Forum: The Art of Declining

Discussing: The Decline of Humor

The Decline of Humor

A difficult subject - a sense of humor is very individual and what makes one person roar may leave another cold. Having seen a lot of humor submissions recently, I need better ways to comment on them.

So far I've thought of:
Silly situations are not sufficient for a successful humorous story, same for unusual sexual situations or pairings.

So I know what I don't find sufficient. What does make for a good humorous submission? If it can be defined better, than maybe I can figure out what's missing.


Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

If it makes me laugh. It is good.

If it makes me howl with tears running down my cheeks. It is better.

Those humor fics have gone right to the final reviewer also, in record time, not even a few hours, even though one is a WIP.

I must admit WIP in general make me nervous. Even if the beginning looks really great, I have to wonder why the author doesn't just finish it first and then submit. I mean, lots of things start out great and then get sucky.

I am thinking of a particular fic I am working on now, but have not yet sent to beta.

It's good. it looks like it'll be great. but i'm writer blocked on it. I could send it through now, have it accepted on the fact it's about 4/5 done and everybody figures that if that much of it is done and is good then the rest will be also and then screw the last chapter up completely with an unsatisfactory ending.

I've been writing long enough to know that is a real possibility with a WIP.

Okay -- I'm meandering. back on topic -- read first few paragraphs of my reply.

Lindorien

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Ooh, tough one. I don't know--obviously, if it makes me laugh, I have to give the story some credit, but I think humor is a lot easier to burn out on in long stories than most other genres. After the millionth Merry and the carrot joke, it's just not funny anymore.

I'm usually not able to appreciate slapstick humor, even if it's the Three Stooges. That sort of humor almost requires dumbing down the characters, and for these characters, that just doesn't fit if there's nothing more to it than that. So I'd probably decline a slapstick humor fic on the basis of the characters being too far out of character to no purpose--the fic didn't make me laugh, therefore I can't say it was OOC to good purpose.

There's something about parody that requires a definite distance--the author has to demonstrate somehow that s/he is aware of the ridiculousness of a situation so as to manipulate events properly for maximal effect. This would be, perhaps, an example of an author failing to capitalize on the material s/he has available--sort of like a 'theme not sufficiently developed' decline, with the added problem that the fic fails in the main because it isn't funny, or isn't as funny as it ought to be considering the material it's tackling.

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

If it makes me laugh. It is good.
If it makes me howl with tears running down my cheeks. It is better.


Two good criteria, but not enough, I'm afraid. Some recent submissions did just that. Others left me cold. How can I tell the latter what they did differently from the former?

I agree with you on the WIP issue. I've seen a few that started out as one thing and turned into something else by the end, something I'd not have approved for the archive

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

I think humor is a lot easier to burn out on in long stories than most other genres. After the millionth time Merry and the carrot joke, it's just not funny anymore.

So true, Dwim.
I remember reading somewhere that a big component of humor is surprise, so it doesn't take very many Merry/carrot jokes to wear out the surprise.

Slapstick is not my cup of tea, but it seems to depend on physical gags which have to be seen. This would make it very difficult to do successfully in a story, I would think.

Even more than 'theme not sufficiently developed' I might say 'unsuccessful in genre' meaning 'just not funny.'

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Slapstick is not my cup of tea, but it seems to depend on physical gags which have to be seen. This would make it very difficult to do successfully in a story, I would think.

This may be akin to Mike's notion that NC-17 fics (really NC-17 and so usually bad) are the putting into words of a cinematic phenomenon: the pornographic flick. The problem comes in when there isn't sufficient attention paid to the differences between media--what text can do versus what visuals can do.

Even more than 'theme not sufficiently developed' I might say 'unsuccessful in genre' meaning 'just not funny.'

That'd be my drop-down decline. I suppose the 'not sufficiently developed' part would be the mechanical explanation of why the fic didn't make me laugh, in terms of structure. Of course, I may just find the gag itself not to be particularly amusing, physically likely to occur (even in context), or in character enough for me to buy it even if it didn't suffer from myopia.

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Two good criteria, but not enough, I'm afraid. Some recent submissions did just that. Others left me cold. How can I tell the latter what they did differently from the former?

Why isn't that good enough? Just say, 'Sorry, did not make me laugh.'

How do you explain why one made you laugh and the other didn't?

"This one made me laugh because I read it really late at night after I had 5 mg of my narcotic painkiller and frankly, at that point, porridge would have made me laugh."

How about:

"Too bad I read your stupid story now when I am in a bad mood because my kids teacher called me and said he's acting up again and I have to go to another freaking parent-teacher conference and NOTHING would make me laugh. Sorry."

All kidding aside...

How about you read it. And if it makes you laugh, go back again the next day and reread it and see if it still raises a chuckle.

You know, sorta like watching the scene of Whoopie and the strapless blue evening dress in the shredder from "Jumpin' Jack Flash".

I mean, is the movie great art? No.

Do I howl everytime I watch that scene, although I have seen it dozens of times? Yes

'Course, its a little hard to do if it gets rushed through as these have done.

'Humor. It is a difficult concept.'


 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

When I did the Humour Judgeing Criteria for the Mithril Awards, one of the things was whether or not the story was a "funny once".

That means, basically, the story was funny the first time--but the next time, it wasn't.

There are the writers who confuse "situation" and "character quirks" with "comedy". Dwarves in drag are not inherently funny. What can be funny is what cross-dressed dwarves do. That distinction is lost on most people who attempt comedy.

Khazar

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

When I did the Humour Judgeing Criteria for the Mithril Awards, one of the things was whether or not the story was a "funny once".

That means, basically, the story was funny the first time--but the next time, it wasn't.


Said ever so much more concisely and eloquently than I attempted.

As an aside -- do you find the blue strapless evening gown in the shredder scene funny? I laugh just thinking about Whoopie trying to hold the thing over her breasts. The reason is, I am stymied at what she will do if she ends up with a topless blue evening mini-skirt.


 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

I've never seen that movie. Now I have to!

For a movie that is funny every time, you must see Buster Keaton's "The General". Not only is it funny, but every time you watch it you see funny things you missed last time. That is good comedy.

Khazar

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

It is well worth the 4 bucks to rent it. There is also a Whoopie-in-a-phone booth being dragged through the streets of New York scene. There is the Whoopie-under-the-influence-of-sodium penthathol-in-Elizabeth-Arden scene.

And of course, Comedienne Carol Kane's killer line - "All this is for a date?"

I will see Buster Keaton's "The General" thank you for the recommendation. I also highly recommend reruns of the original Dick van Dyke show, and pretty much any of the original 'I Love Lucy' series.

What about funny books -- since the question is what makes good written humor?

I positively howled over "A Year in Provence'. I mean, laughed out loud in public with great tears rolling down my cheeks, gulping air. When my husband asked what I was laughing about, I tried to read him a representative passage but simply could not get the words out.

He was forced to read it himself and attempt to not wake the house by stuffing a pillow in his face.

Lindorien

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

For a movie that is funny every time, you must see Buster Keaton's "The General". Not only is it funny, but every time you watch it you see funny things you missed last time. That is good comedy.

Keaton was a comic genius, sadly overlooked by many. I was delighted when a small local movie house ran a series of his movies, including "The General". I don't think any of his humor ever fell flat, even after several viewings.

"Singing In the Rain" does the same thing for me, especially the bits with Donald O'Connor. I never get tired of it.

~Nessime

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Re: initial post by Lyllyn

I find that ff.net is a plethora of attempted humor-fics that are not funny. Characters acting wholly OOC, blatant modernisms, ridiculous situations, or merciless slapstick comedies are not in themselves funny enough gags to humor me in LoTR fanficiton.

