by Michael Farragher
Quarantine viewing has made me a connoisseur of cooking shows, and I now find myself trying to socially distance from the refrigerator [buh dum tss]. I especially like the shows where chefs are given five ingredients that shouldn’t go together to create something edible. It got me thinking: How does one get your funny bone cooking? Do you boil it? Blanch it? What temperature?
Whether you’re serving up your funny bone in a script, a memoir, or a monologue, here are some ingredients that make it more appetizing:
Pinch of Eyes, a Dash of Ears: All of the comedy greats—be it Mike Birbiglia, Hannah Gadsby, or Dave Chapelle—find the funny in the most mundane details. I lost my job recently and after spending a week down at a beach house with friends, I was reminded of a Seinfeld observation: “Who goes on vacation without a job? What do you need a break from? Getting up at 11?” It’s that subtle observation that everyone can deal with that makes this funny. Start making notes on those uniquely odd viewpoints you collect throughout your day. I bet there’s comedy gold to mine!
Vulnerability: Defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed.” We’ve been taught, especially the menfolk, that showing one’s vulnerability is bad. But in humor writing, it is an essential ingredient. People either laugh at it because they can relate or because you’ve just exposed your individual weirdness. That is the risk that paralyzes so many. My answer to them: Who cares? The art of vulnerability, the art of “telling on yourself,” is the access to writing funny. Take my prom picture: I paid $10 extra for them to buff out teenage blemishes so that my cream cheese complexion would be forever immortalized. The reality? My friend passed chickenpox on to me the week before and by picture time, my face had more bumps than a Braille menu. By the end of the night, the pancake makeup washed off with the sweat, revealing brown pocked scars that looked like cigarette burns on the carpet of a by-the-hour hotel room. Now, which picture is funnier? I rest my case.
Confidence: Are you afraid people might laugh at you? Um, isn’t that the point? Being able to be with the laughter at your expense does take something. I actually feel more confident knowing I’m not alone in my experience. Try it on; you won’t regret it!
For other valuable instructions on the funny bone and how you can add it to the mix in your writing, join our three-class Humor Writing Workshop beginning Wednesday, October 7 (7 to 9 p.m.). Register here: www.projectwritenow.org/writers-institute/product/humor-writing.