest condenses James Joyce's seminal work."
Seeing the two titles together immediately brought to mind Joyce's legendary verbosity and the intelligensia's nose-up attitude toward the popular magazine's mcdonaldlization of the written world.

The next collision hit me as I bumped into a reference to a book written by Ayn Rand, one of the philosophers whose work eventually gave birth to the
Monster Who Ate Your 401k.
ONE FLEW OVER THE ATLAS SHRUGGED
"Randle P. McMurphy reads Rand to his detriment."
Why do I think this mash-up funny? Kesey's hero of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, McMurphy, is lazy rather than crazy, but acting on his laziness (Rand's "rational self-interest") earns him a lobtomy.

Too sub-referentially dennismillerian for you? What can I say? Funny to you might not be funny to me. After all, I'm not afraid of clowns, but mime's give me the shivers.
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