Category Archives: writing humor

In Defense of Corny Jokes

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It will probably be clear that I am writing this post because I am currently reading 1941 daily strips from Al Capp’s Li’l Abner.

But I am definitely going to talk about corny jokes, not cheesy jokes, because I grew up in Iowa, not Wisconsin.

And, yes, that is example number one.

There is a certain way of telling a joke or tall tale that is unique to the farmyard.   And it does not contain chicken poop, but rather, corn.

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Of course, as you can see by this corn-colored definition of what corny means according to Collins Online Dictionary, the word is supposed to be an insult to corniness in jokery.  That doesn’t sit well with the people of Iowa, where the tall corn grows.  We are also obvious, sentimental, and not at all original.  And we are proud of it.  Corny360_2017-06-19-17-17-44-339

To tell a corny joke right, you have to set a simple scene, and make it clear what happened, and give the audience a simple cue for when to laugh.

For instance, there was the time that Cudgel Murphy had a cat problem with his car, the 1954 Austin Hereford that he has driven since dinosaurs walked the earth.  It seems there was this time in 1988 when he kept having engine trouble.  The engine would sputter and cough and die, and when Cudgel opened it, he would find a half-eaten dead pigeon or other random bird carcass gumming up the works.  He couldn’t for the life of him figure out how dead birds were getting into his car engine.  But his grandson Danny happened to see the neighbor’s big tabby tomcat carrying a pigeon he had killed under the front of Grampy’s car, apparently enjoying a fowl meal in the dark with a nice warm engine to lay the food on.  Sure enough, when they checked the engine later, there was the half-eaten dead bird laying across one end of the fan belt.

So Cudgel set up a vigil, assigning times for himself, Danny, and his younger grandson Mike to watch for signs of that damned cat taking another bird under the hood of the Austin. With only two day’s worth of watching under their belts, Mike came running into the Murphy kitchen with the news.

“Grampy!  I seen that damned cat taking a dead bird under your car!  He’s in there right now!”

So Cudgel rushed out, turned the engine on, and stomped on the gas.

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There were some worrisome thumps and bangs under the hood, and then the cat shot out from under the front of the car spewing howls and cat curses all the way up the nearest tree.

Cudgel laughed hard and finally caught his breath to say, “How about that, Mike?  I’ll bet James Bond doesn’t have a car that can shoot angry cats out the front!”

Now, before you chastise me for enjoying cruelty to cats, I hope you will remember that Cudgel Murphy is a fictional character, and I am merely illustrating the idea behind corny jokes.  And, besides, that cat really had it coming to him.

 

 

 

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Filed under goofy thoughts, humor, Iowa, Paffooney, satire, Uncategorized, writing humor

Superchicken Lives!

I published another danged novel on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

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The Writing Imperative

I am a writer because I write.

I write because I have to.

I have to because somebody has to control the words.

People are made of words.  Their identity, their inner self, their reason for existence… all made of words.  The very thoughts in their heads are… words.

If I want to control the words I am made of, then I must be the writer who writes his own story.

I don’t want anyone else to write the words that essentially become me.  Do you?

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Of course, authors create characters.  Even autobiographers create characters.  Carl Sandburg could no more make his words into Lincoln than a bird can make its tweets into a cat.   Sandburg can, however, help us to understand Lincoln as Carl Sandburg understands the words that are Lincoln.

Lincoln probably did not have the words for “bikini girls” in his head when he wrote those words in the second quote.  But somebody thought that the picture would help us understand the words.  By all accounts, Lincoln was not a particularly happy man leading a particularly happy life.  But he showed us the meaning of his words when he stood firm against the strong winds of harsh words and bad ideas in a terrible time.  And he was as happy about it as he made up his mind to be.

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I, too, have not lived a particularly happy life.  But I was always the “teacher with a sense of humor” in the classroom, and students loved me for it.  Funny people are often not happy people.  But they make themselves out of funny words because laughter heals pain, and jokes are effective medicine.  And so I choose to write comedy novels.  Novels that are funny even though they are about hard things like freezing to death, losing loved ones, being humiliated, being molested, and fear of death.  Magical purple words can bring light to any darkness.  I am the words I choose to write in my own story.  The words not only reveal me, they make me who I am.  And it is up to me to write those words.  Other people might wish to do it for me.  But they really can’t.  The words are for me alone to write.

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And so it is imperative that I write my words in the form of my novels, my essays, and this goofy blog post.  I am writing myself to life, even if no one ever reads my writing.