A story could use modernisms successfully as a device for humor (as a punchline or a homophone, for examples).
But a story that's supposed to be funny solely because it's nothing but modernisms from beginning to end isn't funny to me (I don't mean in the case of that being the point, such as Lindelea's Slightly Muddled, where everyone is in character except for those unfortunates who ate the Muddlewort).

Slapstick doesn't really have a place in LoTR humor if one is trying to hit the 'exceptional' mark, in my experience. If someone wrote in a scene with Gimli falling off a horse (reminiscent of TTT), it wouldn't have made me laugh, and if that was the punchline in a humor fic, it would have left me pretty disappointed.

Now, Aragorn pantomiming to Eowyn about the beards of dwarf women was priceless- IMHO. It was in character, relevant, and felt 'real' for the characters and the environment. On paper, and written well, it would have been a good laugh just the same.
(The reason Gimli's accident didn't do it for me is because it was too far of a stretch to have him on the horse (alone) in the first place, then falling off was 'convenient' to the extent of eye-rolling, I felt.)

OOC behavior is also something that never amuses me, unless it's done intentionally (as in a parody) and with cleverness (the author has to be aware that they're making fun and not just get lucky, such as the stereotypical Mary-sue that's 'bad' enough to be laughable).

Of course, all of the above is just my opinion. A sitcom type situation with grossly exaggerated re/actions from the characters might make someone else roar. But the premise for a humor-fic should belong in Middle-earth and the characters should be believable (or OOC for good purpose) just like any other story, as far as I'm concerned.

So, Lyllyn said:

So I know what I don't find sufficient. What does make for a good humorous submission? If it can be defined better, than maybe I can figure out what's missing.

There are so many types of humor-fics, more than I briefly described above, that it's a really comples task to sort out a decent 'check off' list. I can only think to talk about humor-fics that I thought were done well. (Extra warning for AE's personal view, here.)

One was Zimraphel's 'Making Verses'. It was believable (it could even be considered a gap-filler, since who's to say what Lindir was really thinking), it felt like it was taking place in Middle-earth, went somewhere unexpected, no one jumped OOC to pull it off, and that's that. It slipped in, made me laugh, and didn't compromise canon or anything until fading to black.
I thought 'Watch This!' by Daw was also quite enjoyable. It was one of the only cute!fics that really worked for me. It was cute- and written well, upbeat, canonical, characterized well, a little mischievous without going over-the-top, with tongue-in cheek humor that kept me grinning.
'Elf Slash Sarcasm' by Tyellas is a great example of intentional OOC behavior for a good purpose, and cleverly poking fun at all the silly things that one comes across (and likely rolls their eyes over- alabaster skin, anyone?). And it didn't sacrifice good writing to make it happen.

Anyway, all three of those fics utilized humor in very different ways, was my point. 'Making Verses' was quite subtle, maybe not even 'laugh-out-loud' funny. 'Watch This!' was successful in using cute!ness to inspire humor in a believable fashion. 'Elf Slash Sarcasm' is an obvious spoof, and a thoroughly amusing one. (Though all of them have in common that they were written well.)

I think pinpointing what kind of humor was being attempted in the story in question is the first step, and the reviewer would go from there. No matter what, it's going to come down to "I thought it was funny" or "I didn't think it was funny". But that's no different from it coming down to "I liked this drama/adventure/vignette/novel" or "I didn't like this drama/adventure/vignette/novel".

Anybody feel like making a list of all the different types of humor? Personally, I've been digging in the dirt all day, and I don't think I'm up to it.

-AE

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Gosh. Trying to review humor and then explain to the writer why it is NOT funny is sort of like explaining the mechanics of sex. I mean, it might be factual enough, but it surely does not explain the heart of the matter.

I think the only thing one can say is "I don't like it" and then try to explain why -- succinctly.

I will tell you as somebody who's had a humor fic declined. It is no big deal. At least, not for me. Because Humor is not serious, so I did not give a rip one way or the other if it got declined. I liked to know that people thought it was funny. Even among the declines people thought it was funny, except for one person. So I made eight people chuckle, some of them loudly. It was worth the 1/2 hour it took to write it.

