Month: August 2008
I decided to post this here as an oblique response to my own earlier post. And why waste my writing solely on someone else’s website? (Why not waste it here, too?)
I don’t know how much it would help to try any particular techniques, or specific kinds of things to say, or joke structures, that other people suggest. Because what makes you funny is probably exactly what makes you unique. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else, obviously.
So the key is being yourself.
Turn off the internal censor.
Just say what you think is funny or (better) whatever occurs to you naturally in any given situation. Don’t try to be funny.
You should have an inner confidence that you’re funny, but you also shouldn’t expect anyone else to think you’re funny.
Self-deprecation is good, but not necessarily required. You can say something funny about something else without drawing attention to your own humility (real or false).
That said, considering how you describe yourself, deadpan humor may be the key.
Since you mention you’re funny in print but not as much in person, a funny thing to say if you bomb might be “That was hilarious on paper,” or “That would have gotten a huge laugh on MetaFilter,” or “That was way funnier when I submitted it to the New Yorker.” For example.
My favorite running gag is, when someone says something unintelligible, or makes an irreproducible sound, to say “That’s what I always say.” The underlying humor (to me) is that what I always say is “That’s what I always say.”
Clearly I’m a fan of the self-referential and the absurd. And, frankly, I’m far more interested in entertaining myself than anyone else. But that seems to work for me most of the time.
In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, white papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.
Since I’ve seen/heard it referenced so many times.
Yes, I know I could just go to homestarrunner.com.
Here’s something important you may have missed: Yes, the U.S. Army scientist under suspicion for perpetrating the anthrax attacks of 2001 died recently, right before he was to have been indicted.
But it’s come to light that, immediately after the attacks, numerous sources told ABC News and others that the anthrax was linked to Iraq because it was laced with Saddam Hussein’s chemical calling card (my phrase).
That turned out to be a lie, yet ABC News is now obstructing the truth by refusing to out their sources.
In “Journalists, their lying sources, and the anthrax investigation,” Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com makes a case for why they must reveal their sources (emphasis mine):
…numerous experts in “journalistic ethics,” such as they are… agreed that while the obligation of source confidentiality is close to absolute, it does not extend to a source who deliberately exploits confidentiality to disseminate lies to the public. Under those circumstances… a reporter is not only permitted, but required, to disclose the identity of the source who purposely used the reporter to spread lies.
In “Malwebolence – The World of Web Trolling”, to be published in the next New York Times Magazine and available now online, a troll reveals the secret of how not to be trolled:
…the Theory of the Green Hair.
“You have green hair,“ he told me. “Did you know that?”
“No,” I said.
“I look in the mirror. I see my hair is black.”
“That’s uh, interesting. I guess you understand that you have green hair about as well as you understand that you’re a terrible reporter.”
“What do you mean? What did I do?”
“That’s a very interesting reaction,” Fortuny said. “Why didn’t you get so defensive when I said you had green hair?” If I were certain that I wasn’t a terrible reporter, he explained, I would have laughed the suggestion off just as easily. The willingness of trolling “victims” to be hurt by words, he argued, makes them complicit, and trolling will end as soon as we all get over it.