Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dying is easy . . .

In MY FAVORITE YEAR, Peter O'Toole famously said that dying is easy, it's comedy that's hard.*

I've really been trying to write steadily in this new year, both for myself, and for the podcast. It was sort of a resolution thing, and sort of a "Love Me, Daddy!" cry for attention. I do what I can to make each episode of our show interesting, from sound clips and adding echo or effects, to running gags and Barbie commercials. I've written up a couple of little sketches and comedic bits for upcoming episodes, and after transcribing one the other day, I looked over the full script and wondered, "Is this funny? Are people going to like this? Is this even worth recording?"

That spiraled into questions of "Am I funny?" and "Do I have a grasp on what other people find amusing?" And that spiraled into more absinthe abuse.

The first question is difficult to answer. After all, everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor (as WHEN HARRY MET SALLY taught me). But as to whether other people laugh at what I say (or write), or whether I can identify what's funny to others . . . well, there's probably a definitive answer to that.

The other day I had an idea for a story in which a character (almost wholly based on me) is forced to do a stand-up comedy routine for a group of bored despots, knowing that if he fails to amuse them, they will have him killed. It felt like a brilliant story idea to me (still does), and the writing went smoothly . . . until.

Once the Me character gets up there and begins trying to make the rulers laugh, I realized that what I wrote absolutely HAD to be funny, or I was dead. I thought I had a good strategy for what the character would say, and how that would go over, but as I wrote it, it didn't seem very funny to me. I didn't know exactly how the story would end (though I figured I'd have to survive, since it's written in first person), but if the stuff he's saying isn't even funny to the writer, well, chances are he's dead meat.

Quite literally, in this story's case.

But that storypoint bothered me just as much as introspection usually does. What if I'm not as funny as I think I am? For the story to work, the nervousness the Me character feels makes him start to babble, and whatever comes out of his mouth has to be both hilarious and seem effortless for the story to work. Even if I kill him at the end, I want that section to be genuinely funny. And right now, it just isn't.

I'm not sure what I'll do (normally, it would be to abandon the project, but I'm not feeling normal today), but I'll continue to think about it, and see if I can't shoehorn some amusing one-liners and banter with him and his flesh-hungry audience in. At the very least, I've already found my title.

Rish "Soiling Oneself is Easy" Outfield

*Apparently, he was quoting a famous vaudevillian, but who actually said it (Edmund Gwenn, George Bernard Shaw, Donald Wolfit, Edmund Kean), is disputable.

No comments: