“Humor, it is a difficult concept.”
— Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Being funny on the printed page looks easy but is deceptively difficult. Writers like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams make it look so easy, when it reality it can be very, very difficult. Just look at the myriad of people out there who have tried to be funny like Pratchett and Adams are, but just don’t quite make it.
- Douglas Adams — Adams had this way of turning a humorous phrase, sentence or paragraph that not only was highly memorable but also appeared deceptively simply. From the “they hung in the air in exactly the way that bricks don’t” to “no where in recorded language has there ever been the phrase ‘as beautiful as an airport'” (I’m probably butchering and misquoting the exact word here and I apologize), Adams made it look easy, while you laughed and sometimes thought.
- Terry Pratchett — Like Adams, Pratchett makes it look easy. He was more willing to take the mickey out of things on a larger scale in his books and it could be hit or miss. But man, when he was in the zone, it was pure gold.
- The Far Side cartoons — I’ve been revisiting Gary Larson’s genius, subversive creation the last few months. I’m struck by how dark, funny and utterly hilarious the Far Side can be. And, again, how it can make you think too.
- Calvin and Hobbes cartoons — I still miss Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side. Being a new dad, I feel like I’m seeing these in a new light . But the humor and observations are timeless. When Bloom County came out of retirement, part of me hopes that maybe Calvin and Hobbes and/or the Far Side might come back too.
- Peter David — David became my favorite Star Trek writer in one of his first TNG novels with a scene involving Picard and Riker in the turbolift. This was right after season two debuted and Riker had added his beard. In the scene, Riker reflect that Picard is probably jealous of him not because of his prowess with the ladies but because he’s got more hair on his chin and cheeks than Picard does on his head. This made me laugh out loud and David has been doing it ever since.
- Mad Magazine — As a teenager, I used to look forward to the new issue of Mad Magazine each month. I read each new issue multiple times and remember checking old copies and collections out of the library. I haven’t read any in a long time, but they had some great parodies and jokes that have stuck with me.
- Sally Kilpatrick — My college friend turned successful published author. She inserts phrases into her books that just make me grin. Part of it could be that I can just hear her saying them back in our college days. And part of it is that she knows the right moment to find the humor in a situation and have one of her characters jump on that perfect turn of phrase.
Those are the ones that come to mind and I’m sure as soon as I hit post, I will think of eight more. Those are some of my favorites — but I’d love to hear yours and maybe find some new funny stuff to read.