by Steve Brewer
When I was in high school, I was friends with the starting center on the basketball team, a perfectly nice guy who’d somehow been born without a sense of humor.
He wasn’t stupid or slow. He just didn’t get jokes. You’d tell him some joke you’d heard on TV, and deliver the punchline just right, and he’d stand there blinking, while the silence grew more awkward. Finally sensing the joke was over, he’d say, "Where’s the funny part?"
We all deluged him with jokes, trying to find one that would crack him up, the one that would hit whatever funny bone everyone else had missed.
And he’d always say, "Where’s the funny part?"
I think of that guy sometimes when I’m writing. Not as an imaginary target audience; Lord no, I’m sure he still doesn’t know where the funny part is, and who needs that? But I look at what I’ve put on the page and I think, "Where’s the funny part?"
Usually, there’s something. Some little wordplay, a snip of dialogue or a twisted image that makes me smile. Once in a while, something that makes me laugh out loud. I’m always my first audience and, naturally, I think I’m funny as all hell. Probably no one but me gets all the intended jokes, but readers sometimes cite funny stuff in my books and invariably they’re things I’d meant completely seriously, so it all evens out in the end.
I try to write the type of books I like to read (and doesn’t that shift subtly from year to year), and the books I most enjoy tend to have funny parts. So I slip humor into my stories, especially my seven-book series with private eye Bubba Mabry, and my scores of loyal fans seem to appreciate it.
I’ve written a lot of standalones, some funnier than others. My most recent, "Whipsaw" and "Cutthroat," are corporate thrillers set in the San Francisco Bay area. Very little comedy leaked into those stories. I thought they were pretty good tales, fast-paced, me trying something new, spreading my wings, blah, blah.
Reviews and reader reactions were mixed. Nothing wrong with these stories, but (you guessed it): "Where’s the funny part?"
Who am I to argue? Not everybody can throw comedy into the mix and get away with it. Not everyone can vent in print and make people laugh. I should count my blessings.
There’s a lot of humor in my latest thriller ("Firepower," currently being shown around by my agent). And I’m working on a hillbilly noir that features a flying Corvette, a kidnapping gone wrong, in-laws, tattoos, sex, a lot of marijuana and a bar called The Busted Nut. The novel is set here in Redding, in what I like to call the Ozarks of California, and my wife assures me it will get us tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail.
Some people have no sense of humor.