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Things I Know For Certain

I think a lot of thoroughly thoughtful thuggish thoughts that build and build and build up an idea, and then turn around and knock it all down.  Let me demonstrate by knocking down that title right off the bat.  Rene DesCartes in the early 1600’s said, “Cogito Ergo Sum”, and he thereby totally disrupted the world as we knew it.  Didn’t get that?  Let me translate.  He said, “Je pense, donc je suis.”  Still didn’t help?  Okay, here’s the English, “I think, therefore I am.”  In other words, the one thing that I know for sure is that I am thinking this particular thought at this particular time.  If I am thinking, and I know I am, I must be here and I must be real.  So there is one thing I know for certain.  But do I know anything else for certain?  Uh-oh.  How do I know anything?  I have to rely on my senses.  And my senses lie to me all the time.  I am partially color blind, so I don’t see the world the same way you do.  I don’t see things in black and white, like Great Grandma Hinckley did in her 90’s, but the colors look different to my eyes than they do to yours and I will never know what things look like to you.  Forget politicians and all other people who tell lies, my own eyes lie to me constantly.  So can I know anything for sure?  Of course not.  All I have are firm beliefs based on imperfect senses and best guesses at what is true.  So what I am actually talking about is a list of potential essay ideas that I am merely asserting as true based on my imperfect goofy thinking of thoughtful thuggish thoughts.

Idea #1 that I think is certainly possibly maybe true; My brain was taught and I was raised to adulthood by the movies I saw when I was young.  I want to talk about this at length in another post.  The video is by a guy who was a kid in the 80’s, and he has some really awesome movies to offer as a way to delineate his rise to adulthood.

My list includes the movies of my boyhood seen in the Belmond Theater and on our old black and white Motorola TV.  My list of movies that raised me includes Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and The Wizard of Oz.

Idea #2; Animals are people too.

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I mean, as a writer for young adults, I know for a fact that animals are relevant as characters.  They have a point of view, feelings, reactions, and complex lives that people rarely pay attention to.  I have to write about this some time in the future too.

Idea #3; The worst things that happen to us in our lives, are also the best things that happen.  Wow!  What a difficult essay topic.  But I not only think it, I can prove it… at least to myself.  But can I write about it?  Time will tell.

Idea #4; Silly thoughts and serious thoughts are two sides of the same coin.  And this will be particularly difficult to think about if thoughts are literally coins.  That would mean that my head is full of metal, and I know several people who would read that sentence and shout, “I knew it all along!”  Fortunately they are all too sensible to read this far in one of my blog posts.

So, at 600 words I still have lots more to say.  But people with metal in their heads often talk way too much, so my concluding sentence will be simply; “I promise to shut up for now.”

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Writing Myself To Life

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I have been working on my novel The Baby Werewolf, and I am now in the final phase, working on the climax and crisis point.  And I surprised myself.  The killer monologues to the main characters who have now become his intended next victims.  I have played this out over and over in the twenty-two years I have been writing this book.  Last night, for the first time ever, the hero character laughs in this scene instead of the cringing fear that had always been there before.

How is such a thing possible?  What changed?  I have been writing and rewriting this story since 1996.  But it goes much deeper and darker than that.  This story went on my have-to-write list in 1966 when an older, stronger boy who lived near my home trapped me in a place out-of-sight of others and stripped me, gaining some horrible kind of pleasure by inflicting pain on my private parts.  Recovery from that has taken half a century.  The recovery itself probably explains why I struggled so long to pull this story together in a finished form.

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There are things about my writing life that are undeniable.  First of all, I have to write.  There is really no other choice for me.  My mind will never know rest or peace without being able to spin out the paragraphs and essays and stories that make it possible to know those things.  Nothing is real if I can’t write it out.  Secondly, I am a humorist.  If I can never be funny at all, can never write a joke, then I will descend into madness.  My sense of humor not only shields me and serves as my suit of armor, it heals me when I suffer psychic wounds.  This book is a horror story, but like many of the best horror stories, it relies on humor to drive every scene and knit the plot together.  And it was a breakthrough for me to have the hero character laugh instead of cringe in the critical scene.  It allows me to live again.  And love again.  And the real monster that caused this book to be, is now forgiven.  The world continues to turn.  The picture is now complete.  And soon, the novel will be too.

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Filed under autobiography, forgiveness, horror writing, humor, insight, inspiration, novel, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing, writing humor

If I Thunk It, Then Wrote It, I Will Leave It In There

One good thing about being a humorist is, if somebody calls you out for an error you made in your writing, you can always say, “Well, it’s a joke, isn’t it?”  Errors are for serious gobbos and anal-retentive editors.  I live with happy accidents.  It is a way of life dictated in the Bob Ross Bible.

