I have often, in this space and elsewhere, urged those who are not funny to avoid trying to write comedy. This is not stated from a superior point of view, in that I am actually quite incapable of writing an entire story that is serious. I understand the impulse to do the other, but I'm here to warn the humor-impaired off the impulse. It won't be good for you and it won't be good for anyone else.
But the question that might arise from that statement is clear: How can I be sure I'm not funny? It's a reasonable query and one that should be addressed seriously. Alas, if you read that previous paragraph, you know I'm not the man for the job if those are the criteria.
So let's consider it: You think you might not be funny, and that's a problem because you'd like to write a funny story. How can you be certain? Maybe you're hilarious and you don't know it. Or, conversely, it's possible you are the least funny person on the planet but you believe yourself to be the reincarnation of Groucho Marx. Either way, you need a little guidance, and I'm here to help.
Signs You Aren't Funny
- You say something in the spirit of humor and nothing happens. Crickets chirp. People look uncomfortable. If anyone's still wearing a wristwatch, s/he looks at it. This is a clear signal. Think of writing a tragedy. You're suited to it.
- Someone asks you how you're doing and your impulse is to respond, "As well as Donald Trump." Now you haven't just not said something funny, you have waded into a political statement and worse, nobody knows what you mean. The only thing you've demonstrated is an ability to annoy people on both sides of the aisle. Think about becoming a speech writer. For Donald Trump.
- You say something you think is hilarious and people take you seriously. "Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig's disease," you say. "What are the odds?" Your friend explains patiently that the condition is called ALS and it just took on the name of the famous Yankee AFTER he passed away from it and... Never mind. You're not funny.
- You, a rabbi, a priest and a minister walk into a bar and nobody thinks that's at all amusing.
- Your favorite comedian of all time is Señor Wences.
- Your idea of a riotous comedy film is something directed by Ingmar Bergman.
- You wish W.C. Fields had just gone to an AA meeting. Just one. That poor man.
- You try to charm a woman you just met with your wit and find out from a friend later that she was listening to a hockey game in one ear.
- You think Seth Rogen should option Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis as a starring vehicle for himself. Wait. That's not a bad idea. Scratch that. Forget I said anything. Get me Seth Rogen's phone number.
- Someone asks who your favorite Marx Brother is and you answer, seriously, "Karl."
- Worse, "Gummo."
- Your idea of a gag present is a Target gift card.
- You walk into a party ready to slay them all with your ready wit and before you can speak everybody asks, "What's wrong?"
I hope this has proven to be the public service for which it was intended. Meanwhile, keep in mind that THE QUESTION OF THE FELONIOUS FRIEND isn't just out there buying itself. Same is true of WRITTEN OFF. And I'm just getting ready for SPOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. Stay tuned.