One book leads to another...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

What's So Funny?

Welcome, all! You’re just in time for the monthly (1st Wednesday) on-line gathering of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where you’ll find helpful tips, handy resources, the latest trends in publishing, and a comfortable place for hundreds of writers – just like you and I – to  share our writing journeys! 

Feel free to meander and mingle. Our gracious co-hosts this month are:

Even if you’re not there yet, sooner or later, your writing journey will undoubtedly lead you to the marketing stage, and this month’s IWSG Newsletter happens to offer invaluable guidelines for effective promotions! 

For member news and often funny movie reviews, our founder, Alex Cavanaugh has it all!  

Speaking of funny…
One sweltering morning on the somewhat crowded beach of a seaside village, I sought shelter in the shade of a utility pole to crack open a new book while my camping comrades, each in varying stages of late-night aftermath, laid sprawled around the camp beneath dampened towels and rapidly melting icepacks. Not more than a few pages into the book, I laughed right out loud and chuckled for several seconds after. At that unmistakable, “somebody’s staring at me” feeling, I glanced up to find that, in fact, everyone in camp was staring at me. “What was so funny?” they wanted to know. “Was I reading a comedy?” 

Actually, it was a Stephen King novel. So, it wasn’t exactly a comedy. But the spontaneous burst of laughter made me feel I could handle whatever the King of horror had in store for me. After all, I’d already connected on a realistic level with the fictional main character. 

According to “Dessert First” author Dean Gloster there are at least seven good reasons to include a bit of humor in serious fiction. I tend to agree, though I’m not (usually) a comedian. 

But what, exactly, is funny to whom? I decided to do a little research by way of interviewing a couple of my younger friends whose responses had my eyebrows twitching: Adult humor – whether they ‘get’ it or not, metaphorical sarcasm, and Dad jokes. 

Dad jokes?  The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.”  ~  

“Oh,” I said, “the jokes dads tell.” Like when I asked my dad (many, many moons ago) what he thought of my new (fake) perfume called “Evening in Paris” and he replied “Afternoon at the Garbage Dump.” Hmm, I think I’ll stick with the first two responses – at least for what I’m working on now.

Question of the Month: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)? 

While I’d much rather live vicariously through my characters, I’m sure there’s an inadvertent bit of me in many of them. For instance, in the acrophobic elevator mouse, a warrior with the sniffles, a ghostly bus stop dweller; befriending lonely riders. And then there’s the ghost who doesn’t know he is one – or does he?

Do you appreciate humor in literature? Do you use it in your writing? Do you know a funny ‘Dad Joke’?

I may be a bit slower with visiting this time around, but no worries, I’ll see you soon!


  1. Hi, diedre!

    Yessum, I appreciate humor in literature and in movies and television shows, and I make frequent use of it in my writing. In proper amounts, humor adds to the enjoyment of murder mysteries and crime dramas. In recent years it has become increasingly important in big budget sci-fi superhero adventure films. I gravitate toward dramatic works that are laced with humor such as Anatomy of a Murder, the Otto Preminger film I am currently spotlighting.

    I can picture you laughing and drawing attention to yourself as you read Stephen King. Satire, the use of irony and sarcasm, is funny to me. I also think the spark of recognition can make us laugh out loud - moments when we discover that the author gets it right with an astute, spot-on observation, clever plot twist or character revelation. Unbridled glee makes us laugh. I am thinking of the moment at the end of the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when Max Taber, the character played by Christopher Lloyd, bursts forth with spontaneous laughter and cheering when "Chief" wins one for the home team.

    The gender gap often reveals itself when jokes are told. It fascinates me when young people don't get or appreciate adult humor. When I was a kid in the late 50s, sick humor was all the rage. My cousins and I routinely exchanged "sick jokes" whenever we got together. Most parents frowned upon the crude genre but, like Mad Magazine and rock 'n' roll music, it was ours and we embraced it.

    I live vicariously through some of the characters I create. Shady Del Knight and a few of the SPMM deejays and other characters on my blog bring out parts of me that I do not feel comfortable revealing to that extent in my personal life.

    It's great to see you again, dear friend diedre. I wish you a safe and peaceful I-Day observance!

    1. Hi Shady!

      I’d forgotten the part at the end of “Cuckoo’s Nest”! That was funny – and well-timed for a tension release, I thought. In the incident I mentioned it was the element of surprise at recognizing a reaction I’d likely have myself. Somehow the reactions of my beleaguered fellow beach campers made it even funnier.