I can honestly say that I did not get one good decline from that fic. I got some rather interesting declines, but not one good or helpful one. Nor would I have expected it.

People who write humor may well be doing it for completely different reasons from the more serious fics and so, may not care all that much if the piece is declined. Look at Cassie Claire. She gave up doing the VSD's because they just weren't fun for her anymore. Do you honestly think she would have cared if she never made the archive?

I am rather nervous at the thought of setting up a list of declines for a genre which is done for the fun of it.

So. If you think it is funny but not sophisticated enough, or high-brow enough for HASA and it does not involve Aragorn in compromising positions with Uruks, decline it and tell the person --

"I thought it was funny, but not ready for HASA."

Believe me. The writer will see the humor in that decline.

Lindorien


 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Gosh. Trying to review humor and then explain to the writer why it is NOT funny is sort of like explaining the mechanics of sex. I mean, it might be factual enough, but it surely does not explain the heart of the matter.
I think the only thing one can say is "I don't like it" and then try to explain why -- succinctly.


Exactly! One of my motivations for starting this forum was that many authors felt the declines they received were not helpful. I would like to sharpen my reviewing comments, and anything that helps me to understand why I don't like something is a step towards being able to say something useful to the author about my decision.

I can honestly say that I did not get one good decline from that fic. I got some rather interesting declines, but not one good or helpful one

Illustrating the point that it's hard to critique humor and explain why it isn't funny, or if funny, why the humor isn't sufficient.

People who write humor may well be doing it for completely different reasons from the more serious fics and so, may not care all that much if the piece is declined. Look at Cassie Claire. She gave up doing the VSD's because they just weren't fun for her anymore. Do you honestly think she would have cared if she never made the archive?

No, I don't think she would have cared. But then again, I don't think most of us write anything just to 'make the archive.' We write because we want to, then look for a place to put it, hoping others will enjoy it too- or if not, at least give us some constructive comments.

I am rather nervous at the thought of setting up a list of declines for a genre which is done for the fun of it.

There already is already an official decline list applying to every genre, and I don't intend anything I come up with here to affect that. What I'd like to do with this one is improve myself as a reviewer. I hope a personal list will help me clarify my thoughts and sort out my reactions so I can provide better feedback to the author. I can understand that some may not want the feedback; if so they can simply not access the reviews.

So. If you think it is funny but not sophisticated enough, or high-brow enough for HASA and it does not involve Aragorn in compromising positions with Uruks, decline it and tell the person "I thought it was funny, but not ready for HASA."-->

Now this starts to worry me. I don't know who said things had to be sophisticated, or highbrow. Although those categories can definitely be used as formats for humor, they are not the only type that can work. It has to succeed as an example of its genre, so if tagged as humor, it has to be funny, and well written. The VSD are scarcely 'highbrow' but they left me in a puddle on the floor. I'm not sure why you feel so upset about the particular fic you mention being accepted, but the author didn't submit it as a humor fic, so I don't see the correlation.

So back to defining humor in terms that can lead to more insightful reviews -
can anyone think of more specific comments?


Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

I'm not sure why you feel so upset about the particular fic you mention being accepted, but the author didn't submit it as a humor fic, so I don't see the correlation.

I presume you mean the Aragorn having sex with Uruks fic and not the VSD's. For the VSD's are worthy.

I find the ACCEPTANCE of the Uruk fic humorous. The fic itself, whilst well-written failed to meet the standard on a number of levels which everybody seemed willing to ignore for whatever convoluted and rationalized reasons.

As I said -- that fic is ever to be my barometer of what is 'Ready for HASA'.

You see, Lyllyn, humor is in the eye of the beholder which is why a stuffy list of reasons trying to explain to the poor unfunny writer why you don't think the the piece funny ENOUGH, or humorous ENOUGH or sophisticated ENOUGH to enter the hallowed halls of HASA are likely to evoke nothing but peals of laughter from the writer.

