Prose Commercial: House: The Restaurant

My new humor piece is up at Defenestration. It’s basically a prose commercial called “House: The Restaurant“.

It was one of my earliest humor pieces after I started really writing them in late 2015. After a few rejections, I retired it. But one day I was looking through all my other rejects and realized, hey, that one actually has something. So I polished it up and tried again.

Sometimes one gives up too early. Other times, the thing you keep sending out over and over again will never work. If I knew the difference between these two scenarios, I would be actually good already.

Maybe that will come in time.

Maybe I’m just telling jokes into an empty audience until the day I die of a heart attack I mistook for heartburn. Either way, I’d rather play creatively and get better than just play PUBG all day. Even if that is a really good game. (Seriously, it’s the best mobile game I’ve ever seen.)

Larry McMurtry and Arcade Hipsters

My new humor piece “The Last Arcade Repairman” is up at Waxing Humorous. It’s a little play on Westerns and arcades. Its title is a pun on The Last Picture Show.

The piece let me flex my little Mark Twain dialect writing out that Elmore Leonard so reccomended against. But it’s real fun stuff. Both the piece and throwing some fake regional slang in.

(All the my knowledge of the West is admittedly secondhand from pop culture and some history books. I’ve actually never been west of the Mississippi but once and that just barely.)

Check it out if you got a minute or two. It’s nice and short.

On Writing Humor Vs. Standup: Blue Edition

I feel that there is a tremendous difference in what an audience in real life will accept vs. a reader, or, more specifically, most editors of most publications.

On the plus side in written humor you can get away with deeper cut references, more literary flare, and, frankly, softer jokes.

Because standup is a brutal, hard-hitting form. In prose humor, a chuckle can work.

Standup chews up chuckles and spits them out as weak crunchy stuff. Like a soft granola bar of mediocrity.

However, on the negative side, prose humor has to be a bit more refined than standup does. Refined as in subject matter and tastefulness, not in terms of comedy, necessarily.

For instance, let us use as an example my newest humor piece (this is secretly shameless self-promotion, sorry):

Walking with Dinosaurs Really Turns My Girlfriend On

If you open that link and peruse it you might note a few things. 1) It’s on Medium, which means I self-published it, which means no one else liked it enough to publish it for me. 2) It’s filthy as fuck.

Blue, in fact. That’s the phrase used in standup circles: working blue, blue comedy. A piece like that wouldn’t work as is in standup. Not for me. It’s too conceptual and I’m more of a one-linerish type.

I just don’t have the confidence to pull it off.

Yet something like that can work. You can get away with being very dirty in standup if you’re funny enough and not in the wrong room, i.e. church conference or coffeeshop filled with preteens. [The former for the evolution, the latter for the sex. Not that the former would be too fond of that part, either.]

But in prose, it’s hard to find a place willing to take something like that. I didn’t even try that many because I read them (you could too, by checking out my handy dandy humor markets listing) [even more links!!!] and I know, more or less, what they’re after.

So I self-published it. Because I do think it’s funny. And I’m desperate for validation (see Everything Else I Do).

And, yeah, it is pretty dirty. It’s so dirty I’m not even gonna share it on Facebook.  And that is why you never accept a friend request from your grandmother.

You just let it linger in the request que until she passes away and then you add her real quick so you can tag her in a really sad post and get a bunch of sympathy likes.

Likes are like insulin shots for diabetic assholes. I am not watching my diet.

Barrel Fever by David Sedaris

20180806_183325

Barrel Fever (1994) is a pretty good and quite funny collection of short stories, humor pieces, and essays that served as my introduction to David Sedaris, although I’ve quite enjoyed his appearances on a few podcasts I listen to.

Although Sedaris is mostly known as an essayist now, at least by me, anyway, he started out as more of a short story/humor piece writer, and perhaps it was a good idea to transition because I do think his essays (all at the back of the work in their own, too short section) are superior overall.

