Those of you who have had the misfortune to be in a bar with me (and really, who hasn't?) know that I laugh easily. I laugh because:

A. I'm usually drunk.

B. I'm deranged.

C. You are a funny person.

Often, it is all of the above.

But what makes a person funny? What is it that makes one person twist a thought just so, and say the line so right, that it surprises us and makes our diaphragm convulse. What is it about people who write funny, so that the alignment of words, the rhythm of the language, makes us laugh?

Dick Cavett has a column over at The Times that runs that question around. You might need a subscription to read it, and if so, I apologize. But here's part of it:

"It took Bob Hope’s longtime head writer, Mort Lachman, to put into words a thing I had only sensed. “Comedy writing can be a fairly easy life,” he said, “and you’ll make absurd amounts of money if you have two things: a sense of humor and the ability to turn on the comic you’re writing for in your head.”

The reason I bring this up is that so many of you are funny writers. You know who you are. You can compose a line or conjure up a word or scene that's absurdly right. You listen to that voice in your head and instead of finding medications that will make it stop, you encourage it. You give it to a character who speaks in a certain way and sees the world in a certain light.

I don't write funny. Not intentionally. It's just that the people in my head are funny people. They say funny things and I write them down. I'm often as surprised as you are.

I like that. It's one of the great things about this job. I only wish the comic inside my head made more money.

What about you? When you write a funny line, is it a struggle? Do you sweat over it? Or does it just pop out? And what about those writers who think they're funny, but sadly for us all, they're not? Can they learn funny or is it like music, you either have the ear or you don't?

And who are your favorite funny writers? Who do you go to when you need a good laugh?

Tell me something funny. Then go read Cavett's piece on comedy writing. I'll either be here when you get back...

...or I'll be at the bar. Look for me.

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...just one name for me: CARL HIAASEN! I suck up every book he writes - for me STORMY WEATHER is his funniest ; maybe that's because I lived in Miami for seven years and survived (or did I?) Hurricane Andrew!

..and, you may have been drunk in Phoenix, David, but I thought you were damn funny (well, maybe I was drunk too - what do you think, Stephen?) Anyway I sometimes have a secret chortle when I recall your story about the local movie you were 'working' on...and my wife thinks I'm losing it. You may not think you are 'Bob Hope funny' but satire is second nature to you - and, here in Ireland and Britain, we love satire...

Cheers, Pat.
Ah, Pat, you're turning my head.

Hiaasen is great. The scene with the coati mundi from Stormy Weather is one of the funniest things I've ever read and I read that book by flashlight as Hurrican Fran tore up the trees all around us. I thought it was only right.

When I started thinking I could write a book, it was Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard who were my teachers and guiding lights. I tore their books apart, analyzing the structure, seeing how they put scenes together, how they handled dialogue and POV. I still have so much to learn but they sure gave me a boost up.

I finished that screenplay and the producers are out drumming up the money. We'll see how it goes. But, given the obstacles like never having done that before and my universally-acclaimed lack of talent, I think the script turned out pretty good. Not great, but good.

Hope all is well with you and the fam. Next year, Baltimore. What do you say?
..yeah, David, next year is a must for me ... and I'd love to share a few jars and some excellent 'craic' with you. Maybe your WIP will be on the shelves by then - and maybe my agent will have placed mine as well. Nevertheless, I'll be back!

Slan go foill,


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