My point is -- those of us who write humor do it for fun. They do it to evince a chuckle. If a humor fic is declined, I do not think the writer cares. It is not the same as the more serious fics -- at least that is my experience. If you do not write humor, you may not understand at all, in which case, attempting to comment on a humor fic is about as worthwhile as somebody who is no poet attempting to comment on a bit of poetry.

So back to defining humor in terms that can lead to more insightful reviews - can anyone think of more specific comments?

I am sorry you find my comments so unworthy and unenlightening. 'Tis a hopeless failing on my part.

Perhaps I should be taking the humor in a more serious vein?

Lindorien

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

You see, Lyllyn, humor is in the eye of the beholder which is why a stuffy list of reasons trying to explain to the poor unfunny writer why you don't think the the piece funny ENOUGH, or humorous ENOUGH or sophisticated ENOUGH to enter the hallowed halls of HASA are likely to evoke nothing but peals of laughter from the writer.

My point is -- those of us who write humor do it for fun. They do it to evince a chuckle. If a humor fic is declined, I do not think the writer cares. It is not the same as the more serious fics -- at least that is my experience. If you do not write humor, you may not understand at all, in which case, attempting to comment on a humor fic is about as worthwhile as somebody who is no poet attempting to comment on a bit of poetry.


I have written a humorous story, and felt it did not achieve what I wanted. I was glad people were willing to comment on what didn't work, as that gave me a chance to improve it. Perhaps some humor authors don't want comments - their choice. But there may be others like me, not so skilled that a helpful comment isn't welcome.

I also have an interest in 'what makes something funny?' Even if I never write another humorous story, my pedantic side is curious. Is it the surprise? The incongruity? Ambiguous words reinterpreted by the reader?

What makes VSD funny, and something else not?

I have commented on certain poems, even though I'm no poet. I invite the poets of the group to give opinions on whether or not they'd want comments from non-poets.

I am sorry you find my comments so unworthy and unenlightening. 'Tis a hopeless failing on my part.

I can't tell how I'd feel about your proposed decline comments that might be useful to authors, as so far I'm seeing you say that no comment is useful. I understand if you'd rather not have feedback for your humor fics, for you it seems more of a sideline compared to your more serious work.

Perhaps I should be taking the humor in a more serious vein?

Just because I'm obsessive, doesn't mean anyone else has to be.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

You see, Lyllyn, humor is in the eye of the beholder which is why a stuffy list of reasons trying to explain to the poor unfunny writer why you don't think the the piece funny ENOUGH, or humorous ENOUGH or sophisticated ENOUGH to enter the hallowed halls of HASA are likely to evoke nothing but peals of laughter from the writer.

I apologize for stepping in when you're addressing Lyllyn, but I feel this also addresses the subject of the thread, so I'm adding my two cents.

Whether any story of any genre hits the mark or not is in the eye of the beholder, not just humor. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is ugliness, and all other manner of attributes.
If an author tried to write a tearjerker, and it didn't make me emotional, I could try to explain why: "I saw it coming", "I didn't care enough in general", "I actually think it'll be better this way", whatever. Same goes for humor, save that we're talking about laughter now: "It was too juvenile", "It was too unbelievable," "It could have happened on Three's Company", etc.

I don't feel that it's my place as a reviewer to assume an author is writing a humor-fic with any different reason(s) that they would write a drama or an adventure. Every genre is equal to me when the reviewer's hat is on. If the author submits the fic, I deduce they desire inclusion. And if they want feedback on the reviewers' decisions, I feel it's my obligation to give them whatever insight I can. Whether it's humor or a critical essay, I don't see a difference. Each might be reworked to better convey its intended mood, right?

My point is -- those of us who write humor do it for fun. They do it to evince a chuckle. If a humor fic is declined, I do not think the writer cares. It is not the same as the more serious fics -- at least that is my experience.

I don't think you speak for everyone here. What about a humorous poem? As much work was put into it than a sad poem; in form, it's just as 'serious'. I see regular stories much the same way. If they are written well, and obviously well thought-out, that strikes me as a serious attempt on behalf of the author - a serious attempt to be funny.

