As per Creative Writing custom, after the first show of the year, the department invites an artist in residence to teach a week long unit before we begin studying poetry. This year, Daniel Handler came in and taught a mini unit on humor. We had a similar lesson last year, taught by Sam Hamm, though it was much shorter, consisting of only two days. Handler taught us how to create the basis of a comedic piece of writing, as well as how connect seemingly unrelated works through the use of a grounding narrator or topic.
Handler began the lesson by distinguishing “boring” sentences from ones with comedic potential. All 30 creative writers were instructed to come up with a boring sentence. Some examples included: “I don’t want to go go outside because it is raining,” or “I have no energy.” We then came up with “funny” words that either had comedic connotations, or that produced funny sounds. We then added these words to our boring sentences to make them slightly more intriguing: “I don’t want to go outside because it is raining falafels.” While not intended to evoke a outburst of laughter, the simple addition of “falafel” not only grabs the reader by surprise, but provides an opportunity to expand on the sentence in a comedic fashion, if one so desires.
Part of the unit was to write a 2-3 page culminating project that uses a specific narrator, or connecting subject to create a cohesive piece of comic writing. I decided to write a collection of a short articles that lack any significance in today’s world.
Here is an excerpt of one, titled “Three Designers Make Yet Another Whale Out Of Trash.”
The unraveling ceremony of the sculpture took place yesterday in Boca Raton, Florida. It is said to stand at an impressive 5 feet, and is reported to have taken almost 3 days to complete. One of the creators, Melanie Tumford stated: “I think this is something people are going to see and go, ‘Wow. That’s really big.’”
Another one of the designers, Ian Mousk described the process of making the sculpture, calling it, “A really cool behind the scenes experience.” He spoke to the hungry crowd of at least 3 reporters: “We all kind of just sat down and wanted to create something that was so unique, people would see it and go: “Wow. That’s really tall.”
Throughout the unit, I learned the importance of having a grounding subject for the audience to come back to, as simple as a specific collection title, in order to give the comedy found in the piece meaning. I hope to learn more on the craft of comedy as my high school career progresses.
Kaia Hobson, Class of 2021