The consensus seems to be you either have it or you don’t – the ability to write funny material that is. There is some hope to be found in Will Rogers’s observation that ‘Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else.’ In a writing class a while back my ‘funny’ material got the least positive feedback, yet my first short story to be published was taken because the editors liked the humour. Ain’t that fine and dandy? Yes indeed, except humour doesn’t seem to be available on tap. When I reach for it, it seems frustratingly out of grasp.
I’m working on a dialogue piece just now. This is just a bit of nonsense for a Ripping Scripts class exercise where the Wicked Queen from the Snow White fairy tale is in a therapy session. Her therapist? The Magic Mirror. Now you can see why I might want to rely on a few funny lines here. But the more I think about it, the less funny it becomes. It’s an irony that composing a comic scene seems to be leading to a fit of the blues in the writer.
DB Gillies, who teaches screenwriting in New York, points out that a strong story with few laughs is preferable to a weak story with three jokes per page. Quite, but even one laugh per page would be wonderful thank you very much. Humour can make the point in a powerful way. Churchill said, ‘A joke is a very serious thing’ and Ustinov pointed out ‘Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.’
Humour perhaps works best when juxtaposed with tragedy or tension; earlier today, a friend pointed to the humour in the midst of violence as seen in Tarantino’s movies. Irvin S. Cobb said, ‘Humour is simply tragedy standing on its head with its pants torn.’
Now if only I can find the torn pants which need to bridge the gap between Wicked Queen and Magic Mirror. I’m off to work on worrying away at the gussets.