What's so funny?

Word count: 210                      Reading time: 1 minute 

Who was that lady I saw you with last night?

That was no lady, sir, that was my wife.

In his book A Voice From The Attic Robertson Davies attributed the earliest known version of this joke to Hitard[1], court jester to Edmund Ironside in the 11th century. Nine hundred years later, I laughed when I heard it.

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die,” said Mel Brooks, perfectly summarizing the difficulty in writing humour. If you’re trying to write humour, how do you know what will make a reader laugh? My ethnic roots are English so sarcasm is bred in my bones. In fact I have to censor myself in polite company because a lot of people not only don’t laugh at my jokes, they find them offensive.

According to the website How Stuff Works we are thirty times more likely to laugh in a social setting than when we are by ourselves. Reading is a solitary experience so that brings us back to that first question, how do you coax a chuckle from a person sitting alone with your work? Do you ever know with any certainty what will bring a smile to your reader's face?


 Photo by: Geoffry Kuchera

[1] Robertson Davies, A Voice From The Attic, (Penguin Books, 1990)