This week I took my first class, of a six session series, in humor writing, and it was hard. Yes, italics hard. The teacher presented us with in-class exercises, both of which left me using the phrase, “Pass.” That’s right. I couldn’t do it.
First we were challenged to create our own Droodle. Where you take an almost obvious, very simple, line drawing, and write an unexpected caption. Example:
CAPTION: “Ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch”
We were charged with drawing our own, then writing the caption. On the spot. Five minutes. Go.
My brain got diarrhea.
First thought: a man sitting on a sofa, holding a purse. With the caption: Loehmann’s
Not funny. No turned expectations. Fail.
The classroom was actually a Kindergarten class, so I looked for inspiration in my surroundings. I saw the book series “Frog and Toad” and immediately I thought of a caption: “Why Frog & Toad are no longer friends.” But what would I draw? What would two frogs fight over? The last lily-pad on earth? Over a fly? Then I found myself sketching a frog version of Lady & The Tramp, in lieu of a spaghetti strand, it was two long forked tongues locked together with a fly between them. What the fcuk am I doing?
I drew the image of a woman tied to a railroad track and gave it the caption: Damsel Desperate to Marry. You know, as if she tied herself there, waiting to be saved by a white knight. When you have to explain, it doesn’t work.
“Pass,” I said, which really ought to be changed to “Fail.”
Next, we were asked to write a mock film or book review from the POV of a critic who was clearly overlooking the obvious, missing the whole point of the work. I do not think fast on my feet when it comes to funny. I have to bang on it. The pressure to pick a film or book. A few people chose the bible, 50 shades of shit, Hamlet. I thought of two things, neither of which I could manage. Superman and Cinderella. With Superman, I could only think of his tailor and how impractical the cape was. But I couldn’t quite sell it. Cinderella, I kept thinking of the lack of cleaning, how there’s no product placement, how can one expect to learn to clean the fireplace, any beauty tips for what to do with the cinders? Yes, for those of you still with me, another fail. Not at all funny. How does one write a clearly clueless book or film review of Cinderella?
It came to me, by way of Phil’s suggestion at our Sunday night family dinner, days later.
The Motion Picture Association of America has assigned Disney’s Cinderella with a rating of “G.” It is, in fact, suitable for General Audiences, so long as the audience is generally into light bondage and specifically into balls. While the film centers around a young abused girl, stripped of honor and identity when she’s made a servant in her own home–Her mother is dead, and her father has abandoned her, leaving her in the care of her slanderous stepmother and belittling stepsisters–the film’s most fitting genre is not of domestic drama but of soft porn. The opening image is a mildly veiled attempt to conceal an obvious phallic symbol–do you mean to tell me the Disney Castle doesn’t look like a dick bouquet? And just look at those little friends closest to her: “gerbil play” anyone? Countless scenes devoted to foot-fetish are outmatched only on occasion, specifically when the occasion requires Cinderella to enter through the “back door.” Two thumbs up, and down, and up, now faster.
Homework assignment, due in two days. Pick one:
1. Write a fundraising email
2. Recount the first day of school, in first person, as if you’re a famous writer or personality. Parody Joyce or pretend you’re Woody Allen, for example.
3. Write a first person account, delivering bad news.
Since I hope to re-purpose these writing exercises, I plan to do #3, writing about a time in my life when I’ve had to deliver bad news. Go ahead if you wish, play along with me. Choose one and post it.