C Suresh has recently published his book ‘A Dog eat Dog Food World’. For those who are unfamiliar with Suresh’s blog www.jambudweepam.blogspot.in, I would recommend you read it. He is one of the best in writing humor. There are very few, almost non-existent bloggers who write humour. The blog has been rated among the Top 5 humour blogs in India, twice in succession – in 2014 and 2015 – by BlogAdda, and has also been listed third among the Top Humour Blogs by Baggout.
I had asked Suresh, how does he write so humorously? How easy or difficult is it to write humor? I enjoyed reading his response (below) and hope you do to.
Humour is serious business
It is almost a truism that humor is probably the toughest genre to write. Despite humanity’s professed quest for happiness, people are more willing to feel melancholy, anger, hatred, lust or love but absolutely refuse to feel happy. A writer, therefore, who seeks to make his audience any other emotion is speaking to a receptive audience. A humorist, on the other hand, is always in the position of taking up the challenge to make someone laugh, who prides himself on being immune to humor – and without even the benefit of being able to tickle the guy physically.
Consider, also, the fact that writing humor is a tight-rope walk. Fall off on one side and you merely appear silly ending up with people laughing AT you. Fall off on the other side and, after you are finished telling your joke, people continue to look expectantly at you, waiting eagerly for the punch-line. No other genre puts you in the position of having to hit bull’s eye, every time.
The problem, also, is in the fact that humor relies a lot of metaphors and comparisons that is what makes the writing humorous – provided the reader gets it. Which not only means that the reader has to recognize them but also has to be concentrating on the reading sufficiently to make the connections. Take for example P.G. Wodehouse’s description of a fat boy in his schoolboy stories – ‘Upon what meat doth this our Leslie feed that he has grown so great?” If you did not know or failed to make the connection that he is misquoting Shakespeare’s “Upon what meat doth this Caesar feed that he has grown so great?”, you would merely read it as ‘Kis chakki ke aata khaata hai’, which is quite a common metaphor in Hindi and not something wonderfully funny.
In a world where reading is lackadaisical and anything funny is merely seen as frivolous, it is no surprise that good humor writing shall perish. Why would an author attempt a genre that is probably the toughest, only to find that readers just do not want to read it – because they see nothing funny in it on the surface and refuse to accept that putting in a bit of mental effort to enjoy a book could at all be worth it.
It is no wonder, therefore, that most of humor has now become an exercise of making fun of people, societies and customs. THAT is humor that easily appeals – for laughing at others gives you that comfortable feeling that you are better than them, at the very least. But, as for the humor that makes you laugh at your own foibles; laugh at the silly things that all of us do and believe; and even laugh, and thus make light of, whatever problems that seem to loom large in front of us – that is not preferred reading.
Is it any wonder then that writing humor is serious business? First, you need to know a lot of the world, in order to make the humorous comparisons; next your writing has to be spot on, with little room for error; and, after that, you need to convince readers that it is worth reading – with some attention.
It is that last requirement – and the near impossibility of achieving it – that converts that ‘serious’ to ‘tragic’!