“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn’t. A sense of humour was provided to console him for what he is.” Horace Walpole
I’m the first to admit that I’m not funny. Not in the ha ha sense anyway. I can’t write or think comedy and I’m attracted, as I’ve said many times in this blog, to unraveling and making sense of tragedy and damage. Strange how I just used the word, unraveling. That’s really what I’m obsessed with. What makes someone unravel? But I’ll save that for another blog. Suffice to say, I take myself far too seriously.
And yet, I am in awe of others who can use humour to make sense of the incomprehensible in their lives.
I’ve just finished two memoirs written by two funny men. Honest to goodness funny. Yes, this time I am talking about ha ha funny. Both books gave me glimpses into the human condition type of stuff I love, but from a perspective I rarely consider in my own writing. Humour. And what a treat it was.
The subtitle of Jonathan Baum’s memoir, My Impaired Moral Compass, is The Dismal Failures and Occasional Triumphs of a Misguided Man. You can see a glimpse of yourself in that subtitle or at least I did when I substituted the word woman for man.
Right off the bat the stories portray an ordinary guy trying to find his place on his terms. He wants a dream job and a reasonably priced place to live (in Whistler, no less) so he can pursue his passion, comedy. Throw in his need to find a dream girl and Jonathan’s ability to laugh at himself and you’ve got the ingredients of a smart, very well written and outrageously funny memoir. Despite the odds, he never gives up his pursuits so as a reader you find yourself cheering him on despite his foibles.
This line in My Impaired Moral Compass captures the essence of Jonathan’s journey, “…a content influx of women to provide me with my greatest weakness: hope.” Yes, isn’t that every person’s weakness? Not the women part of that quote, but rather the hope part. He nailed the crux of why we all continue with whatever our pursuits happen to be, despite the obstacles and odds.
Charles Demers, The Horrors, An A to Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things is as the title denotes a series of Charlie’s thoughts about a number of different issues sorted by the letters of the alphabet. These deeply personal, skilfully written and incredibly funny essays are varied in scope and subject matter.
He writes about the death of his mother in his essay, M for Motherlessness, but the impact of her illness and death is felt through many of his essays including, D for Depression, O for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and P for Panic. Even in his final essay, Z for ZZZ, which is a political−as well as a coming to terms with the end of his book−essay, his mother is back where she always is, top of mind and center of his heart. “I saw a robin, which always makes me feel closer to my mother, whose name that was.”
That’s exactly how I feel about my mom when I see certain things that remind me of her. I’ve never read this anywhere else before. It was nice to know I’m not alone.
Despite the obvious heavy nature of these topics and others (politics, dead-end jobs, both his father’s and brother’s coming out) he writes about in The Horrors, Charlie uses humour to observe and then better understand what is happening in his life. It helps him and the reader put everything into perspective in a way that dramatic fiction (the sort I write) can’t always do.
I might have to try humour in my writing. Except as I’ve already said, I don’t know how to be funny. Not in the ha ha sense anyway. Now, did you hear about the man who walked into a bar and....
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