Meta-Humor: What it Takes to be Funny

I’ve never been a funny person.  Unless you call walking my dogs at 6 a.m. in a getup befitting a Tibetan lama funny.  Maybe I should think twice about wearing furry clogs with socks and Capri sweats.  Some days I let the dogs pull me out of the yard and up the street.  Maybe that’s not a good idea either.

One time I was caught by surprise when my new neighbor stepped out from behind the bushes he was watering.  I tried to keep my distance so I’d have time to wipe the mascara smudges from beneath my eyes.  But no, he wants to make conversation (we’ve never met).  Great.  I smoosh my hair into what I hope is a passable intentional bed-head configuration but I’m not sure it works.

We shake hands and I do a lot of gesturing toward the beach and his yard, complimenting his bushes.  Anything so he’ll look anywhere but at me.

But that’s just it.  I’m pretty oblivious to things.  I think you have to be paying attention to be funny.  And I’m too serious to be paying attention.  You know, I wear dull colors (so my sister says), work hard, and act all responsible in public or at work at least.  I usually have my head down, hammering out my organization’s finances or the next newsletter (unless I’m cheating, rushing out this week’s blog post).  But yes, I’m responsible and serious.  I’m not one to wear rhinestone-studded t-shirts, holiday sweaters, or fun socks.  Except at 6 a.m.

Dignity is important to me.

Which is why being a mother was especially challenging.  I say “was” because the mortifying parts are mostly over now that my youngest is seventeen.  But of course I’m still a mother, even though my kids are taller than me and have started leaving home.  Now the only way they can embarrass me is on Facebook.  My underage daughter recently posted photos of herself arm-in-arm with a shirtless tattooed young man – beer bottles in hand – at some concert she went to.  I suggested to her that posting drinking pictures from Loserfest was probably not a good idea, even if she had smudged the beer-bottle labels out.  “If you can’t read the label nobody can do anything.”

I can do anything I said.

She un-friended me.

The other problem is that my idea of humor is usually pretty mean.  I loved Borat, for instance.  I find people looking stupid to be pretty funny.  (Thank god Borat doesn’t live in my neighborhood.) But really, it’s a problem.  I’m fascinated when other people are being mean, but I’m too chicken to do it much myself.

Some people are naturally funny – like my blogging teacher.  (And I’m trying to get an A.)  But really.  She is.  So for those among us who are humor-challenged, she gave us some tips:  Soutter’s Rules for Writing Humor.  I’m not sure they’ve helped me one bit, but I’m trying.  And I thought I’d share them with you here.  And if they don’t help your humor writing, perhaps they can double as love advice.  They are:

1.  Get there sooner.  Enough said.

2.  Use levels – long descriptive, then short, short, short.  Go up, go down.  Uh huh.

3.  Contrast – You  have to have your straight man.  Well, yeah.

4.  Relationships – Funnier when you care about the  character.  Of course.

5.  Never follow a strong line with a weak one.  My mother taught me this.

6.  Use scroll-down technique.  Okay, so you get the idea.

Yes, I’m working on being funnier.  But maybe not so much in the mornings.

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