I’ve been accused twice recently of being too funny for my own good by people in positions to drastically affect my employment, income and success. I can think of innumerable shortcomings in my writing, social skills and general appearance, but being too funny is one criticism that I never expected to hear. So to prove that I’m not too funny, I told both of those people to fuck off.
Not too funny anymore, am I?
In all seriousness (but not really), I have struggled and failed to understand this statement. I feel like I’m being selectively autistic here, because I just can’t seem to grasp the concept. How can anyone be too funny? We live in a world (at least in the US) where poor taste, unrealistically broad demographic targets and willful stupidity has resulted in far too much unfunny crap in our daily lives. Even, ironically, when the intended goal is to be funny. Which, in a sick way, is kind of funny, but not in a way that will cause cider to unintentionally explode out of your nose. More like one of those laughing-sobbing hybrid moments that tend to happen when I turn on network ‘sitcoms’, any morning radio show or the Dane Cook concert Comedy Central which airs four times a day.
Let me put it another way. When was the last time you put down a book or walked out of movie because it was too funny? Has anyone ever been hospitalized or sued for being too funny? No, they have not. On the contrary, it appears that laughing may actually cure serious illnesses! Are you people telling me that the power to cure cancer isn’t within your demographics? What other potentially healthful features are outside of your target audience? Fresh air? Common sense? Washing one’s hands after taking a massive dump at their job in the food service industry?
I need to be funny. Being funny is second only to being smart on the list of desirable attributes for writers. And seeing as how about 70% of writers in the English-speaking world have neither, I should damn well be winning prizes and dating a b-list movie star. As it is, I don’t even have a wikipedia page yet, so I guess my perspective on the industry is not a popular one. Incidentally, no one has ever accused me of being too smart.
Furthermore, unless it contains critical information about the world or something that will prevent me from accidentally killing myself, I usually don’t bother reading anything that isn’t at least mildly entertaining. Honestly, why write anything if you don’t intend to entertain at least a little? This is why I only read the BBC and the Guardian UK, instead of any of the crap news publications here in the US. Also, because those guys are more likely to get the story right.
It’s not like being funny is a superpower that I can’t control. I’m not going to involuntarily go into a funny supernova and destroy the city like at the end of the first season of “Heroes”. If the situation calls for it, I’m more than capable of writing in a (mostly) unfunny tone, so as not to imperil my hapless readers. I wrote user guides for the Federal Reserve System for years and, I assure you, no one ever cracked a smile while reading those things. If they were ever read at all, which is unlikely considering the phone calls I got.
Fine. Some people don’t want funny. That’s their prerogative. I’m a professional. I’ll do the job that you ask me to do. To that end, as proof of my ability to write straight, serious text, I present the following sample:
This is me writing unfunny text. See how unfunny it is? Here’s more unfunny text. Now I’m making it even less funny. It’s almost painfully unfunny now. I think I’m gonna be sick. So. Very. Cold. Oh the humanity!
But you know who doesn’t think I’m too funny? Australians. I have a very strong following in Australia, because unlike the pansies in other countries that rhyme with the ‘United States’ and ‘England’ (nor am I too subtle) Aussies have guts when it comes to humor. Which is why I’m probably a lock for the Best Job in the World. If you have an internet connection, and by reading this I assume you do, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the caretaker job on Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef about a dozen times this week. The successful applicant will have all expenses paid while they feed fish for about 12 hours a month, in between their potentially hilarious duties of snorkeling, diving and sailing, while blogging about it all once a week for the tidy sum of US$103,000 for six months.
Well suckers, the contest is effectively over, because I’m entering and there ain’t anyone else more qualified than me. I’m apparently a borderline prohibitively funny writer, I’ve got this made-for-TV face and rear end, I’ve never accidentally killed a fish in my life and when it comes to getting paid a lot of money to do fun stuff, I have no equal.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sniff glue until I can’t tell funny from linoleum, take my cliché and hyperbole herbal supplements, then write a pitch to an in-flight magazine. Don’t tell me I’m not professional.
People who think something is too funny are usually too stupid.
The criticism is toward your writing, not you. Don’t take it so personally. Funny people are good and you’re loved, but funny writing is not always desirable. I guess since travel writing is supposed to inform it needs to be delivered with some sense of authority, and comedy does diminish that. You gotta deliver professionalism, a scholarly distance… gravitas. It’s true people don’t walk out of funny movies or put down funny books, but it’s because they were looking to be entertained in the first place. Are you looking to entertain or to inform? Are you a travel writer with a funny blog, or a comedian that does travel-related stand up, also with a funny blog? Huh? Anyway, I can understand where the comments would be coming from if you’re submitting articles with more than two or three zingers, and hope you resolve it in a way that’s profitable but doesn’t sacrifice integrity.
Lucas – that was both thoughtful and diplomatic, especially considering the hour that you posted the comment (all nighter in the math lab?). Sadly, these situation weren’t even large circulation magazines where I know better than to try anything more colorful than a bad pun. And I didn’t technically lose any work (yet). I just found the comment/criticism to be a little feeble, considering their respective sources. And you know how easily I get irritated. It comes with age. Prepare yourself.
Well, you may be asking the wrong person since my mentors for the Global Adventure Humor Writer that I pretend I can be someday are (after you, of course) Tim Cahill and Dave Berry.
Berry is just a comic genius, while Cahill infuses humor in his adventure travel stories that few can. Of course, we know you can.
But back to the basic premise: if during the course of a day I can say something (or, if I get lucky, write something) that can elicit a smile (or better yet, an outright laugh), I consider that a positive day.
As to the Best Job In The World application process, sorry to spoil your funniness, but I have all the qual’s they are looking for. That was just up to the point where I got to the video application requirement.
Can I borrow your “made-for-TV face and rear end?”
You are pretty funny, but I don’t think it’s possible for anybody to be too funny! And if laughter is the best medicine, that explains why no one has ever gotten a prescription for Dane Cook. I don’t understand why people think he’s funny.
But anyway, I’ve never heard anyone say that anyone was too funny for their own good. People have told me that I’m not serious enough, or that I joke around too much, so I don’t know if that counts as the same thing. But I don’t think there’s any such thing as being too funny.
Well if it’s not a major publication tell them to get fucked and they’d better do it… you’re an LP writer!
And no it wasn’t an all-nighter in the office. I was simply having a pop tart before bed and catching up on KB and icanhascheezburger, like most of america.
don’t think you’re funny at all if that helps. more boring than watching a snake molt. actually, snakes molting are pretty cool. wait, do snakes molt?
ok, you’re pretty funny. and i’d just like to add that i would have loved it if any of my tour guidebooks were infused with your brand of funny. would’ve made those solo jaunts, um, funnier.
and if this helps, when i heard about the best job on the planet, i thought, “i bet that travel writer guy who just got back from burma would be perfect… because… he’s… funny.”
Too funny? That’s like too sexy or too many free sandwiches. I am going to sound like a dick, but I think that people who think others are “too funny” are, in some manner, envious that they can’t be as clever. Or at least they don’t “get” why people need to inject humor into anything. So, I would’ve told them to fuck off, too.
p.s. as you can see I am clearly offended on your behalf
“Incidentally, no one has ever accused me of being too smart.”
Now, that’s funny-on several levels!
What does “zenith” mean?
Are these people integral to your publishing career? You should tell them to pick up a copy of “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea”.
I was consumed with self-loathing pretty much the entire time I was reading it, and laughed so hard I had a hangover afterward. There’s a huge market for this kind of thing, apparently.
You guys are too funny. No wait…