If you do not write humor, you may not understand at all, in which case, attempting to comment on a humor fic is about as worthwhile as somebody who is no poet attempting to comment on a bit of poetry.

Dunno about that. I'm no poet. I know about poetry, but I'm no good at writing it. Can I review it? Comment upon it? Certainly I can: the poem was written for me, the reader, the reviewer, the layman. If a verse doesn't put a picture in my mind and a mood in my heart, I can tell something isn't right.
Words are words, and regardless of which order they're put in to evoke whatever effect, my opinion is worthwhile - not as an expert, but as a member of the audience.

-AE

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

I can't tell how I'd feel about your proposed decline comments that might be useful to authors, as so far I'm seeing you say that no comment is useful. I understand if you'd rather not have feedback for your humor fics, for you it seems more of a sideline compared to your more serious work.

I am not saying i do not want feedback on the humor. I am saying, it does not matter. How does one tell an author of humor -- "be more spontaneous!"

One can say -- 'leave out the descriptors' or' personally, I don't find Gimli falling off a horse funny, Frodo in drag does nothing for me, Drunk hobbits are not funny' -- whatever. I do not know that will help an author of such works.

Why is 'A Year in Provence' so hysterically funny? Because there is the foil of the coupla brits and all the background that entails, punctuality, stiff upper lip, worried about everything, lousy cooks, plunked into the middle of the Provencal mediterranean laid back lifestyle, worried about supposedly inconsequential things, incredible cooks, etc.

For every person for whom 'A Year In Provence' will cure a rainy day, there is the person who sees nothing funny in it and considers 'Dumb and Dumberer' high art.

"A Short Version of LOTR" which lost out on the archive by a hair and which had enough declines on the borderline that a rewrite might send it over the edge was funny because it had one of the two in character characters who suddenly go OOC.

Was it hysterical? No! Did it leave anybody in a puddle? No! Is my Elrond line quoted over and over among those who have read the stupid thing in the forums in which I hang out? YES!

One decliner, at least I think it was a decliner, I am not sure, begged me to stick the thing in the general section. Which I did until some unsuspecting fool stumbles over it, hopefully when s/he's in a really bad mood, and it makes them smile.

That is the purpose of humor. To make people smile.

You were rather lukewarm on my parody, but other people find it great fun. Humor is like that. Sometimes it is strictly a matter of the mood of the reader.

But am I horribly upset if somebody doesn't like it. No.

That would take all the fun out of it.

Lindorien



 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Re: reply to the reply to the initial post by Lyllyn ~

I said:
I think pinpointing what kind of humor was being attempted in the story in question is the first step, and the reviewer would go from there.
And then I chickened out with:
Anybody feel like making a list of all the different types of humor? Personally, I've been digging in the dirt all day, and I don't think I'm up to it.

Well, there will be no digging for me today, so while I nurse my mildly aching muscles and my gently sunkissed tanline, I'll step up to my own plate. (Hey, wait, Lyllyn started this!)

Anyway, I've come up with four types of humor fics that I feel are pretty much in categories of their own, and could be classified as such:

Parody/Spoof
This is a purposeful effort on behalf of the author to poke fun at recurring devices in the LoTR fanfiction genre. For example, a spoof-fic featuring an OFC who steals Legolas' heart, has magical powers, is immune to the One Ring, is more beautiful than Arwen, has a mysterious past, and an unpronounceable name. If the author intentionally incorporates all the cliche attributes of the generally agreed-upon 'Mary-sue mold', and it's done in a humorous manner, it would fit under this header. (Doesn't have to be a Mary-sue spoof, of course. I've also seen parodies of Slash, Self-inserts, Girl-falls-into-Middle-earth, and so forth.)

Sitcom
I would say slapstick humor, exaggerated re/actions by the characters, blatant (hopefully intentional) OOCness, ridiculousness in general, and silly 'wouldn't-really-happen' scenarios to fall under this header. If it is likely happening right now on TV (Three's Company reruns, Friends, Seinfeld), then I'd categorize it here.

