The Tea House: Being Dreadful
Humor is hard. Yet, audiences love funny art, stories and music. Whether or not we create art that’s expressly humorous, being able to add humorous elements is an excellent skill for your artist’s toolbox. In addition to loving a laugh, audiences respond to art when sadness or fear are juxtaposed with humor. Besides, art reflects life, and part of being alive is experiencing the funny bits. There can often be humor in our darkest moments, if you look for it.
Today at The Tea House, we’re going to practice being funny in a particularly dreadful, and perhaps difficult, way. I want you to make art that takes an awful, sad, difficult, terrible and maybe even horrific historical event (so say 2010 back through recorded history) and add humorous elements. Or change the tone so it matches a Benny Hill sketch, a romantic comedy or some other brand of comedy. Or maybe even make the whole event flat out funny. Yes, dark humor counts.
If you’re a prose writer, write at least 750 words of a scene or two. If you’re a poet, write the first draft of a poem. If you write creative non-fiction, reimagine your event through new eyes. If you’re a visual artist, sketch a major scene from the event and either make it funny or add humorous elements. If you’re a musician, play around on your instrument of choice, first finding a melody that matches your event and then make the melody bouncy or change the key to lighten the sound. Extra points for lyrics describing the event and making it funny. Tom Lehrer is one musician who is particularly fine at this, if you need an example to riff off of. If you’re a film maker, film a comedy sketch out of your event.
If you have any humanity in you, this exercise may be slightly difficult. You may have significant qualms about this exercise. If so, this is excellent–this exercise will make you push your boundaries and your abilities. If you’re really concerned about the morals of making the sinking of the Titanic or the Wounded Knee Massacre or the Battle of the Bulge funny, there are ways to add humor without being disrespectful. Finding those tools is also a useful exercise, especially for those who make bizarro art.
Please consider sharing the results of your exercise with others you trust to get their response. Did you make them laugh? Wince? And not because what you produced is bad but because you pushed their boundaries? Did they give you a tight smile, a nod and said, “This is good. I liked it,” and then went to go make their own cup of spiced orange coffee with honey? This is all excellent feedback for you to consider when making your next piece of art.
And, as always, you can share what your art in the comments. Your bizarro brothers and sisters want to see what you’re up to.
Spike Marlowe has held a number of odd jobs, including working in a wild west show, as a detective, as a Bigfoot researcher, as a writer for an Internet content farm and as a busker. These days she’s a writer, blogger and bizarro editor for Eraserhead Press, with a focus on the New Bizarro Author Series. Her first book, Placenta of Love, is now available at all the usual locations. You can stalk her online at her website, or on Twitter at @spikemarlowe.