With less than a week to go before this clusterfuck of an election is finally behind us, you might expect me to write yet another post mocking Donald Trump this weekend. After all, what's funnier than redneck failure?
But I'm going to walk a different path. While Mr. Trump's chances of succeeding in sending this country spiraling into Shitfire Mountain don't look too good, I have every confidence that he'll be good for some laughs in the weeks and months to come.
I've given a couple of interviews recently, in which I've discussed some of the particulars of writing comedy, and it got me thinking about some of the unique advantages writing fart jokes for a living gives me over those who write more serious work. Here's what I came up with.
1. Everyone wants to laugh.
I'm not a big fan of horror. Some folks crave the thrills and chills of the genre, but I'm not one of them. I hate being scared and uncomfortable. As a kid, I hated going to those haunted houses on Halloween in which assholes in shitty rubber masks would jump out from behind walls and say "Bwaaaahhh!" As an adult, I avoid taking my own kids to those sorts of places, not because I fear some lasting trauma for them or anything like that, but rather because I think I'd probably still be just as scared, and I don't want my kids to see me cry and piss myself in fear.
But who doesn't like to laugh? Laughter is the body's way of expressing joy. It's universal. Sure, humor itself is subjective. What some may find funny, others may not. But it's still one less hurdle to overcome.
2. You develop a thick skin.
If you're a funny person, then the chances are good you spent quite a bit of time being a conspicuously unfunny person. That could fall anywhere on the spectrum of telling lame "dad jokes" to people who aren't your kids to just being an obnoxious shithead.
Like any other skill, you develop it through practice, trial, and error. But damn if those errors don't sting. You know that look when you make a joke, and the person on the receiving end gives you a sadly awkward smile?
That kind of response to a joke you made feels like your soul getting kicked in the nuts. But if your soul gets kicked in the nuts hard and often enough, it can develop a scrotum carved out of hickory, hopefully while you're still too young to start up a writing career.
And if you want to make it as a writer, your soul is going to need a hickory nutsack. And I'm not just talking about negative reviews. Hell, you might even welcome those because they mean someone actually cared enough about your shit to write them, like one of those people who cut themselves just so that they can feel something.
Loneliness, frustration, and crippling self-doubt is all part of the writing journey, no matter what your style of writing. Then, when you type "The End" and start shopping that manuscript around, the one you've worked so long and so hard on, only then do you realize how tiny and alone you really are. No one gives a fuck. Complete disinterest and utter rejection are what you have to look forward to. It can be heartbreaking.
Unless you're a comedy writer. In that case, you've probably been dealing with this kind of shit since elementary school and have learned to shrug it off.
3. Marketing yourself is easier.
There is no shortage of stimuli out there these days. The internet is a continuous explosion of enticing images and clickbaity headlines that crave as large a share of the finite pool of collective attention that they can get.
A successful book is one that elicits some kind of emotional response from a reader. Depending on a myriad of factors, some emotions can take more time and effort to draw out of a reader than said reader is willing to spare.
Can you truly bring to life the horrors of war, the carefree joy of a first romance, or the unbridled eroticism of being showered in bear semen in a 140 character tweet? Probably not.
Can you make someone laugh? If not, it's probably not a word limit issue. You might just suck.
Comedy (or attempts at it) is used to sell every kind of product imaginable, from pizza to insurance. When the actual product is more comedy, you have a shorter and more specific line between a customer and a sale.
Think about it. I see a funny pizza commercial on TV. I laugh, and I suddenly realize that I'm now hungry. I could order this company's pizza. Or I could have a bowl of cereal.
No, that hot melted cheese looked so good. I think I really want a pizza. I could order this company's pizza, or I could order pizza from a different company whose TV ads aren't as funny, but who makes less shitty pizza.
A lot could steer me astray on my path from a laugh to that pizza they want me to buy.
Now, imagine I read a short excerpt from a book which made me laugh, and I decide that I would like to continue laughing. Am I going to seek out other comedy books? Probably not. The nuances of what made me laugh in the first place are specific to the author who wrote that passage. I crave more of that.
4. You spend less time editing.
Editing is the most soul-suckingly dull part of writing for a living. You've finished the fun part where you ride along with your characters on their crazy adventure and record what happens, and you've still got a long way to go before the other fun part of people giving you money for all that shit you just wrote. What stands between you and that vast mountain of money and fame is editing.
But comedy writing is a much more meticulous process than you might think, and you can't help but to edit as you go for a lot of it in order to make the joke work. I liken it to the incantation of a spell, where if you mispronounce a single syllable, the magic is gone.
For example, take this excerpt from Randolph The Red Nosed Alcoholic Gnome, a Christmas-themed short story I started last year, but didn't finish.
“I like your bird.” She leaned over just far enough for Julian's gaze to land upon her amazing cleavage and ran her finger down Ravenus’s back. Julian sensed her touch along his own spine via the Empathic Link he shared with his familiar. He felt lightheaded as the scent of wildflowers overpowered Cooper’s fart. She stood straight again, dragging Julian's gaze upward. “Do you like my Princess Quackers?”
“Is that what you call them?”
“Huh?” Julian snapped out of his trance, and his gaze shifted from the woman's breasts to the duck she carried under her arm. “Oh! Yes, she’s lovely.”
It's difficult to explain how much craftsmanship went into a joke about tits and a duck. There are a million ways a strange woman might introduce her duck.
"This is Princess Quackers."
"I'd like you to meet Princess Quackers."
The list goes on. But for this exchange to work, she needed to say the exact phrase, "Do you like my Princess Quackers?" in order to provide the necessary ambiguous interpretation on Julian's part. And for that to sound like a natural thing that a person might actually say, I needed the grammatically mirrored opening line, "I like your bird."
I'm not suggesting there isn't still a lot of editing that needs to be done once the story ends, but it is refreshing to be able to scroll past large sections of text that I know better than to fuck with.
5. Readers are more likely to forgive your other storytelling shortcomings.
This may come as a surprise to you, but I'm not the greatest writer in the world. I'm almost certain that my career would have never gotten off the ground had I tried my hand at more serious literature. I'm not completely incompetent, but I don't imagine I've ever swept a reader away on the strength of my prose alone.
Writing fiction has always been a tough gig to make a living at. And in this renaissance of self-publishing, the competition for readers' time and money is fierce.
But I've found that my readers are willing to overlook a bit of flat prose as long as I can sling a good dick joke here and there.
6. It goes beyond the books.
When I first started writing the above passage of Randolph The Red Nosed Alcoholic Gnome, I didn't go into it thinking, "What this story needs is a joke about tits and a duck." It worked the other way around.
A seductive woman was already planned for the story, and she already had a duck with her. I honestly can't remember why now, but it made sense at the time. The duck needed a name, so I brainstormed a bit and came up with "Quackers" as a possibility. From "Quackers" to "knockers" was only a short hop, and I knew there was a gem of humor to be found there. All I needed to do was to excavate and polish it.
Having done this for as long as I have, my brain has become hardwired to seek out potential humor in any situation I find myself in. It's something I can't turn off.
You might imagine that wouldn't have too many practical applications, but it comes in handy when a flashlight wielding maniac tries to discredit you on Twitter.
Or even if you just feel like pissing off a whole demographic of semi-literate fucktards, these skills are invaluable.