Barrel Fever, like almost all collections, and especially humor collections, is pretty hit or miss. But the hits reach heights of snarky, dark hilarity that make up for the lows, which aren’t bad so much as they don’t do much for me (with one exception I’ll get to below).

Highlights include:

“Music For Lovers” – An increasingly absurd piece about a man who does his own medical procedures, as well as his daughter’s, to increasingly absurd ends.

“My Manuscript” – Really good and hilarious fantasy of a teenage boy, more or less erotic fan fiction for his life.

“We Get Along” – An excellent one about a son and mother dealing with the aftermath of the death of the philandering father while cleaning out the basement they rent to tenants, most recently one the son had an affair with. Very funny but sad.

“After Malison” – Great tale of a sycophantic young writer desperate to meet her hero writer, full of disdain for people who aren’t like her or him.

“SantaLand Diaries” – The essay that made Sedaris famous, a beautiful, epic diary of his time as an elf at Macy’s. Just fantastic.

The lowlight:

“Season’s Greetings To Our Friends and Family!!!” – A story that makes me think 1994 wasn’t that long ago, now was it? Because this has not aged well and basically hinges on a cheap Asian language barrier joke.

That exception aside, Barrel Fever is a really funny and entertaining collection that leaves me primed to check out more Sedaris in the future. Maybe not the best introduction, if only because there are other books that are more essays than stories. I’ll find out.

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

20180703_193022

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1996) is a really funny fantasy dictionary/atlas with a playful meta structure. Jones builds her work as if fantasy quests, or, more meta-fictionally, every fantasy story ever, is a tour arranged by Management.

Each entry (including such topics as DARK LORD, THIEVES’ GUILD, or WARRIOR WOMEN) is a  brilliant cataloguing of generic fantasy tropes and clichés that she provides a logical and often hilarious explanation for.

There are dozens and dozens of references and in-jokes towards popular works of fantasy, as well as the scores of hackwork that fester in the field. (Especially seems to be poking fun at the ’80s publishing landscape.)

Tough Guide is a brilliant idea and well executed. The visual design is well-done, as well, from the cover to the map to the little icons on the margins of each definition. I especially am in awe of her how her concept allows her the privilege of not necessarily having a hard joke every time – the definitions that aren’t funny are just accurate – thus you never feel cheated or bored.

It’s like a fantasy The Devil’s Dictionary or a proto-TV Tropes and, much like any humorous compendium of disparate entries, best enjoyed slowly.

Humor Piece Self-Promotion Initiate

 

My new humor piece “Cup of Bro’s: The Coffee Shop For Regular Dudes” is up at Little Old Lady Comedy.

It’s kind of a commercial for a douche bag alt-right (same thing) coffee shop. I like writing in that fake commercial format even though I know prose isn’t necessarily the best way to do it.

However, I am lazy and lack good video/audio editing software (and know-how) so still I try.

I dedicate this piece to Broomwagon Coffee + Bikes in Lexington, KY. They inspired me with their fine coffee, not by having abhorrent political views. They’re a combination bicycle/coffee shop, so, of course they’re progressive as fuck.

My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber

20180613_164416

My Life and Hard Times (1933) is a pleasant, gently funny but fairly slight batch of autobiographical reminiscences. Thurber focuses his very short book (115 pages in this paperback) on his childhood and does a vivid job of bringing to life early 20th century Colombus, Ohio.

The book is really a series of very short stories, almost family tall tales, with a couple more essayic pieces. The entire work is very diverting and entertaining but does not stick around the mind all that much. Thurber and The New Yorker, of which he was a staff writer and cartoonist, referred to works like these as “casuals”, and that is how they feel in both ease and impact.

Two pieces really standout in reaching the heights of almost screwball farce: “The Night the Bed Fell” and “The Day the Dam Broke”. But even the less substantial stories are delightful in their view of Thurber’s madcap family, especially his quasi-senile Civil War Union veteran grandfather. Thurber illustrates scenes throughout in his scratchy cartoonist manner.