      If by ‘sick’ jokes you mean references to ah, unsavory subjects the family boys with us in the woods this holiday certainly proved it’s still very much a cringeworthy ‘thing’ ;- ) though I much prefer songs or scary stories around the campfire. At any rate, the S’mores were a huge success!

      By the way, I just heard MAD Magazine is signing off – as well as collective groans of dismay followed by a discussion; nostalgic and lengthy, on which were the all-time greatest issues.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, my friend. I admire your flair for characterization – as do all of us who enjoy your entertaining blogs!

    2. Yessum, R.I.P. Mad Magazine. It was a big part of my childhood and helped develop my sense of humor and love of the parody.

      Thank you, dear friend diedre!

  2. I love that it's a thing now, "Dad humor" or jokes. I do appreciate some humor in serious books. I don't think I'm very good at humor, but I do try now and then. It helps give the reader breathing space. Happy 4th!

    1. Hi Lisa!

      You're right about breathing space. Whether interspersed in anxious conversation or sprinkled in edgy prose, it's most always a welcome addition.
      Thank you for your thoughts!

  3. Oh, and btw, I noticed a Gerald Durrell book on the image at the beginning of your blog. Just finished (for a second time) the "Durrells in Corfu" series on PBS and LOVE it! It's based on Gerald's books!

    1. Hi again, Lisa!

      What a fascinating life! Given the choice, I'd be a zookeeper - maybe even own one too!

  4. I love when I laugh when I read a book. I wish I could be humorous but I'm a pretty serious person.

    1. Hi Natalie!

      I do too. That you are capable of being delighted tells me you do have the ability to delight - Wishing you chimes of laughter!

  5. I'm with you - I'd rather live through my characters.
    Sir Cumference - funny!

    1. Hi Alex!

      Yes, there is a certain comfort in working behind the scenes :-)

  6. A little humour injected into a serious tale can help it from becoming too dark. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are both good at this, I think. You must have been laughing fairly loudly to attract such attention! ☺ Dad (or mom or even grandma jokes) are usually corny but cute. That was a good one! ☺ "The ghost who doesn't know he is one, or does he?" This premise sounds fascinating! Has that story been published, diedre? I'd love to read it. Cheers!

    1. Hi Debbie!

      It wasn't so much loud as 'out loud'. On that particular morning my fellow campers found Seagulls and the sunrise annoying - ha!

      With encouragement like yours, the ghost may soon be outed ;-)

      Thanks for your thoughts!

    2. Eagering awaiting news about the ghost, then! 👌

  7. Howdy, dIEDRE ~

    Sorry I'm so late getting here but I start a new job on Monday and this week has been pretty hectic, with me trying to get all sorts of things done before my new full-time employment takes over my life.

    >>... “The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.”

    Ha-Ha! That was really funny and clever.

    As always, your writing here crackles with talent, dIEDRE. You always impress me.

    I think humor adds so much to dramatic stories - whether they are books or movies. It seems to work as a counterpoint which only tends to highlight the more serious moments.

    On the 4th of July, I watched the John Wayne movie 'RIO GRANDE', and it had been so many years since I'd seen it that I'd completely forgotten how much humor it included. I liked it even better than I'd remembered (and heck, I'd already remembered it as being "very good").

    I hope you had a nice 4th of July, my friend, and we'll catch up again later at some point.

    ~ D-FensDogG

    1. Congratulations, Stephen T!

      I do understand the constraints of pesky obligations - such as work :-)
      Thanks for the encouraging words, my friend!
      For 4th of July Family Meal and Movie night, here in the woods, we watched Shazam. Great show, though I think we scared away a bear.
      Best wishes and Happy new trails!

  8. When I first read Pride and Prejudice (not too many years ago) I took it very seriously and didn't particularly care for it. But then I saw the 1940 film version and realized that it was a comedy. It was then that I reevaluated my opinion of the book because of my realization. I was expecting a serious romance and not something that was funny as became apparent in the film.

    Some humor in horror can set a tone that gets broken by the scarier aspects of the story. Humor and creating a aura of normalcy is a great storytelling device.


    1. Hi Lee!

      Yes, in addition to character authenticity, humor can subtly humble even the vilest of villains. Because the perfect combination is not always the easiest thing to achieve, cinema offers clarity in showing what words may have failed to describe. I guess I can live with that as long as proper credit is given to the one whose idea it was in the first place – such as Jane Austen ;-) One of my favorite quotes: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”

      Thanks for your thoughts, Lee!


Any thoughts? Join the conversation, comments welcome here!