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Memoirs of a woman of humor

Or - should I be allowed out in public

People have odd ideas about humorists. Like they have odd ideas about famous people. Sharon Stone is always trampy, Cher is never bloated, Robin Williams must be a blast to live with and Michelle Pfeiffer is always beautiful. Fat chance on any of it. Sharon is rarely seen in the tabloids. No vicious scandals there. Cher HAS to be bloated now and then. She's a woman. Robin Williams rolls out of the wrong side of bed like we all do. he's a real blast without his morning java. And as for Michele, what can I say. This might just be one exception to the rule. She's lovely. I cannot imagine a time when she might look bad. Maybe after root canal work....but thats as far as I go.

People think humorists are a hoot to be around all the time. People EXPECT us to be funny. To make them laugh. To amuse them over afternoon coffee. They look to us to get them through those long moments of uncomfortable silence that viciously rearrange human conversation. Roger Ramwit to the rescue!


Ask any writer of humor or satire. (those two terms confused me for the longest time, but it's the old "boat/ ship analogy...satire will fit into humor, but humor is not always satire) We have our funny times, but it's not always and it's often not at the times it's most wanted. Humorists think of divine retorts AFTER they have already left the situation that called for it. Another brilliant response lost. 

Our families love us, but generally, heavy tolerance is an essential to peace in our homes. They've read enough of our work. They don't always want to read more. They have to live with us. Try that sometime, if you dare. In general, humorists are eccentric. Those we reside with know to expect the unexpected and learn not to be embarrassed. Embarrassment only eggs us on. They know this.

My eldest daughter learned early in life that I'd never look like the other mommies, nor would I converse or behave as a mommy should. As she got older, this became a slight advantage. Her friends loved coming to our house. Always something new, interesting or bizarre going on. Far more fun. Until she started to think they came to see me and not her. She outgrew that completely when she realized that she has her mother's odd and dry sense of humor. She brings on the laughter of others regularly. I enjoy her company.

People also have this odd notion that humorists will think all forms of humor are amusing. That no matter the style or lack thereof, we'll guffaw at it all. That our world is one big laughfest. Well…have I got news for you. We have our tastes (or lack thereof), we have our likes and dislikes. For instance, the humor of the Three Stooges almost entirely eludes me, while the wit and writing of British sit-coms like One Foot In The Grave or Faulty Towers leaves me collapsed in helpless gales of laughter. 

I think perhaps a humorist's block is much sadder than most forms of writing. No humorist I know doesn't laugh at his or her own writing. Yes people, we love our own work. We laugh uproariously at our own writing. And then we wonder with the most pathetic bewilderment gracing our expectant faces, when someone reads our work and doesn't respond the same way. Oh, we know intellectually that we can't please all of the people all of the time. Hell, we're lucky to snag a good third. But hey, we all love recognition for a job well done. For writers of wit, recognition begins with a smile...moves on to a chuckle and culminates a personal Pulitzer if involuntary urination is involved. We revel in the idea of a pantspisser caused by our words of wit.

I've recently seen my way through a short but bad block of "Humorus Tabla Rosa" or in layman's terms, humor blank. Nothing on the screen….nothing up my sleeve. Gone, zero, ziltch, nada, yougettheidea. No matter what I did, there was nothing there. However, let me throw this little dichotomy at you. During this time of blank paperitis, my home was filled with laughter. Not that I don't insist on a dose of mirth each and every day. I DO. My family knows the rules. We laugh or die trying. But during the last three weeks, my on-screen production of witticisms has been nothing, while our humble home has howled. If you figure it out, email me. 

Many of my friends tell me that a visit to my house, or coffee with me is like a tonic. They leave feeling better. I always thought it was the herbs I carefully chose and placed through my home for cleansing bad energy. Or the soothing scented candles I burn. Guess not. 

We're an odd lot, we writers of humor. We need….crave the laughter of others at our efforts. That is what keeps us going. I think sometimes, humorists have it harder than other genres because we don't always feel the laughter inside. If we don't feel that, how can we possibly draw out the laughter in others? Our frame of reference comes from inside of us. No matter what style you write. Serious, funny, horror, documentary. It all comes from inside. Then there is that insanity where we are filled so fully with our own laughter, that we're incapable of spreading it around for a time. Perhaps in some subconscious way, we're holding onto it tightly. Not wanting it to subside even a little. A tiny voice telling us that if we share, we'll soften the mirth. Ease the laughter. 

Forgive me for not sharing recently. Perhaps I wanted to keep it all for myself. If that is the case, I not-so-humbly agree to apologizing. However…(you were expecting that, weren't you…) in my again not-so-humble opinion, I think that if a writer has a sense of what it is that people gain from laughter, then eventually we are willing to share it once again. To spread the good medicine. To raise the endorphin levels all over the world. (well, we can dream) As I said before, we feed from others laughter at our words. 

Yes, we are an odd lot. But then again, what on earth is gained in mediocrity?

I'm going to light a few candles now. And continue the Memoirs another day.

Copyright 2002

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Life as Fodder
Life and Sanity
A Humor Column

Martin & Harriet
He's dead, she's not.


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