“I can hear someone screaming – that’s the last time I buy gaffer tape in the discount shop.”
Did this make you laugh? I did. I love dark humour. But, not everybody does and that’s okay. What makes us laugh? Why is that one person can roll about laughing at something that makes another person want to chuck the telly at the nearest comedy writer?
NUTS CRISPS AND OTHER WEAPONS
A comedian friend of mine told me that certain audiences really laugh and enjoy his show while others just pelt him with whatever they can lay their hands on; including nuts, crisps and half-eaten sandwich’s.
He says the one compensation for a bad gig is that at least he gets to bring home some salty snacks to go with the beer he drowns his sorrows with – bum – bum!
Our response to humour has a lot to do with our age, sex, education, background and life experience. In reality a multitude of factors influence our reactions. The writer can do nothing to change any of these.
VERY DARK HUMOUR
However, there is something that can change, and that is the mood of the person. Mood has got a lot do with how we perceive humour. Somebody in a really bad mood one day may not laugh at something that would have made them laugh the day before.
We may not laugh at funerals but we’ve all seen the tragedy-to-comedy scenes that occur in good comedy films. One that comes to mind happens in the film, Steel Magnolias. When M’Lynn’s daughter, Shelby, dies, M’Lynn is naturally distraught. Her friend grabs another friend and tells M’Lynn to hit her.
There is a moment of horror, which turns to hilarity when M’Lynn burst out laughing. It may seem inappropriate but sometimes when one emotion is too intense to bear, another one comes into play.
In this case, laughter at the ludicrousness of the suggestion and inappropriateness of laughter released a burst of emotion that would otherwise have been impossible to bear.
LET IT OUT – RELIEVING PAIN WITH HUMOUR
So it is with humour. We need it and it gives us relief and release. I personally think comedy is more difficult to write than tragedy. Our response to tragedy is more universal. Most people will react in the same way to an unfortunate or sad event but as I said earlier, humour is different.
Where does it leave the writer? My answer is that it should stem organically from the story and character. Not every writer can write ‘funny.’ We are all different. Be aware of what makes you smile. Note exactly what makes you laugh.
Maybe this is an arena in which you could write naturally. Don’t force it. Shoving ‘funny bits’ in here and there will always seem false. Some people will laugh but they will probably owe you money.
Learn to recognize your strong points and work from those. When humour arises naturally without being sought out, or forced, you will find your audience, or rather, your audience will find you and with a bit of luck you won’t be pelted with nuts, crisps and half-eaten sandwich’s.
I’d love to hear what you think about writing humour or otherwise – leave your comments below.
Best of luck with your writing.
There’s more from my diary here.