Thursday, July 06, 2006

Off the topic, but not too far

I looked up comic blogs by women recommended by another blogger. I didn’t find them very funny, an age thing perhaps. I usually have the same opinion of women stand-up comedians. Their method seems to be to mention private parts, say the f word, or complain about their mothers. That was funny some time ago, but the shock value has worn off.

Good comedy of any kind is the most difficult genre to write. That’s a vast generalization, but I think it’s true. You apparently can’t force yourself to write it, but you can force yourself to write a novel or a poem. Leo Rosten has an insightful introduction to his second volume of the wonderfully comic Hyman Kaplan stories. He writes that one night when he was in despair, Hyman appeared to him. Rosten wrote the stories when he should have been doing something else. They were a great success, so of course people wanted more. But Hyman disappeared, not to re-surface until twenty-five years later when Rosten was again in despair.

One time long ago, when my husband was worried, he woke me up to read me his first Everett Coogler poem. My reaction was, Oh no, he’s gone round the bend. He wrote quite a few Coogler poems, enough for a slim chapbook, and they were wildly successful. When he performed them at readings, people would howl with laughter. Strangers wrote him fan letters. But alas, Everett disappeared.

I love the Christopher Fry essay, “Comedy”. “…there is an angle of experience where the dark is distilled into light: either here or hereafter, in or out of time: where tragic fate finds itself with perfect pitch, and goes straight to the key which creation was composed in. And comedy senses and reaches out to this experience. It says, in effect, that, groaning as we may be, we move in the figure of a dance, and, so moving, we trace the outline of the mystery.”

Occasionally when I am giving a reading from one of my novels, the audience will laugh. Then I fantasize that I too could write a comic novel. Or maybe a short story.


Peter said...

Life is easy--comedy's hard.

Peter said...

While I'm at it, have a look at this:


Peter said...

Hmm: that link may be a little hard to follow, and I can't edit it: here's a more easily followed version. Sorry.