Saturday, January 29, 2011

Writing Humour

The other day, I had a talk with Sabin. We were talking about writing humour and the kind of readers who enjoy it.  

I have been into humour for a very long time. I think I am the first online humour columnist in the state.  I started writing Freekick in Sunday Kaumudi in 1998. I wrote for many years and had some dedicated followers. I learned how tough it is to maintain readers for such a long time. Whenever my concentration waned, my readers were up with cudgels. They forgive an attempt at pathos, but can never stand a failed attempt in evoking laughter. After three years I found the stress too unbearable that I stopped writing Freekick. I said, enough. Only then that I knew, there were some readers who followed it all these years, and they started forcing me to take it up again. I came back and wrote Freekicks for a couple of years more.

Yentha gave a fresh lease to Freekick. I wrote some good pieces. I wrote some uninspired ones too. So, what kind of humour clicks I thought. There is a melancholic side to humour. I was stumped many times for the queer way many of my inferior stories are accepted, whereas a few which I think has a claim to any pantheon, bombed.

I let loose my imagination run wild as I sit to writer a piece. If something cannot bring a laugh to me, it is a goner. I will then read it aloud to my wife, and pay close attention to her face. Does she smile, laugh? It fails or passes the test.

You can’t call the incidents, I create as outright lies. There is indeed a play of imagination. For example, in my latest piece about Pettah Railway station, I wrote about Mariyappan who cursed Pettah Railway station for turning him out. Mariyappan was my mind’s creation. But what are the facts in the story? In my childhood I had often seen people squatting near the pettah railway line for that purpose. In the story I had to particularize. I had to find one ass representing all the desperate asses. I created Mariyappan's.

So when the second railway line was laid, the authorities found one ass, not budging, that of Mariyappan’s:

“They requested him to move his ass a teeny weeny bit, so that the Venad Express could pass. (Later they told him roughly that the railways had more efficient signaling system than what he proffered. Some gratitude!)”

Humour moves through hyperboles and understatements. I know one ass is too little to work as an impediment to a speeding train. But such hyperboles help readers imagine and tickle their funny bone. I wrote ‘’Venad Express’, not just any train, to bring particularity helping readers see.

I used understatement when I wrote in the same article, “They are so good mannered, that they will say which place you will go that day.” That is about auto drivers of Pettah. I know that readers will go back and reread that statement. But I made one small mistake there. I repeated the word, ‘will’ nearly spoiling the fun (the first ‘will’ is ok). In humour a word can dampen the crackers.


Cris said...

I think humour writing works best when you can get a reader to visualize your words. I have seen humour fail on people who lack a good imagination.

pooja said...

Writing humuor requires rare talent as humour can fall right on it's face if not handled well....i have tried it and flopped miserably.those who read the piece did'nt understand that what i meant was humour.....