|HUMOR, TAKE ME AWAY: LESSON TWO
Friends, let me start with a little har-dee-har-har-har.
A judge was interviewing a woman regarding her pending divorce, and asked, "What are the grounds for your divorce?"
She replied, "About four acres and a nice little home in the middle of the property with a stream running by."
"No," he said, "I mean what is the foundation of this case?"
"It is made of concrete, brick and mortar," she responded.
"I mean," he continued, "What are your relations like?"
"I have an aunt and uncle living here in town, and so do my husband's parents."
He said, "Do you have a real grudge?"
"No," she replied, "We have a two-car carport and have never really needed one."
"Please. . ." he tried again, "is there any infidelity in your marriage?"
"Yes, both my son and daughter have stereo sets. We don't necessarily like the music, but the answer to your question is yes."
"Ma'am, does your husband ever beat you up?"
"Yes," she responded, "about twice a week he gets up earlier than I do."
Finally, in frustration, the judge asked, "Lady, why do you want a divorce?"
"Oh, I don't want a divorce," she replied. "I've never wanted a divorce. My husband does. He says he can't communicate with me!!"
This fun little story leads me right into today’s tip:
TIP TWO: Diversify your cast. We are all different, after all. I grew up in a household of sisters, but none of us were alike. In fact, I was the “most different” sister in the bunch. I loved theater, music and dance. My younger sisters gravitated to other things. They didn’t “get” me, so you can imagine the drama/trauma when we had differences of opinion. And lest you think these instances were all fodder for comedy, think again. We even struggled with the big things, like how to handle my dad’s death. Yep, different strokes for different folks. It’s more than just an expression; it’s a very real conundrum.
There’s plenty of room in a diversified cast for your reader to find herself/himself. Your job, as the comedic author, is to poke fun at the differences without creating offense. This isn’t always easy. Take a good look at your WIP. Make sure you have distinctly different characters in your story. They need to have different opinions, different lifestyles, different personalities, different ways of dealing with their troubles. Throw these very different characters into an unusual situation and watch them each scramble. . .in their own unique ways. The contrast of styles is half the fun.
Think of I Love Lucy. Were there ever four more different people than Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel? Because of their differences, we knew there would be conflict. And because of the conflict, we knew it would be chaotic and funny. Let’s take a look at the bio of each of the four characters so you can see how the writers deliberately set them apart (and created such a great opportunity for chaos).
LUCY: Much like Lucille Ball herself, Lucy McGillicuddy was born and raised in Jamestown West, New York to an American family of Scottish descent. To Lucy, Ricky's career and days seem so much more exciting than her days of cooking and cleaning. She desperately wants to be a star and constantly tries to get into Ricky's act. Ricky wants her to stay home and complete her homemaking duties. However, in spite of Ricky's reluctance and usual refusal to give her a part, Lucy usually finds a way into the show.
RICKY: He is a band leader and his trademark song is "Babalu." As he was born in Cuba, he often speaks Spanish, usually when he gets excited or angry. He is known for his accented English and his rapid-fire Spanish. Ricardo is fairly easy going but can be excitable at times, especially reacting to his wife's antics. He often goes on at length in Spanish which no one seems to understand. As a husband, Ricardo is largely from the old school. In that role, he often treats Lucy like a child. He expects her to behave and to follow his orders. He controls the money and decides how she spends it.
FRED: He is a World War I veteran and often talks about his times in the war. He is married to Ethel Mae Potter Mertz (Vivian Vance), and they often jokingly make fun of each other. Ethel often calls Fred a "fat old goat", and in return Fred calls Ethel the "bottomless pit" as she eats often though Fred is sometimes the one who wants to eat while Ethel is willing to wait. Having lived through the Great Depression, he is a penny-pincher and gives Ethel very little money, and he treats his friends the same way though it is the Ricardos that get the brunt of that action. The most notable example was when he bought a blue 1923 Cadillac convertible for the quartet's trip to California.
ETHEL: Born around 1905 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her father, Will Potter, owned a sweet shop and soda fountain, Ethel has had a career in music and acting. Ethel worked in vaudeville with Fred before settling down and purchasing their own brownstone apartment building, containing the apartment they rent to Ricky and Lucy. Some of Ricky's shows have included Ethel and/or Fred in the production, with the effect of making Lucy determined to get in on the act. In appearance blonde and supposedly a beauty in her youth, in personality Ethel is unsentimental yet warm, proud and extremely loyal, with her tendency to be sharp-tongued leading to moments of hilarity. She has a fine soprano voice, among other artistic talents, but unlike Lucy is now unambitious and content as a housewife and landlady.
(The above info was taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Love_Lucy)
You can see why this worked! Notice the diversified ages, backgrounds, talent abilities, motivations, desires, etc.
I would suggest that you diversify the ages of your characters. Put elderly people and kids together in the same scene. And why not diversify by mixing up the cultures and races of your cast? The more different your characters are, the greater the opportunity for humor.
ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR WIP:
Have you diversified ages?
Have you diversified race/cultures?
Have you diversified personalities?
Have you diversified physical appearances? (Be specific)
Have you diversified manners of speech?
Have you diversified opinions?
Have you diversified talents/abilities?
Have you diversified motivations/desires?
What are some additional ways you can set your POV characters apart from the rest of the pack? (Be specific)
That’s if for today, folks! Take it away!