In the days following last weekâ€™s Forsley Feuilleton, I wanted to surf the internet naked, vulnerable both physically and emotionally, yelling like Emmett Ray at the end of Sweet and Lowdown: â€œI made a mistake! I made a mistake!â€ Last weekâ€™s piece was a complete failure, and that makes me, as its author, a complete failure.Â William Zinsser, in On Writing Well,Â wrote that the â€œheightening of some crazy truth â€“ to a level where it will be seen as crazy â€“ is the essence of what serious humorists are trying to do.â€Â Thatâ€™s what I tried to do with last weekâ€™s piece, â€œThe Seducing Letter I Got From Marie Calloway,â€ but instead of making a crazy truth seem crazy, I just made myself seem crazy.
I muddled my message with withered writing, rancid references, and juvenile jokes.Â Readers scrutinized my hilarity and ignored my commentary.Â Calloway, the subject of the piece, found it â€œconfusingâ€ and â€œmisogynist.â€Â An editor here at PANK thought the timing was off and the writing was â€œout there.â€Â A peer whose opinion I value said it was â€œfun and interesting,â€ which is a friendly way of saying it was dull and obvious.Â And the founder of one of my favorite literary journals wrote: â€œit was like I was a hyena let loose at all you can eat night at the Sizzler.â€ That sounds like a compliment but It isnâ€™t. . . I remember Mama Forsley saying, â€œHyenas will eat anything â€“ zebras, bones, garbage, other hyenas, even that crusty side of coleslaw that the deli forces you to take with your turkey club.â€
Such misconstrued triggered criticism is the burden that a humorist must bear, and that burden weighs especially heavy on the shoulders of a humorist who decides, for whatever idiotic reason, to put words on paper.Â I know this because if the shoulders of those word writing humorists are anything like my own, they are as frail as Charlie Sheenâ€™s mental state.Â I sit in chairs too often and too often ignore the produce section.Â I can afford neither bone replenishing produce nor an HTML embedded laugh-track to infuse my paragraphs with. So, because I have what Dorothy Parker says is a â€œstrange force that compels a writer to be a humorist,â€ I must accept that â€œthe world is stacked against (me) from the start, for everybody in it has the right to look at (my) work and say, â€˜I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s funny.â€™â€
I didnâ€™t always have the strange force that compels me to be a humorist.Â Actually, before Obi-Wan Kenobi â€“ as Dorothy Parker â€“ came along and instructed me in the ways of the force, I disagreed with Oscar Wildeâ€™s declaration that â€œIt is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously,â€ and a different strange force compelled me to be as serious as possible: As a child I would pick the Charlie Rose Show over the Red & Stimpy Show.Â In my teens I would go to Sunday Mass at church instead of Silly Sundays at the comedy club.Â And in college I found the writings of Henry James far more entertaining than anything by P.G. Wodehouse.Â I even planned on staying in that serious world they call academia and wrote a five hundred page thesis dissecting the existential representational ramifications of Meursaultâ€™s decision to eat while standing up.
And if I couldnâ€™t get tenured and make a serious life for myself in the serious world of academia, I planned on becoming a serious writer of serious novels.Â Â I would ramble endlessly in back stories, take week-long exhibitions in the form of expositions, spend chapter upon chapter describing the texture and structure of a single hair in an insignificant characterâ€™s eyebrow, and browse aimlessly around the empty heads of as many characters as I pleased.Â Woody Allen, the director of Sweet and Lowdown, said, â€œI think being funny is not anyoneâ€™s first choice.â€Â Â For me, it wasnâ€™t my first choice, my second, or my third. . . it wasnâ€™t a choice at all.
Because Iâ€™m a red haired dyslexic aspie with a tinkler instead of a dick, I suffered from Gelotophobia â€“ the fear of being laughed at â€“ my entire life.Â Whenever I heard laughter I thought I was its target and would curl into a ball and begin shaking like a Chihuahua in the rain.Â Then, as I got older and as my parents started letting me watch rated R movies, I turned that fear into fury and would hear laughter on the other side of the playground, or three stories above me in the mall, or on television and Iâ€™d get furiously serious and say, in the voice of Joe Pesci, â€œI’m funny how? Funny like a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh?â€Â And God help you if I had a pen.
But the seriousness had to end.Â I couldnâ€™t maintain it.Â It took too much of a toll.Â My hair got redder than Clifford the Dog and my blood pressure got higher than Tommy Chong.Â And, besides, my attempts at emulating Pesci only made me the target of more laughter, and Iâ€™d cry myself to sleep every night â€“ every night until the night I ate a Magic Mushroom and this face appeared floating in front of me:
I looked at it for an hour.Â It reminded me of the time I caught a frog at recess and some kid stole it and squeezed it into a salt shaker.Â I felt sadder than ever. . . but then the face rotated, turning its frown upside down:
And it said, â€œPeople are going to laugh at you for being a red haired dyslexia aspie with a tinkler instead of a dick.Â Theyâ€™ll point at your crotch and request a Cheeto, talk to you in Pig Latin, throw thousands of toothpicks at you, and hand you a stomach pump every time you have to piss.Â But you, starting right now, are going to control their laughter, and take credit for it too.Â Dorothy Parker will instruct you in the ways of the force and you, Christopher Forsley, will become a humorist.â€
I am too socially awkward to do stand-up and too ugly to appear on television, so as Dorothy Parker instructed I put words on paper in an attempt at creating humor.Â And even though I have a pervasive developmental disorder â€“ probably Asperserâ€™s Syndrome â€“ making it difficult to comprehend the particular cognitive experience that is humor, everything I write is very funny.Â I know this for two reasons: Firstly, Mama Forsley says, â€œThe funniest people are those who find humor in their everyday life,â€ and I have become an expert at finding humor in everyday life by looking for people to laugh at.Â And secondly, The Girlfriend always says, â€œYour reasoning abilities are that of a madman,â€ and, according to Groucho Marx, â€œHumor is reason gone mad.â€
But maybe, dear readers, youâ€™re not finding any of this very funny, or even a little funny.Â If the reaction to last weekâ€™s Forsley Feuilleton is an indication, you people think Iâ€™m a humorless humorist not worthy of a chuckle and that Iâ€™d be better off doing Joe Pesci imitations, seriously.Â Maybe we should breakup for the same reason the mime and the clown in that New Yorker cartoon breakup: â€œwe just have really different senses of humor.â€
Counseling is out of the question.Â E. B. White said that â€œanalyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies.â€Â So if youâ€™re not happy with our relationship, please just leave. . . because Iâ€™m not changing.Â Iâ€™m going to continue following the instructions Dorothy Parker gave me on how to best utilize the force: â€œThere must be courage; there must be no awe. There must be criticism, for humor, to my mind, is encapsulated in criticism.Â There must be a disciplined eye and a wild mind.Â There must be a magnificent disregard of your reader, for if he cannot follow you, there is nothing you can do about it.â€