Happenstance
It happens to be funny, but it's not a bucketful of worms balanced on a door or a tac on someone's throne. It's a situation that is humorous, without too much 'author intervention' to make the situation come about. Should be 'real life' humor for the characters in their own world, something that could have believably happened, and is funny by its nature.

RL
I couldn't come up with a good term for this category. But it would include MSTs, top 10 lists, POTPC, secret diaries, and so forth. They're funny to us, with what we know of the books, movies, merchandising, commercialization, fanon, LoTR obsession, etc. They can have modernness, they can be spoof-ish, silly, or a far stretch of the imagination. But I think this is a category of its own, since I wouldn't put any of the above examples under the other headers.

And that, I believe, is at least a place to start (feel free to add more categories or help define the above one's, anybody). Once the story in question and what kind of humor it's attempting to utilize is categorized in some way, it will probably be easier to figure out what isn't working with it.

For instance, say a fic is addressing when Boromir lost his horse en route to Rivendell, with the angle of making it a funny situation. That's swell (I've never seen it done, either). However, if it were narrated in the style of Tolkien, but at the same time portrayed Boromir as a fumbling invalid speaking in modern slang, it's a contrasting blend of two different types of humor. If there's a problem with the fic -like the humor isn't hitting the mark- it might be that it needs to either be a "serious" depiction of a humorous situation (happenstance), or it needs to be completely silly through and through, dialogue and narration (sitcom).

Well, whatever. That was my stab.

-AE

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

One was Zimraphel's 'Making Verses'. It was believable (it could even be considered a gap-filler, since who's to say what Lindir was really thinking), it felt like it was taking place in Middle-earth, went somewhere unexpected, no one jumped OOC to pull it off, and that's that. It slipped in, made me laugh, and didn't compromise canon or anything until fading to black.

Holy cow! I, the angst-queen, am being held up as a paragon of humor that works?

I will never cease to be amazed at what work of mine people like best.

~Zim

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Zim,

Weeeel, never said that I like that one best out of all your fics, although it is one of my favorite humor-ish pieces. Actually I'm rather fond of 'Song of the Waters', and your writing style in general. But that's a pretty poor analysis coming from me, since I haven't read nearly as much recently (of anything by anyone) as I would like to. I'll get back to you when I'm all caught up. :-)

-AE, hoping that you don't mind being my example, by the way. ;-)

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

I realize that it's been a while since anyone touched this discussion, but this topic is so close to my heart that I had to jump in.

I believe that great, sustained humour is, in general, at least as hard to pull off as great, sustained drama, or angst, or action/adventure.

I also believe that there are techniques (conscious, or subconscious) to writing good humour (of every subgenre.) Now, I am far from an expert on the subject, but here are a few things I think about when writing/judging humour. I hope they'll make sense to others... Examples are taken from the Very Secret Diaries.

1. The setups. Funny statements are funny because they interact with something the reader already knows. Some of the time, this will be information already present in the reader's head (like the entire works of Tolkien, and pop-culture knowledge.) A lot of the time, the writer will have to introduce some information before making the joke, to maximize its impact.

Example: Aragorn's commentary on his stubble is funny because we've all seen the movie, and his stubble has more on-screen charisma than many of the lesser actors. And Aragorn's line

My God, is everyone in this movie gay but me?

combines with many, many earlier hints to set up the punchline

Not so sure about me either.

2. Timing. Good humour is like good smut. The setup and the pay-offs (punchlines, or more subtle effects.) have to be paced properly. When the timing is off, jokes misfire and fall flat. The lines above, which appear in Aragorn's final entry, are an example of good pacing. Saying "I think I might be gay, as is everyone else" in the first entry would not have been half as funny.

3. Repetition. This can be hilarious, as in

Sam will kill him if he tries anything.

