Over the years, I have written about 1,200 columns. I find that people are curious about the humor writing process. So, this week and next will not be humor columns; they will be columns about humor. Here are some of the most common questions I get.
“Do you write about things that really happened, or do you make all this stuff up?”
You know how sometimes a movie begins with this phrase: “Inspired by a true story.” That’s pretty much like my column. The idea is always based on something real. A week or so back, I fell out of a small bed at a downtown inn where we were staying for our anniversary. That was 100% true. As soon as my head hit the floor, I knew I had a column. And a headache. Did I exaggerate the story just a bit? Of course.
“Have people ever been angry at you for a column you wrote?”
Yes. Here’s an example: Several years ago, I wrote about why my wife never mows the lawn. In the piece, I suggested that I didn’t want her to mow because it would jeopardize her femininity as evidenced by other women in the neighborhood who were outside grunting and sweating as they pushed their mowers. I got a lot of nasty notes from the ladies on our street. My wife said I had to go apologize to each of them. I had a better idea. We moved.
“Do people ever take what you say seriously?”
Yes, and when I tell them that it is a humor column, they say: “Sorry, I didn’t know that.” That really hurts. I once wrote a column about my eye floaters, tiny black spots that bounce around in the corners of your eyes. I thought it was flies. Several people (including more than a few doctors) wrote to say I needed to see an ophthalmologist or a neurologist immediately. But I also got lots of other emails from physicians who said this was generally not something to worry about it. It’s nice to have your own column. I got 35 second opinions.
“You make fun of your wife, Mary Ellen. Is she okay with that?”
The truth is that in most of my columns I make fun of myself, not her. Self-deprecating humor is the best form of comedy. About 75% of Barack Obama’s jokes at the 2012 annual White House Broadcasters Dinner were mocking himself. Trump only managed self-deprecation 30% of the time when he had his turn. Even Biden has now started to parody his advancing age. I recently wrote a column about all the dumb questions Mary Ellen asked me about baseball. Truth is, I couldn’t answer any of them myself. I was poking fun at myself for pretending I was an expert.
“The last line of your story is my favorite part. What’s the key to a good ending?”
I once had a newspaper (no name) whose copy editor chopped off my last several sentences when he needed the space. That’s when I started believing in capital punishment. People were telling me they liked my columns but didn’t understand the endings. The last line or two of a humor column are crucial. It ties it all up, and goes back to something I may have mentioned maybe 400 words ago. I work really hard on that. I hope you like the ending to this one.
“Do you ever run out of funny ideas?”
I did this week. That’s why you are reading this column.
Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes columns for The Daily Reporter. Send comments to [email protected].