Writers have a large emotional spectrum from which to choose. If we are happy, does it mean that each and every day we trot down Smiley Face Road grinning while tap, tap, tapping on our keyboard? Does it mean we put on a sad face and wear it forever on dark days? What living in the real world does offer writers is the opportunity to write about the sad days with a little humor thrown in.
Is this easy to do? I don’t think so. If it were, then I suspect we would be living in a much happier world and there would be no need to watch sitcoms hoping for a giggle or two.
Humor writing in general is not easy and for the most part, it is not spontaneous. It takes practice and it takes knowing your audience. Because it is subjective, humor writing takes sensitivity. You might decide to do a piece about your Aunt Gertrude suffering with dementia. You (and others) will surely enjoy exchanging stories of Aunt Gert’s insistence that she is really Queen Elizabeth, but keep in mind that she is still a person. Be kind.
There are some subjects that cannot be written about in a humorous way. Tragedies such as January 6th; 9-11; the Sandy Hook massacre; or the shuttle explosion. Don’t even think about going there. Better to write about Aunt Gert’s queenly personification.
We all have issues. We worry about things that may never materialize. Worrying is what we do. Writers can learn to ‘humorize’ these experiences, even when writing about it can’t make the bad stuff go away. What it can do, however, is help us through tough times.
I attended my uncle’s military funeral. It was messed up from the get-go. The soldiers looked like army rejects that couldn’t even fold the flag properly. The sergeant made them start over and re-fold it three different times before it was presented to the widow, who by that time was crying so hard they could have given her a basket of folded laundry and she wouldn’t have noticed.
I am sorry that my uncle died and sad that his final service was not as exemplary as his service to our country. But when I recall that funeral, I hear the 21-Gun Salute that sounded like Fourth of July firecrackers. I hear Taps played on a tape recorder from the cab of a pick-up truck. Some day, I will write about that funeral but I will not make it about death. I will write about human nature and how we are all so capable of messing things up, even at funerals.
Ministers use one-liners in a sermon to make a serious point while stealing a few smiles from the congregation. Example: “Don’t let your worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a basket case.” I so wish I had thought of that line.
I once wrote a piece after I discovered a lump in my breast. I called it, “A Lump in the Mashed Potatoes.” I did not make light of breast cancer, but wrote instead about how my icy fear had mysteriously transformed itself into an overwhelming craving for chocolate. I took an otherwise serious subject and used it to take the edge off my and every woman’s worst fear.
In the past (before COVID), I have taught classes on Humor Writing at the Southeastern Writer’s Workshop. I tried to show writers how to easily inject humor into almost any serious subject or situation. There was always a good turnout for the class and I was happy about that since I would have hated to write a humorous piece dealing with the time nobody showed up for my class!
Get writing and get giggling!
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Cappy Hall Rearick
is a syndicated humor columnist, novelist and popular public speaker, award winning short story writer and author of the column, SIMPLY SOUTHERN. She has written sixteen published novels and collections of short stories and one collaborated cookbook. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and a spoiled rotten cat named Igor.