Saturday, 7 September 2013

I'm serious about being funny

I'm an extremely serious person.

You may not believe me. If you know me well, I'm sure you won't believe me.

Aren't I supposed to be a funny guy? Aren't I constantly reeling off jokes and zingers and puns and other kinds of randomly absurd observations about the vagaries of life in general and writing in particular.

All right, so maybe I do. But as far as I can tell, that's no reason to suggest that I'm not an extremely serious person.

There's a particular reason why I think I can support my claim that it's actually the fact that I am funny (well allegedly anyway) that makes me such a serious person. Here goes:

Being funny is hard work.

Don't believe me? Just try it some time. Go out there and make people laugh. It's not as easy as it sounds. Ok, I know there are some people out there who can just do it naturally. All they have to do is breathe and they can have everybody else falling over themselves in fits of laughter. But I'm not like that.

To people like me, being funny is a commitment. It's a goal that you set, and towards which you then need to work. It takes practice and dedication in order to achieve this goal at a regular level - to consistently say or write things with the requisite amount of hilarity.

And getting the amount right is a big part of it. Too little, and it will just seem anaemic. Too much and it will seem forced. It's a delicate balance, requiring hard work and skill and experience to get right. I'm not even sure I have.

So there you have it. Immutable evidence that I'm as serious as the next person, and more serious than many. I'm working hard, dedicating myself towards reaching a goal. The fact that it's a very silly goal does nothing to lessen the commitment required.

When it comes to being funny, I'm deadly serious.



  1. The duality of comedians is well documented. Anyone who has to appear—whether literally or virtually as we do—before an audience realises that who we appear to be when we’re there is not who we are when we’re sitting with our loved ones watching TV. My wife commented only a few days ago about some off the cuff remarks I left on Facebook. I forget her exact words but it was something like how “human” or “real” they were implying that most of the time I’m being a phoney. And she’s right. I’m being a phoney right now. Try as I might to be sincere and honest I’m still a big phoney. I choose my words with care. I read them over six or seven times (I do not jest) before I post even a short comment like this and I’m constantly fiddling with the phraseology so that it says exactly what I want it to say. I’m about the farthest thing from spontaneous that you could get. Look at comics like Woody Allen and Frankie Howard. All the stammering and ums and ahs was scripted. I was watching a documentary recently about Howard and he instructed his writers to include all his asides in their text. Allen was the same. For years we thought we knew who Woody Allen was and that the man onscreen was exactly the same as the man in real life whereas what he was was a gross exaggeration. Both treated their humour very seriously. They weren’t improvising; they were performing; it was an illusion. It’s no different to acrobats. They work dead hard to make what they do look dead easy. It’s far from easy.

    I watched a comedian on TV a couple of days ago, a guy called Lee Mack. I’d never heard of him before but I watched him for an hour or so and he kept me entertained but when I was telling my wife about him the day after I couldn’t recall a single gag, not one. I could only vaguely remember the kind of topics he covered and I find that with a lot of comedians; they’re not memorable. We might say that so-and-so gave a memorable performance but, seriously, what do we remember? That’s the effect of an onslaught of jokes. I’m not saying it’s a waste of time—for an hour or so we have a great time—but that’s it and I’d like to think that the humour in my books stays with people. I’m sure you’re the same. I have a real issue with writers whose only goal is only to entertain. It feels like such a wasted opportunity. Let the TV entertain. It’s far better at it.

    1. Hi Jim,

      Interesting comments. I hope my humour stays with readers. I'd hate to think I'm the only one who's stuck with it.