It’s hard to explain your own sense of humor to someone else. You can say it’s dry or it’s witty or it’s sarcastic or it’s light or whatever, but that’s a category. It’s not easy to give someone a good idea of what tickles your funny bone or amuses you as entertainment in a single word.
I think it comes as no surprise to many who read this blog that I sincerely believe that Joss Whedon is one of the brightest, most entertaining writers on the PLANET.
Not only did he write Buffy and Angel, series that I really enjoyed, but, hey, Firefly….Serenity…and Dr. Horrible. Whedon is funny, he’s socially conscious, and he treats women like actual women in his stories, instead of as place-holders or plot devices or obligatory romance angles. I haven’t really watched a lot of Dollhouse, but it’s in the Netflix instant queue for the next time I’m looking for smart, engaging entertainment that doesn’t treat me like an idiot but doesn’t require me to have a PhD in, well, anything, to follow it. I’m okay with learning something while I’m entertained, but I don’t want to feel like I’m supposed to take notes when I’m watching TV on a rare evening break from writing and work and everything else. And I want to laugh at it, no matter how dark or serious or scary or off-kilter.
I believe that humor is a part of everything we say and do and watch and discuss. And without humor, life would just suck.
The reality shows on TV really aren’t my thing. I’d rather have a plotted out story that just watch someone else blunder their way through life. I do that enough in my own life to enjoy watching someone else flail about without a resolution that fits the story. The exception seems to be Iron Chef America and Chopped and Food Network Challenge. Cooking competition shows are like catnip to me. I can’t stop watching them, but there’s a sick, twisted part of me that can’t resist wondering if the giant sugar statute is going to crash to the floor, or if someone’s going to set their eyebrows on fire with a torch. Hey, I admit it. That’s the first step, right?
Not everything funny has to be overtly marked as comedy. I was a big fan of The West Wing. I enjoyed The Sopranos, I can’t wait for the next season of Treme, and as much as I thought that Deadwood jumped the shark a bit toward the end, I could not stop watching it because I was so enthralled by the characters and the in-jokes and the world created for the show. I have to admit to really enjoying the wit behind many of Kevin Smith’s movies, and laughed my tail off at the Fanboys movie, making fun of geek fan culture. I was very disappointed when The Riches were cancelled before we got a resolution to the wonderful buildup…because I got swept away by the characters, who you knew were really criminals but you couldn’t help but root for them to get away with whatever zany situation they were trying to talk themselves out of. And yet, the characters were fully functioning human beings that laughed and loved and worked like real people with multi-faceted angles…they were three dimensional because they had a sense of humor that inspired viewers to come back over and over again.
I fell hard for the urban fantasy genre in the beginning of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, because of the turn of phrase in her main character’s thought patterns. Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, and Kim Harrison are big favorites for similar reasons. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Moore, for exactly this reason, as well as Good Omens, written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. John Scalzi’s another one whose writing just hits the right level of crack-me-up and serious topics.
I prefer funny to hack-and-slash, but if we can do both, I’m in. I’m not a fan of horror zombie movies but I enjoyed the heck out of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland.
I can get engrossed in a well crafted sentence, reading it over and over again in my head and chuckling to myself, savoring it in my brain like a surprise chocolate melt-away candy, one smooth enough or crunchy enough to distract me from what I’d been doing before I’d read or heard the sentence.
My friends do it, too. So that means we end up quoting minor bits of books and movies and tv shows at each other, peppered throughout our conversations.
I have a tendency to really enjoy a show or a book, and watch it or read it over and over again, compelled by characters and witty lines and situations that get stuck in my head, for later enjoyment. This is not always a good thing…it results in me cackling to myself in a corner because something someone else has said has dredged back up that line I’d read, or situation I’d seen six months ago…and it wouldn’t really be funny to anyone else in the room but it’s HYSTERICAL to me at the moment. I call myself the Queen of the Weird Mental Connection for just this reason.
Just one of these single save-it-away lines can turn into an entire story in my brain. My short story, DEMON BUSTERS, INC. came from a single sentence that John Scalzi uttered in a podcast interview about intergalactic genetically enhanced soldiers squishing inch high aliens with their boots. The story I wrote talked about squashing imps with work boots. I’d laughed at the line in the interview, and THREE MONTHS LATER, I was writing something with that line in mind.
Talk about a turn of phrase that sticks with you beyond the minute’s entertainment that it initially gives! I think all writers should aspire to some of that, whether it’s an iconic line that’s become part of the popular vernacular (i.e., “going to the mattresses” from The Godfather) or some scene that people refer to in the belief that it’s a universal meeting of the minds (if I talked about the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally, I’d guess that close to 90% percent of people would associate it with a woman faking an orgasm), or the crossover appeal of the Scooby Gang references in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It must be genetic, as well.
Nephew is a HUGENORMOUS fan of Buzz Lightyear. From Toy Story. Which was co-written by Joss Whedon.
We must be training him young.
Either that, or he’s inheriting the same, snarky, zany, off-kilter, somewhat contextual sense of humor that most of the family seems to enjoy.
I almost feel like I should apologize to him.