Enough With The Melodrama! Gimme Something To Laugh About!

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I have come to the conclusion that my blog is dying for an immediate injection of levity!  I mean, really, how long can a writer expect to maintain (or, increase) his audience when he expresses (now routine) woe-is-me posts?  Many of you probably say to yourself, “Woe-is-he?  How about “Woe-is-me?”  I promised to myself when I launched this blog that I would write honestly, especially about subjects that were difficult to express in a metaphorical way.  My graduate school mentor once said, “Hell, anyone can write a drama!  Who isn’t capable of writing personal experience drivel causing readers or audiences to be moved and shed a tear.  Christ, just listen: puppy mauled by pit bull; dad in Iraq, won’t be home for Christmas; the homeless offering half of the little they had; and my favorite: someone secretly sells your <  input pet name and species here  > to save the <  insert anything that people can’t do without here  >. See how easy it is to write tears-down-the-cheek melodrama’s?acomedy2

“But comedy?  That illustrates one’s talent of 1) Undertanding what’s funny; 2) Understand clearly what’s funny to you most likely isn’t funny to strangers; 3a) Never! Never ever ever! write about Christmas (every reader or audience member is loaded with holiday memories which you’d need to best (which is nearly impossible); 3b) Never! Never ever ever! put a dog, any dog onstage at any time!  The audience’s attention and empathy will immediately be drawn to the mongrel show stopper, and Everything you’ve poured over for months or years will be lost to a furry, salivating, and misbehaving clown on four legs! 4)sense of humor which is an innate ability to see a humorous situation which will relate due to it’s familiarity to the majority of your audience; 5)  Timing.  It ain’t funny unless they laugh when you want them to laugh.  Laughter produces a pause in the action which swallows everything until the laughter ebbs.”

A talented writer knows that he/she must control set-ups and punch lines and laughter or else try their hand at writing historical non-fiction.  One comedic device is writing a common comedic situation (and the audience is in on the gag) where broad and stereo-typical characters

acomedy5develop hair-brained schemes which the audience knows will fail.  The audience’s or reader’s premonition is validated when our sympathetic buffoons and sad sack’s muddle past menial obstacles to find themselves nose-to-nose with the impossible-of-impossible obstacles requiring our “down-and-out” characters to change (catharsis) in order to successfully beat the odds.  At long last the characters arrive at the end of the book or play changed for the better, admired by the audience for being obstinate and tenacious in their pursuit, and, most likely, will have the dubious honor of water-cooler and happy-hour conversations.  An actors job is to bring a third dimension to what you’ve written.  Actors can’t improve a poorly structured play, just as an editor can’t proof read draft after draft of a premature novel.  It’s been said, “Good actors can make a good play great; but not even great actors can make a poorly written play mediocre.”  Judicious editing and the full understanding that as a writer you produce a product (play, novel, article essay, or fiction) just like a cow produces milk.  No where in the thousand upon thousand upon thousand of words you’ve laid to paper is a Sacred Cow.  Absolutely everything you hand over to a critical public may be arrogantly ignored, or it may be read, or after reading it coldly tossing it in the vicinity of the recycle can.  It’s then picked up by a vain and autocratic mailroom grunt with champagne dreams of big corner offices, hot hot hot secretary’s, and a humidor stuffed with Davidoff cigars writes you a letter highlighting the scripts weaknesses, and then, provides a colossal pile of his rewritten scenes for you to add to the script post-haste.  The talent to create a play or book which, night after night and joke after joke and laughter after laughter takes mechanical training and the unusual vision to see  funny behavior in colloquial and mediocre situations. And try as you might to write comedy without that Godgiven sixth sense of identifying humor in commonplace situations and change the menial to the amusing just might develop into a book or play that draws the attention, curiosity, and chit-chat of the general population to buy the book or see the play. But if your degree of creativity resembles that of a stenographer and you plow through or inflate or discover that the situation you thought was funny isn’t as plentiful as first thought you simply shorten the product in whichever genre you write, you might be the author of a funny play, or a funny story, or or a funny book.

But you won’t have a comedy. 

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This Christmas, He Gave Me A Look From Outside, Inside.

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“Surprise!”  is what I used to say, years ago, early on in our twenty-eight year relationship.  Back when we hadn’t really yet learned each other’s tastes (or better, tolerances).  Fifteen years ago I’d stand there, his gift balanced by my sweaty hands, my nerves knotted and twisted like the Strangler Fig tree, praying for his hullabaloo upon opening the gift, followed by a tight embrace, further followed by his quick kisses like a woodpecker atop some pine. A decade ago I’d pluck the gift from beneath the tree with little ceremony, hand it to him, then sit back and watch as he tested-then-tore layer by layer of packaging, similar to a child tasting her way through a box of chocolates.  The past few years like a couple of archaeologists, the dig was more fun than the discovery!  At last he found the gift and I present-modernwaited for the inconclusive and rudimentary sentiment followed by a brief embrace and a kiss as light as a hummingbird.  Three years ago I’d started to hear “How’d you know I wanted this?” his amazement falling to the side of curiosity rather than tickling admiration, and my answer, diluted through the years like cheap gin, “I thought you could use this,” at which he cocked his head like our dog’s misunderstanding, and then I presented the real gift, “There’s a gift receipt taped to the lid should you choose to exchange it for a color more to your liking than orange.”  I’ve learned over the course of twenty-eight years that we buy lovers/partners/spouses clothing we’d like to see them wear, and definitely not the clothing they like to wear.  So after two decades of my repeated attempts to upgrade his personal style year after year by giving him exquisite gifts (which he surreptitiously found ghastly) I learned that a gift receipt, like the “get out of jail card,” nullifies my responsibility for his disinterest in modern style, and ensures that he can exchange the atrocious article for an object of his liking.

But this Christmas his gift to me was different than the previous twenty-seven.  Very, very different.  Absent was the gift receipt.  He handed me the gift without fanfare, explanation, or apology.  He simply said, “Merry Christmas.”

Hidden beneath wrapping paper we’ve had for twenty years was a book.  But not some book he’d like to read.  No, this was a book I’d already read and reread; I had a greater degree of familiarity with the final pages, but the earlier pages popped once more like bubble gum.  The book he gave me was “Becoming not Became: The First 100 Posts,” by T.M. Mulligan.

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I was dumbfounded then speechless then crying.  I was flabbergasted to hold Mr. Mulligan’s first 100 posts printed on heavy, magazine-grade paper and hardbound.  It’s rare indeed, to hold yourself up to yourself, to be reflected, to permit yourself to be tickled, concerned, angry, interested, and entertained.  I suppose narcissism might come to mind; but if you’re beautiful or handsome why not enjoy a modicum of self-appreciation.  Or, like me, those 100 posts represented dear friends, young and old, whom I haven’t visited, but whom all came together under the same roof for me.  I shall take my time reading these posts and thoroughly enjoy each one’s company greater than before.

Thank you so much, Nick.