On Unintentional humor

December 19, 2010

I’m often told that I’m a really funny guy. I’ve heard it from enough people that there must be some sort of truth to the claim, though I personally don’t think I’m an overly funny person.

I got an early inkling of this from Carol Phillips, my talented cover artist. She read the first book, League of Elder: Sygillis of Metatron, and said on several occasions how she enjoyed my sense of humor. Odd, I don’t recall anything overly humorous in Book 1. I shrugged it off and continued.

I got another dose of my alleged “funny writing” not long ago while having my daily row with Jasmine B. Brennan, a dear friend whom I love to death on those select moments when I don’t want to hide her body someplace after I’ve murdered it. Jasi said I was one of the funniest writers she’d ever read. “And,” she said, “the fact the you proceed about your business completely oblivious to just how funny you are makes it even more hilarious.”

My good friend, the incredibly gifted Chris Westover, also says the same thing.

I fell into a funk. So … what are you saying, Jasi? What am I … a clown, is that what I am? What about all the death and destruction I write about–what about that? Did I bring a clown-suit to the blood-letting and didn’t even know it??

“Yeah,” she said.

I actually got pretty down on myself after that. What am I? Who am I? I really didn’t know anymore. Of course I realize I add little things here and there in the story to add a bit of levity. For example, Syg’s tendency to want to bowl naked, that’s sort of funny. I consider such things satirical humor, just like in Robocop, when a malfunctioning ED-209 pumps the poor businessman full of lead at the beginning of the movie. There’s really nothing funny about a man getting horribly killed, but, in the context of the movie, it was quite funny. The extreme nature of the killing made it funny, and hence my tendency to put rather extreme bits into the books, like Syg’s naked bowling.

After Jasi informed me what a comedian I am, I vowed to do her one up and churn out nothing but flesh-rending dirges, cold-steel elegies of such sorrow and hopeless lamentation that every turn of the page would be a new cry for death. I was determined, and, to that end, I plunged into the works of my brilliant friend, Cheryl Moore’s Unbound Boxes, Limping Gods. Cheryl paints a relentlessly bleak picture and beats down her characters without mercy. That’s what I wanted to be: bleak and merciless.

However, I’m no Cheryl Moore. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sustain it. Something Jasi said then came back to me.

It’s a gift you have, she said. “Your writing wouldn’t be the same without it. Some people strive very hard to do what you do naturally–and unconsciously. Just go with what you’ve got.”

It’s a gift.

Ok, I’ll do that. I’ll just go with it. I suppose every so often, I pop into a clown suit and a funny nose and dance.

And, I guess the suit doesn’t fit all that bad after all.

Bowl Naked


2 Responses to “On Unintentional humor”

  1. You are funny, but Jas is right, it’s that lack of awareness that adds to the humour. You write “funny” without knowing it, and you don’t see the hilarity in the dark side of things, just as we have debated before. Zombies, for example, are hilarious, but it took some prompting and prodding from me before you would look at them from this perspective. I like to add levity too, and I find having comic relief when you are presenting something especially dark is important, but not always easy to manage. There’s nothing funny in my trilogy, Fervor or Elements of Genocide, for example, but I have Reeree and Shetland and goat and bricks to the head jokes in my series. You sir do this naturally and I think other writers envy you for it. Like you said, it’s a gift.

  2. I LOVE this post. I enjoyed the sincerity and introspection.What makes you such a unique and gifted writer is that fine line between light and dark which you INSTINCTIVELY understand.The frightening parts in the first and second League of Elder really did send a chill throughout my body.The villains are passionately evil, but there is always a chance for redemption and change.Your humor is innocent, thrown in at just the right moment–it is endearing and lovable and I feel real affection for several of your characters and their penchant for bowling naked: )Don’t question your gifts, Ren–you have them in droves. Some things were not meant to be completely understood!

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