I’m always so envious of authors who are able to write comedy. Humor is so subjective that I find a lot of the books people assure me are ‘SO funny’ don’t get more than a quick smile and scoff.
So what does make a book funny for me?
Voice, situation, and dialogue.
If a book has only one of the above, but not the rest, it might earn a couple smiles here and there. I've read books with a funny voice where nothing funny actually happens. I've read books where funny stuff happens but the author didn't make the most out of it. And I've read books with great witty dialogue that isn't backed up through enough description or overall voice. All of these are funny-ish in their own ways.
But I find the scenes that have me rolling in the isles come from having comedic set up- the situation in and of itself is humorous. Then you’ve got the author’s description (the voice!), take, and action on said situation which increases the humor. Then if you can add just the right out-loud commentary (dialogue!), it all comes together to create a vivid, visual, funny-fest.
Here are a few examples from books I love:
Situation and voice:
‘Thankfully his offices are clean, his staff is efficient, and his manner is both gentle and professional. There’s only one problem: His speaking voice is inaudible.
Flat on my back with my feet in the stirrups I found myself repeatedly yelling down between my legs for Dr. Eiger to please repeat himself. But it was no use. This seemingly lovely man in his early sixties with soft gray hair and sparkling blue eyes was clearly unable to project his voice past my ankles.
So I gave up. And dubbed him the Crotch Whisperer.’
Situation, Voice, and Dialogue:
And yes, my dog is galloping—galloping!—her huge ears flapping, jowls rising and falling with each stride, enormous paws flopping gracelessly on the pavement as she runs—runs!—right down the middle of the street. This from a dog who has to be dragged to go outside!
And on her hindquarters, in order to prevent little drops of blood from spattering my house, is a pair of Matt’s bright white Calvin Klein boxer briefs. Her tail, which is guided through the front slot of the briefs, whips back and forth. I sit frozen in horror as she careens onto the sidewalk right in front of Emo’s.
“Why is that doggie wearing underwear?” asks a little girl.
“Oh, my God!” I stand abruptly, bumping the table. Ryan’s water sloshes. “How did she get out? She’s never gotten out before! I told the boys—”
My precious puppy, all one hundred and twenty pounds of randy, menstruating she-dog, leaps up against the window, front paws leaving great muddy smears against the glass, baying with joy at having sniffed out her mistress. “Aahroorooroororooo!” she sings, head thrown back in ecstasy.
“Dear God,” Ryan says.
I stare open-mouthed. “Um…I think I’d better…that’s…that’s my dog.”
“Dear God,” Ryan says again.
I’m already weaving my way through the restaurant toward the bar. People are either laughing or frowning as Buttercup continues to serenade me. The maître d’ and two servers are pointing and talking.
“I’ll take care of this!” I tell them. “She’s mine. She must have tracked me here. She’s part bloodhound. She’s in heat.”
“Thanks for sharing,” the maître d’ says.
So what makes a book funny for you?
Hope everyone had a great weekend!