Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chris Rylander: Writing Humor: The Secrets (or lack thereof) of Funny

Chris Rylander's debut novel THE FOURTH STALL is this year's recipient of the Sid Fleischman Award for humor.

I'll tell you what's not funny: his breakout room. Look at how packed this place is. I'm pretty sure this is a fire hazard. Is there humor in that? Okay, yeah. There is, but that's because I'm a bit twisted. (I'll keep my thoughts to myself.)


Chris says we should write what comes most easily. Okay, that would be my to-do list. Even easier, the honey-do list for my husband. Neither are funny.

Chris illustrates what it feels like to sell your first book. Envision a typical stick figure. Then...head explosion. Like blown to bits. Okay, friends! If that's what it feels like, is that what we really want?

Uh-oh folks, Chris says he can't tell us the secret to funny. Wait now! Then why is there a line of people out the door trying to hear this talk? They are all waiting to hear the secrets. Come on!

Chris says humor has to come naturally. But what does that mean? Things like armpit hair and breathing? 

A common idiom is that humor comes from pain. Chris doesn't really agree. (I'm beginning to think this guy is just difficult.) He thinks that it can come from pain, but it can come from anywhere. Anywhere?

Not only are there no secrets to writing humor, now Chris says there are no rules. And yet, Chris is going to give us rules. Chris, man! I'm getting confused.

So, just for fun, how 'bout I share some?

WRITE TO AMUSE YOURSELF.

That's what Chris says he does. He writes to crack himself up. Clearly this cat is really selfish.

DON'T WRITE DOWN TO YOUR AUDIENCE.

Chris just said bullshit (it was not funny). Seriously. He was being serious. He says kids have great BS detectors.

SURPRISE. BE RANDOM AND WEIRD.

Chris says some kids don't get the funny. Is it mean that I think that's pretty funny?

And, speaking of random and weird, Chris finds stuff with beards funny. I wonder if he finds eards (ear-beards) funny?

What other random crap does he find funny? A stick man with matches for legs...Umm, Chris? 

FIND YOUR FUNNY WRITING VOICE (by removing all of your filters).

To me this screams, Danger! Danger! Danger!

Hold up! Chris is going to tell us the most important rule of all (Remember he said there are no rules?).

Drum roll please...

BE YOURSELF

That's it? 

Hey, that's it!  Now you know the big life-changing secret. Be yourself. And, hey! You're already that. It's nice when all we have to do is right within our grasp. Yay, us. Thanks, Chris.

All kidding aside, Chris's thoughts are right on, and seem to hit just the right note with his chuckling, packed crowd. I believe this is the first time I've witnessed a stand-rooming only that has turned into standing-outside-the-room only (with a crowd of conference-goers building outside the open doors, wishing they had a seat inside).

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