“Today’s Humor—Whither?” or “What’s so Funny, Buster?”

Good evening. It’s a pleasure to see the expectant look on your faces, especially on that of the pregnant woman in the second row. I always delight in giving talks in out of the way crannies in tiny bookstores to overflow crowds of from eighteen to twenty three. So let’s get started.

Today’s humorist labors under onerous conditions and restrictions not experienced by the cutups of yesteryear. (Matter of fact, I just thought of this yesteryear.)

“And what are those conditions and restrictions?” you may well ask. Go ahead.

There are too many landmines out there that we humorists have to avoid nowadays.  Too many sacred cows you can no longer tip over.

For instance, when did orphans and poor people become off limits? I’m sure that many of them have a keen sense of humor, but still it seems we now have to steer clear of them.

“Well, what about making fun of rich people,” another question you again may well ask…but don’t push it.

The stars of the silver screen, the gridiron, the stump, the pulpit, the boardroom, and the car pool would seem to be fitting targets for japes, bon mots, and knee slappers, but when you look closely at the tragic lives many of these gin besotted, reefer smoking, bejeweled celebrities lead, holding them up to good natured ridicule would be like shooting fish in a barrel (now that is a hoot).

And if one writes about one’s hilarious experiences at some mogul’s mansion, the vast majority of one’s, or even two’s, readers can’t identify with them; in fact they are still smarting either after paying a cover charge to hear your nasal delivery of excerpts from your writing, or after paying big bucks for your book and blaming you for its exorbitant price. Though, here’s a tip. Do what my readers do. When my latest book comes out, just wait a week, and then buy it off the bargain table.

Anyway, it seems like the only things left that are funny might be you and I. You? Don’t make me laugh.  And, there’s certainly nothing funny about me, a fact I will continue proving throughout this piece.

So what could I write about that would tickle a reader’s fancy? (The pros don’t move on lines like that.)  What would be a funny subject that hasn’t been done or done well, making it rare indeed? Something readers could identify with, wrap their eyes around.

Here are some subjects that could be grist for a humorist’s mill. Unfortunately they already have been ground exceedingly fine…over and over and over : • Potholes • Going to the dentist • Politicians
• Sitcoms • The local weathermen WHO STILL CAN’T GET IT RIGHT! • Taxes • Airplanes • People in foreign countries who can’t understand plain English (“I know, right?).

Well, my secret to my having become a wildly popular writer (here, I’m using the future improbable tense) will be to ignore content, and just concentrate on style.

Now as to style, who to emulate (rip off) without anybody catching on? I remember showing one of my essays to all of my friends, and being profoundly embarrassed when all three scornfully, joyfully, and correctly accused me of plagiarizing Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. I had hoped that I’d picked my friends more carefully, and had taken the appropriate steps to cull out anybody whose reading comfort level had not risen much above Love Story.

I gave up long ago on trying to be Benchleyesque, (a ballet term meaning “impossible to duplicate).”

So, I just decided to do a blend of my favorite humorists—a dash of P.G. Wodehouse, a soupcon of
Dave Barry, a pinch (something I’m sure she was used to) of Dorothy Parker, a hint of Mark Twain, a schtickle of Jerry Seinfeld, and a shot of Chelsea Handler—put them in a blender and serve—chilled.

In conclusion (sounds of coughing subsiding noticeably—finally, replaced by the sounds of chairs scraping expectantly, ready to dash out—“Hey, we can still get home in time for ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’”), just pick anything non-controversial for a subject of your humor. Make fun of rocks, for example. Talk about the young pebbles and the old fossils. See, you’re smiling already.

Now, if anybody wants to buy one of my books, come up to the counter and I’ll be glad to sign it for you. I do charge extra for signing baseballs, helmets, and other memorabilia.