Someone once referred to writing humor as “lying for a living”. While humor writers don’t actually lie outright, we do often stretch the truth until it resembles the worn-out elastic waistband on a pair of old bloomers.
Actually being a humor writer is like having a chronic illness. You can treat the symptoms, but the disease is still there. You can keep it under control most of the time by reading about global warming or by watching C-span, but there is no cure. It’s something you have to learn to live with and try to keep under control the best way you can. I’ve, been managing my obsessive writing disorder, or OWD, since I was in my twenties. Frankly I have an easier time managing my diabetes.
In the years that I’ve been writing my humor column, I’ve been asked the same two questions by countless readers. The first question is “How do you come up with something funny to write about each week?” and the other question is “Do you mean they actually pay you to write that nonsense?” To the second question I always answer, “Sspsspt!” And then I try to give an equally sensible answer to the first question, like “Number 5′” or “Philadelphia”.
Contrary to what the famous writers of real literature would have you believe, there’s a great deal of work involved in writing a humor column. For one thing you have to actually think. I don’t like thinking. It makes me tired and I usually quit after the first ten minutes and file my nails or stare out the window.
It’s just that there are so many things out there for a humor writer to write about. The ideas are endless. Like for instance…umm…well actually I can’t think of anything right now, but I’m sure something would be funny, if it happened.
Anything can be funny when you look at it with a warped mind. Ideas, much like people, come in all shapes and sizes. I get some of my best ideas when I’m doing something other than writing…like when I’m trying to sleep.
Sometimes I’ll be all snuggled in and drifting off to sleep when suddenly along comes a new thought that makes me laugh. I try to ignore the pesky thing but it nags at me until I get tired of swatting it away like a bee at a barbecue.
Finally, in order to stop the nagging I get up, stumble to the office and write down the idea, and then here comes another swarm of thoughts followed by a few more. Before I realize it the one idea has escalated into a column, I’ve written over a thousand words, and the sun is peeking in through the window. And most of the time nearly 990 of these words are about as funny as a massive dose of poison ivy…or Nancy Pelosi.
It’s kind of like rowing a boat with a rope. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to stare out the window.