How to Make a Humor Book Not Funny
The problem with humor is that so much of it is subjective. I laugh at the television show The Big Bang Theory, and my wife stares impassively (then complains about the annoying laugh track, and she’s probably right). My wife laughs at all the Real Housewives shows, and I stare impassively (praying that my wife never becomes like them).
Both my wife and I laugh at videos where guys get hit in the nuts. That kind of humor is universal.
When I travel or go on vacation, I like to read humorous books. When I’m in the airport or on a plane, I still have the urge to read but I can’t concentrate much, so I need something that isn’t challenging. Two years ago, I read Sh*t My Dad Says and last summer I read Bossypants. I’m not sure what I’m going to read on my next upcoming vacation, so I’ve been perusing samples on my e-reader.
Writing a humorous book is probably difficult because the author has to make hundreds of pages funny. Some comedians have a tough time making five minutes funny. And a writer of humor has to write more material for a book than a comedian does for a routine.
If a comedian has a routine that goes on for an hour, he/she probably has to come up with about 10- 20 pages of stuff (estimate with no empirical data to back that up). Talking takes longer than reading silently (unless you have to mouth the words as you read). Then a comedian has to pause for laughter (if he’s any good). The comedian needs bonus material for (planned) spontaneity, such as asking a bunch of audience members where they’re from.
That doesn’t mean it’s easier to be a comedian. A comedian has to be comfortable on stage (I’d probably dry heave, which would be more entertaining than the rest of my act, but I would be uncomfortable doing that in front of people). A comedian has to interact with the audience (I avoid interacting with people when I can). A comedian has to deliver his/her lines in an entertaining way (I have a monotone voice). So while writing lots and lots of (attempted) humor can be time consuming, being an actual comedian is far more difficult than writing (attempts at) humor.
As I mentioned earlier, I need a humor book for my upcoming vacation, and below is a group of possible choices. I don’t want to be critical of the books I’ve sampled because I probably analyzed them too much. Since I didn’t laugh much (because I was analyzing rather than reading for enjoyment), I realized that analyzing humor takes all of the funny out of humor books.
I Hate Everyone, Starting with Me by Joan Rivers- I can hear Joan River’s voice in my head when I read this silently. I don’t think I want to hear Joan River’s voice in my head when the (legal) pills start to kick in on the airplane.
Hilarity Ensues by Tucker Max- Some critics would say the title is not accurate. I started reading this and then realized that this is the third book in a trilogy. A trilogy? I didn’t know getting-drunk-humor books came in trilogies. There have been fantasy trilogies, vampire trilogies, even a bondage trilogy, and now there’s a getting-drunk-humor trilogy. Technically, I don’t think the Tucker Max trilogy is really a trilogy because in a real trilogy, if you started on the third book (like I did) you’re supposed to be confused, and I knew exactly what was going on.
Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang and a bunch of other books by/about Chelsea Handler- A late night talk show host on a cable channel has written(?) five books in (I think) seven years. Five books is more than a trilogy. I don’t think Johnny Carson wrote five books (I don’t think he even wrote a trilogy), and he was a slightly more successful talk show host than Chelsea Handler. If Johnny Carson had written a trilogy, I would probably read it. Chelsea Handler seems like a younger Joan Rivers, and if I can’t have Joan’s voice in my head when I’m in an airplane, I don’t think I can handle Chelsea’s either.
Not Taco Bell Material by Adam Corolla- This might turn out to be a good book, but it starts out with Adam’s childhood. Despite what authors might think, childhood is usually the least interesting part of a person’s life (unless something traumatic happened). I did laugh at the hippie mom and her boyfriend with some weird science fiction like name that I can’t remember, so I might come back to this book.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess)- Jenny Lawson keeps saying how crazy she is and how much her writing needs editing. She also writes long, rambling sentences, and I have nothing against long, rambling sentences, but when I’m on an airplane and the (legal) pills have taken control of my senses, long, rambling sentences might confuse me. Plus, if a woman keeps telling me she is crazy, I stay away from her.
I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern- I already reviewed the title and the book sample a few weeks ago. It was okay.
I haven’t decided which book (or trilogy) I’m going to read yet, but I’m leaning toward the Adam Corolla book. I laughed a couple times when I read the sample. I figure that if I laughed a couple times when I was analyzing the humor, then I might enjoy it even more once I don’t care if the book is funny or not.