But it can't be exact repetition. If you read the Diaries, you will see that this line appears in a variety of forms and contexts, some more surprising than others. In stories that are more coherent than the diaries, it often helps to up the ante every time a joke is repeated.


And then, of course, good writing matters in humour just as in everything else. Poor writing distracts the reader, and weakens the jokes.

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

I'm glad you reopened the discussion, Tehta.

I agree that pacing and set-up are essential, just like a good mystery or drama. I don't know if it's just my sense my sense of humor, or if anyone else feels this way, but I see a lot of humor that strikes me as not terribly funny. Much has some small parts that are funny, or parts that could be funny with the right set up. And some are just silly, or are reworks of something initially funny but now have lost originality. I am reminded of Heinlein; in 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' he talks about certain things being funny due to the surprise. When the surprise is gone, so is the humor.

If you've read Marta's 'Best Brew in Buckland' she slips in a good one: Gimli in a tavern saying to the barmaid "you have partridge? Bring the partridge." Perfect building on something known in a different context and surprise to find it here.

I had found that line "Sam will kill him..." very funny, but I had never noticed the variance - good point!

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

Tehta-

I absolutely agree with everything you wrote. One thing I'd add is that the pacing of the humour matters a lot. And the right pacing will, of course, depend on the type of humour you're writing.

If you're doing parody, then the jokes should be coming a mile a minute. We aren't reading this for the great character development. But if, on the other hand, you're writing what I'd call "life-like humour," then there should be more to it than just the jokes.

Since Lyllyn already brought it up, I'll say that "Best Brew" is probably the funniest thing I've written. I don't mean that the jokes are better in it than other things (even I'm not that vain) but that the focus is more on being funny than in other pieces. In my other pieces there may be a rather humorous moment, but the over-all point isn't to be funny. Yet, even in "Best Brew," there's more to the story than the jokes.

That's a big part of a good humour bit (in my mind at least). If the story's not a parody, then I don't want to know if a character's line is going to be funny until I've read it. And that means putting in some stuff besides the "funny" bits in the story.

This is why movie!Pippin is so much more funny than movie!Gimli. When Gimli opens his mouth I expect it to be a joke, so Im prepared to laugh. When Pippin opens his mouth I'm not sure whether I'm going to laugh, cry, or drool -- so when I do laugh, it's all the stronger a reaction. I have gotten really good reactions to a scene of my own, a funeral scene where Ioreth gives a running commentary, primarily because not every line of Ioreth's is a joke, so the ones that are are unexpected. (And I'm really sorry to keep using my own stuff as an example, but I'm drawing a blank on non-parody fanfic tonight for some reason.)

My point. Really good lifelike humour (as opposed to parody) is more than just humour. After all, life's more than just humour, and even the funniest people you know, not everything they say is slapstick.

Thanks, Lyllyn for the compliment. And my apologies for rambling.

Cheers, Marta

 

 

Re: The Decline of Humor

For me, really good humour is humour that works on several levels. I like to see irony (both shallow and deep), absurd lines, puns, obscure Tolkien quotes turned into jokes, intrinsically humorous situations, misunderstandings, humorous insults... all kinds of things smooshed together. Kind of like the Simpsons, maybe? I think that even a simple parody fic is improved if it uses more than one type of humour. Perhaps it's something to do with increasing the element of surprise. Or perhaps it's because a fic that works on several levels is more likely to entertain me, no matter what my mood.

And I'm really sorry to keep using my own stuff as an example, but I'm drawing a blank on non-parody fanfic tonight for some reason.

No worries -- I keep feeling really tempted to use my own stuff, because I understand its structure best. And because I am a huge egoist.

Really good lifelike humour (as opposed to parody) is more than just humour. After all, life's more than just humour, and even the funniest people you know, not everything they say is slapstick.

That is definitely true. I also think that the funniest jokes are often those where the background knowledge required is serious. Like that Charlie Chaplin scene where he plays with a blow-up globe while dressed as Hitler. Or most of Doctor Strangelove.

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to The Art of Declining