Creative Writing spent a week with our latest Artist in Residence, Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket. The main subject he taught us was humor, and the many subjective ways humor can be incorporated into our writing. We covered structure and format, the definition of a “callback,” the nature of the number three in Western humor, and how, to make a piece of writing objectively funny, sometimes you need to have a few boring sentences before the joke.
Everyday, we would read a piece of humor in class, a few examples including Curses From a Millenial Witch by Scarlett Meyer and SantaLand Diaries by David Sedaris, and then analyze what made them “funny.” The goal of the week-long workshop was to write our own 1-3 page humor piece, using the devices we discussed in class — focusing mainly on formatting and structuring our pieces in ways other than straightforward narratives. For example, the piece I ended up writing was “A Snake Charmer’s Dating Profile Throughout the Years,” featuring five years worth of updated dating profiles of a snake charmer.
Our week of humor with Daniel Handler was entertaining and a solid introduction to humor for me. I appreciated learning about the technical aspects of what makes a piece funny, and how to use certain techniques in my writing if I were to ever want to do so. Although humor is subjective and difficult to teach because of it, I take my hat off to Mr. Handler for teaching us in a relatively unbiased way and letting everyone’s own sense of humor thrive without restraint.
Tess Horton, class of 2021