Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Humor, Satire, and Wit

Humor in literature depends on what people find funny. That sounds simplistic, but what tickles one person might not cause a twitch of the lip to another. Writing can feature many different forms of humor. Books can be belly-laugh funny, subtle, satirical, dry, ethnic, screwball farce, neurotic, slapstick, political, absurd, and probably a dozen more. Each style causes a different reaction to different readers. I’m going to feature a few humorists and some writers known for their wit.

Writer Dorothy Parker was one of the wittiest satirists ever. Here are a few of her priceless comments I find funny:

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

“There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

And one of my very favorites: “It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”

Humorist Will Rogers said some funny things about politics and politicians in his day, as I read them, I found them very current. Does that mean that things stay pretty much the same?

“Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”

“There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.”

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

“Now if there is one thing that we do worse than any other nation, it is try and manage somebody else's affairs.”

Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.

Before Will and Dorothy, there was Mark Twain.

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“In 'Huckleberry Finn,' I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had.”

One of my favorite satirists is Andy Borowitz. His quotes are political: they’re also so close to the truth that it’s hard to differentiate the satire. I’ll post a few of my favorites that aren't obviously political.

"To mark Michael Phelps' amazing Olympic career, I think the USA should legalize marijuana."

"If you buy your July 4 supplies at Walmart you can celebrate our independence from Britain and our dependence on China at the same time."

These were the top vote getters in Goodreads poll of funny books:

Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Catch 22, The Princess Bride, Good Omens, Me Talk Pretty One Day, A Confederacy of Dunces, The Importance of Being Earnest, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and One for the Money.

Authors known for humorous novels:

David Sedaris
Terry Prachett
Kurt Vonnegut
Janet Evanovich
Christopher Moore.
Carl Hiaasen
And Elmore Leonard because of his quirky characters.

I’ve read quite a few of the authors above, and some made me laugh out loud. Though I’m a mystery, suspense, thriller reader, even those genres require a bit of levity for a break. It can be dialogue, characters, or scenario, but it should be there.

Who are your favorite humorous authors? What books made you laugh out loud?


Polly Iyer is the author of eight novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

18 comments :

  1. Excellent selection, Polly. I'd add Douglas Adams as I always think of his books as well whenever Terry Pratchett's are mentioned. And Diana Wynne Jones, of course. Lately I've enjoyed the subtle humour of Derek Landy and Jonathan Stroud in the YA category.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, Elle, Douglas Adams came up in my research. I'm familiar with Pratchett but not with the others. I'm sure there are dozens of writers who would make me laugh. During these stressful times, I need to look them up. Thanks for a few more.

      Delete
  2. Love this post, Polly! Humor lets us get by with saying a lot of things that might not go over nearly as well if spoken (or written) in a serious tone. I'm a bit of a Mark Twain fan; I also like Betty MacDonald, author of The Egg and I and The Plague and I.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I remember The Egg and I when it was a daily TV soap. That goes waaay back.

      Delete
  3. Some familiar and unfamiliar examples here. Loved it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, some were familiar to me. Really wish I could have put more Andy Borowitz on, but they were too political.

      Delete
  4. Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard are among my most favorite authors ever! I've only read one Terry Prachett but found it quite clever and humorous. Ditto David Sedaris.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I adore Elmore Leonard. Fast paced, wonderful characters, just quirky enough without being silly or unbelievable.

      Delete
  5. I don't read much humor, but Peter Mayle's A Dog's Life made me laugh out loud, and A Confederacy of Dunces is one of my all time favorite reads. While I enjoy political humor and the humor inherent in real life situations, farce, crazy characters, screwball comedy, and slapstick aren't for me. I've never made it through a Janet Evanovich.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read either of those books, but I have read and enjoyed Evanovich, until it got boringly repetitive. As I said, humor is individual. My husband loves the Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges, and he even laughed at the first Evanovich book but not enough to read book two.

      Delete
  6. So many good books mentioned here, I am pretty sure I have read and loved them all! I would love to develop more humor in my writing. Speaking, I'm on it. Writing? Not as much as I would like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Humor is more difficult in writing than in person, especially if it's supposed to be funny. In person, much is impromptu and no one expects anything, so if you say something funny, it gets a laugh. If you try to be funny, that's when you might bomb. In writing, we have a chance to test it before it reaches the written page. It ain't easy.

      Delete
  7. Oh! I'll keep the suggestions, thanks! I'm always on the lookout for witty authors.

    Recently, I laughed out loud reading Spanking Shakespeare (more of a high school boy humour, but still funny to me). Other than that... Etiquette & Espionage made me smile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the suggestions. I'm not familiar with either of those you mentioned. Schoolboy humor does well in movies in the U.S., so you're not alone.

      Delete
  8. The satirical news sites are keeping me sane at the moment. It says something when the comedians do better reporting than the news outlets. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup. Miss Jon Stewart, but Will Rogers made the same comment decades ago. Every one of his bits of truth ring true today.

      Delete
    2. My daughter wrote a neat article "I Blame Jon Stewart." We all let him speak for us when maybe we should have been speaking out ourselves.
      http://www.collindemocrats.org/i-blame-jon-stewart-democratic-voices-anjanette-shake/

      Delete
  9. Great book recommendations. Blessed are the comedians for they keep us sane.

    ReplyDelete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...