March 2013 – Laughter lines

Now, I was going to start this blog with a joke, not a very sophisticated joke and, if I’m honest with you not very funny either. So, ever thoughtful, I’ve saved you a few groans of derision. But you know it got me thinking about humour and comedy and just with the simple act of writing out a joke made me realise how difficult writing comedy is. I can’t rely on some visual slapstick, pulling a funny face or a punchline delivered with exquisite comedy timing. Good comedy writing is genius.

I was mulling all this over because the theme for this month’s reading place is humour. The worst of the winter should be behind us, days getting longer and of course the middle of month sees the return of comic relief or Red Nose Day. So let’s have a laugh I thought. Let our hair down, raise a smile, get ourselves weeping with joy. Let’s have a look at some funny reads.

But wait, I can’t just write about all the stuff that gets me laughing. No. One person’s belly full of laughs is not necessarily another’s. Funny thing about being funny is that not everyone finds it funny.

This is proving a hard nut to crack I thought. As is comedy writing. That makes two nuts.

Luckily, at this point, I happened across a ‘funny’ book and read the reviews. “Laugh out loud”, “Hilarious”, “Wildly funny”. Now here is a question for you reader. Have you ever laughed out loud when reading a book? I have always had my doubts about “laugh out loud” books. I’ve read books that I have found funny, smiled at, remembered fondly and once or twice a brief chuckle. But laugh out loud? Not me. Is it just me? Should I let myself go and next time, laugh uproariously?

So it’s a tricky little so and so is comedy, and I’ve not even touched upon its troublesome brother dark comedy. That one who gets you laughing when you really shouldn’t be. There is one section in Patrick McCabe’s Emerald Germs of Ireland I have often read at events where Pat, the book’s central character, is committing another murder with the aid of a hosepipe and copious amounts of whiskey. Whenever I have read this it has never failed to raise a laugh amongst the audience. How does dark comedy work? It is wicked.

If you are looking for some funny books where do you start? Humour appears in almost everything. There’s a whole range of comic crime books within the crime genre. Probably too many to mention, but starting with the likes of Simon Brett, L.C. Tyler and Malcolm Pryce you won’t go too far wrong. And a mention too to poetry where there’s so much funniness to be found. There are the classic comedies of Kingsley Amis, Evelyn Waugh, the humour of James Thurber, a host of books by a host of comedians, a vast well of non fiction funny writing – from travel writing to memoir. Lately readers have told me they’ve laughed at Sue Townsend, John O’Farrell, Carole Matthews, Christina Hopkinson. This list could go on and on.

And a thought has occurred to me –  I should have asked these readers whether they laughed out loud or not.

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