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Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be “oops” not “OPPS”, but after all, this isn’t even a list I made up myself.  I stole the whole thing from another writer on Twitter.

You have no idea what a cornucopia of ravings from knit-wit twit-tweets Twitter really is.

Oh, you waste time time on Twitter too?

Then you know already.

Twitter makes you want to shout at your computer, and has so many Trump-tweets and conservative blather-bombs on it, that it can seriously impair your editing skills.

So I look elsewhere and elsewhen to sharpen my critical English-teacher eye.

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Yes, the illustrator of that meme doesn’t get the blame for the content.  I wrote that violation of the sacredness of classic literature myself.  I think we should thank God for the fact that neither Charles Darwin nor Dr. Seuss decided to act on evil impulses.  The world is a better place for their decision on how to use their genius, and how to edit themselves.

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So, this is me writing today’s post about editing as a writer, and failing miserably to edit my own self.  I got the pictures from Twitter and edited them myself.  Or failed to edit them properly, as the case is more likely to prove.  But however I may have twisted stuff and changed stuff and made up new words, editing is essential.  It makes the whole world better.  Now let’s consider editing the White House for a bit, shall we?

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Mickey Viewed From the Inside

Yes, this post is a self-examination.  Not the kind you see Donald Trump enacting every weekend, where he says any crappy thing that occurs to his craptastical very good brain to cover what he doesn’t want us to believe about the truth on Twitter, basically for the purpose of continuing to say he is great and we are poop.   I do not like myself the way Trump likes himself.  I am an old bag of gas that is in pain most of the time, in poor health, and the subject of endless persecution from Bank of America and other money-grubbing machines that are convinced any money I might accidentally have really belongs to them.  But this is not a complain-about-crap fest either.

This is a self-examination that attempts to honestly examine where I am in my quest for wisdom and my affliction with being a writer.

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If I am being honest about the type of writer I really am, I guess I am most like the Weird Recluse in the bottom corner.  I can’t claim to be as good as Kafka or Dickinson, but I am definitely better than some of the crap that gets published and marketed as young adult literature.  The business of publishing is more interested in how many books they can sell, rather than literary merit or good writing.  Some of the crap that is out there and being made into bad movies (which I have not seen because I don’t go to movies that don’t pass the fiction-source smell test) is actually a form of brain poison that will mold young people into sexual predators and professional poop makers.  And people will take poison happily if it has been deviously marketed well.  So far, in the money test, I have made only $16.43 dollars as an author (plus whatever I have made from I-Universe that doesn’t cut a check until it reaches at least $25 dollars).  Nobody is buying my books because nobody has read them.  I have sold a few copies to friends and relatives.  Some of those books are just sitting on a shelf somewhere unread.  I have a couple of 5-star reviews on Amazon, and that is it.  I will die in the near future not having known any measurable success from my books at all.

I have entered novels in writing contests and done well enough to make it into the final round of judging twice.  I have not, however, made a big enough splash that anyone really noticed.  I have paid reviewers to review my books online.  One of those charged me money, and then reviewed a book with the same title by a different author, a book which was nothing like my book, and then, when forced to correct their error, only read the blurb on the back of the book to write the oopsie-I-goofed-last-time review.  They were not worth the money I paid them, money that Bank of America could’ve sued me for instead.

The only thing I have done successfully as a writer is, I think, this goofy blog.  By writing every day, I have managed to give myself considerable practice at connecting with readers.  I have practiced writing humor and written some laughable stuff.  I have plumbed my soul for new writing ideas, and found a creative artesian well bubbling up with new ideas daily.  I can regularly manufacture inspiration.  I am never truly without an idea to write about.  Even when I write a post about not having an idea to write about, I am lying.  Of course, I am a fiction writer, so telling lies is what I do best.  I am also a humorist, so that means I can also tell the truth when I have to, because the best humor is the kind where you surprise the reader with a thing that is weirdly true.  Like just now.

So, somewhere ages and ages hence, I hope there will be a trove of old books in a cellar somewhere that will include one of mine.  And some future kid will pick it up, read it, and laugh.  The golden quality of that laughter is the only treasure I have really been searching for.  It is the reason I write.  It is the reason I continue to be Mickey.

Since I wrote this blog post originally, I have added a few books published on Amazon.  You can find information about this random noveliciousness here at this page in my blog.  Click on this linkie thingie here.

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