Category Archives: Mash-Up

Mash-Up, June 4: Kristen Lamb, How to Write Funny, Paul Johnson

This week we review a blog post from Kristen Lamb, a book titled How to Write Funny, edited by John B. Kachuba, and a blog post from Paul Johnson at The Good Greatsby.

Kristen Lamb is the best-selling author of We Are Not Alone and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer.  Read these books if you want to write.  In the 21st Century, like it or not, a blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook fan page are the holy trinity of an author’s platform, and Kristen wrote the bible.

On her blog, Kristen gives additional lessons on social media and the craft of writing.  Every one of her posts answers a question I had in my head before I visited her site.

For example, Kristen’s recent post, “Scene Antagonists–The Making of a Hero”, discusses the scene antagonist that drives the inner change of a character.  After I looked up what antagonist meant (it means the bad guy), I wanted to know how an antagonist would work in certain humorous books, where the main character’s obstacles are of his own doing.

I asked this in a comment to the post.  Kristen’s articulate answer was (1) be careful of literary fiction, which must be read in the context of the time it was published, and (2) even those protagonists’ inner turmoil must be externalized to tell a good story.  For years I had wondered why my every attempt to create a buffoon fell flat on the page.  Now I know what was missing.  There must be an anti-buffoon.

I’ve learned other great lessons in writing humor from the aptly titled How to Write Funny, an anthology of essays and interviews from accomplished humor writers.  It’s an old cliché that humor cannot be taught.  But this book does not really teach humor.  Instead, it demonstrates how to find and release the humor from the dysfunction that lies within and around us.  Chapter 14, on the 7 Commandments of Comedy Writing, is alone worth the price of the book.  That is, unless you are completely humorless, which explains why you are reading my blog.

And last, but certainly not least, is one man who does not need to learn anything about writing humor.  His name is Paul Johnson, and his blog, The Good Greatsby, has become a daily treasure.  Writing comedy is hard.  Writing publishable comedy every day seems next to impossible.  I keep looking in the website’s source code for elves that do the writing at night, but all I saw were semicolons, backslashes, and a half-eaten oatmeal cream pie.

One of Paul’s recent gems, “Food Pyramid We Hardly Knew Ye”, discusses the United States Department of Agriculture’s decision to change the food pyramid to a food plate.  The very idea oozes with comedic value, and Paul capitalizes on it nicely.  If you want to start each day with a laugh, bookmark TheGoodGreatsby.com.

And that’s a wrap.  Enjoy the weekend.

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Mash-Up, May 28: David Bouchier, Clay Morgan, Leanne Shirtliffe

This week we review an essay from humorist David Bouchier, a blog post from Clay Morgan at eduClaytion.com, and a column from Leanne Shirtliffe that was published in the Calgary Herald.

David Bouchier is an award-winning essayist for National Public Radio and author.  Originally from England, he relocated to New York’s Long Island, in search of, I imagine, more traffic.  His humor column “Out of Order” appeared in the regional Sunday edition of the New York Times for ten years until 2003.  The Song of Suburbia, a collection of humorous vignettes about trying to make it in the suburbs, is ever at my side.

David Bouchier’s writing is polished, lively, and funny, and he regularly treats the public to a featured essay on his website.  His most recent such piece, The Anxious Traveler (May 27), highlights the comic irony of our oppression by the very means of travel that were designed to empower us, a topic near and dear to my heart.

Our next piece comes from Clay Morgan via his website, eduClaytion.  Clay is a writer, professor, and speaker from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He has a particular interest in using pop culture references to reach a generation of students that are often considered unreachable, as Clay explains in this guest post that appeared on Lessons From Teachers and Twits.  His ebullience is part and parcel of his work, and every visit to eduClaytion puts me in a good mood.

This week, Clay writes a touching and funny memoir of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, a professional wrestler who brought life to the World Wrestling Federation from 1985 to 1994, and whose own life ended on May 20th when he suffered a heart attack while driving his truck and crashed into a tree.  Clay’s prose resurrects those gladiators in colorful briefs, sparring with metal folding chairs, and catapulting off the ropes onto their supine adversaries’ glistening chests and faces.

I saw the moves all over again: the body slam, the pile driver, the back body drop, the airplane spin, the gorilla press gutbuster.  Was it honest athletic competition, or staged entertainment?  Either way, I was glad it happening on the television instead of in my living room.

And last, but not least, comes a piece from Leanne Shirtliffe, who blogs at IronicMom.com about her misadventures raising twins.  Her work will bring a laugh if you have children, or even if you don’t have children but have seen examples of them on television.  Her article titled “Water, kids, and failed experiments” (Calgary Herald, May 26) is about keeping your cool when your child discovers the garden hose.

What is it with kids and hoses?  Sigmund Freud had an explanation, but this blog is geared towards a general audience.  Leanne wisely ignores the psychology, and takes her child’s fascination with aplomb and humor; a lesson in parenting, and a lesson in writing.

And that’s a wrap.  Enjoy the weekend.

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