Humor! by Kaia Hobson

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

 

Humor Week with Daniel Handler by Tess Horton

 

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