Friday, September 4, 2009

The difference between written and said: an experiment in humor

Last night at my book discussion group, the adult one, I said something funny. Thinking about it later, I wondered if it would have been funny on the page. I'd like your opinion, because I don't think everything that is funny in person is funny when it is written or retold. Hence the expression, "I guess you had to be there." Spoiler alert: we were discussing the Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and the conversation involves the ending of the book.

Book club friend: "I wanted a different ending. I wanted the dogs to save Edgar at the end. For once, I wanted the Disney ending."

Me: "So you wanted the dogs to save Edgar and then start singing?"

Group: Uproarious laughter.

OK, readers, did you laugh? Why or why not? In the moment I said it, my response was completely spontaneous. I didn't have time to try to be funny, and I was kind of surprised when everyone laughed, to the point that I felt myself blushing. Which then brings me to the question of, if something written is funny, is it because we haven't analyzed and edited it to death?

8 comments:

Scott said...

I cracked a smile, but that's about it. Sometimes, I don't think it's possible to put the uproarious moments in writing.

Last Friday, out with friends, and the night was absolutely hysterical. Okay, the margaritas probably added to the hysterical moments. Still, when I tried to post about it on Facebook . . . well, it didn't come across as hysterical.

So, the situation, the people, the moment all contribute to the actual 'moment'. I'm not sure that even the best writer in the Universe is truly able to capture all the emotions that went into the moment. I'd love to be able to, but just not sure it's going to happen. Still, something to aspire to . . .

S

Sarah said...

It made me chuckle. It would've made me laugh if I'd been there.

I was trying to think of passages that made me laugh out loud. Normally they've involved action- it's not entirely dialog.

Good question!!! I'll be thinking about it this afternoon.

KM said...

It's way harder to write something funny than to say something funny! I think wit and sarcasm usually translate best to the page. But then again, some people might like physical humor btter. It just doesn't do it much for me.

Becky Mushko said...

I chuckled, too. Now if you'd said singing AND dancing. . . .

I'm guessing the laughter was from the way you said it.

Tara said...

Probably would've laughed in person. Written got a smile.

Michelle said...

Thanks, guys, for the input. I'm still wondering what makes some writing laugh-out-loud funny, but don't know what the missing element is.

Jennifer Major said...

MIchelle - your comment about singing cracked me up. I think what creates humor on the page has a lot to do with the character saying or doing it.

If the reader becomes accustomed to a sarcastic wit from a character, the reader can "get" her humor. If the reader becomes accustomed to the uptight perfectionist, it's going to be funny when that character is put in circumstances different from herself.

Michelle said...

Jennifer, does that mean you've come to expect sarcastic wit from me?