Most of the twenty floor-to-ceiling aisles of books in the store were crowded with other thrifty book lovers (if I were looking to start a relationship, this would certainly be the place I’d come first; well, here or the dog park). The only empty section was “humor.”
Humor is my genre and to paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, “It don’t get no respect.” Not even at 50% off. Go into any bookstore – there are still some around, right? – and count the number of shelves stocked with mystery or self-help or children’s books about why daddy is sleeping on the couch tonight. Now count the number of shelves stocked with authors who simply try to make you laugh. I usually come up with a ratio of about 40:1. I have to use a slide rule to do the calculation because my cell phone is “not smart.”
I’ve pitched humorous book projects to agents, editors, train engineers, stray cats, fire hydrants, etc. in the past only to have them avert their eyes, whiskers, nozzles, etc. This is one of the many reasons I love my agent now (Hi, Liz!). She gets me and she gets that laughter is a vital PART OF HUMAN SURVIVAL. Am I being too pushy here, what with the capital letters? I think not. I teach more than 40 workshops a year on how to use humor to cope with stressors large and small and I know what the research says, which is basically: People who laugh more and louder live longer and happier lives. That seems IMPORTANT, right?
If you poll a variety of readers and ask them to name all the humor writers who come to mind, you’re lucky to get past Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, and David Sedaris. Not that they’re chopped vegan liver-like substitute, but I personally know more than sixty humor writers. People who produce books, screenplays, columns, blogs, greeting cards and bumper stickers that can make you snort 5-Hour Energy Drink out your nose and onto whatever more serious tome you’re poring over.
Yes, there are writers in other genres whom I find hysterical – writers such as Carl Hiaasen, Janet Evanovich, Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore, and Tony Vigorito. I’m just saying those of us who like to write funny stuff that doesn’t involve body bags or fantasy or sci fi should get some cred too. (Yes, I used the word “cred.” I also teach college and try to stay on trend… what with my slide rule and all.)
The weirdest part of the “no respect for humor writers” is that the most popular parts of the Internet are those that make people laugh. Tell me you didn’t start this morning watching a goat play fetch with an owl or a bunch of people in their 80s dance hip hop!
Next time you spot a funny bumper sticker that makes you forget your road rage or you read a silly Huffington post blog that makes the world seem like a slightly better place, remember us – the humor writers. We take your pain and turn it funny. It’s a dirty job, but we’re willing to do it for peanuts, uh, laughs. Not to mention that we really wouldn’t mind at all if you bought our books.