Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Writing Comedy

Writing Comedy
Heather Haven 

In my far-off youth and for as long as I can remember, the heart of a comedy writer lurked inside of me. I wanted nothing more than to be writing funny quips for people, like Woody Allen did for Sid Caesar on Your Show Of Shows. Just to make it clear, I wasn’t nearly as impressed by Allen’s fore into his own comedy shows, record albums or even the movies in which he starred. What impressed me most was when he wrote words for performers that made an audience laugh. I couldn’t imagine a greater existence.

I got my wish on one of my very first jobs as a writer in New York City writing for No Soap Radio. As the name implies, we wrote funny ads and commercials for radio, worked with talented actors, and got paid a weekly salary! Does it get any better than that? Of course, the weekly stipend was so little I often had to decide if I would pay my rent or the phone bill, but by golly, I was a comedy writer.

It was a short-lived chapter of my life, hardly more than a year, but I learned a lot. Among other things, I learned some words are automatically funnier than others, like words beginning with the letter ‘k.’

Possibly that’s why we have the long, illustrious lineage of the Earl of Orange and not the Earl of Kumquat. If an earl had been called the latter, it might have exacted a few chuckles from the serfs. Back in the Middle Ages, it didn’t due to snicker at an earl. He might lop off your head, bed your wife, sell your children, take your livestock, and burn down your thatched-roofed cottage. Not that peerage always did those sorts of things, but I’ve heard stories.

I’ve learned it’s best not to upset the powers that be by calling them any word beginning with the letter ‘k.’ Except for maybe the word ‘king.’ For some reason, being called a king doesn’t seem to bother anybody. Although to hear Robin Hood tell it, King John was a bad ‘un and it might have had something to do with the letter ‘k.’ If R.H. was still around, we could ask him.

But I seem to be riffing here. Comedy writers tend to do that. Start with a subject and see where it lands you. Where was I? Hmmmm. Ah! 

Happy Holidays, everybody! Nothing funny about that. See? No ‘k.’


Barbara Ehrentreu said...

That is so funny that you worked for a company called No Soap Radio. When I was younger one of the only jokes I told was this one:

Two elephants are in the bathtub. One said, "Pass the soap".

The other one said, "No soap radio."

It makes no sense, but it made everyone laugh. I remember going into hysterics over this joke. So It's funny to see a company named that.:)

This was very interesting. Thank you for sharing this memory with us.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Thanks for sharing an intriguing time of your life. A very entertaining tangent.
Happy Holidays...

Heather Haven said...

Barbara, the company was based on that joke! The president was a really nice guy, we all got along well and had a ball! A wonderful learning experience. I even met Woody Allen's wife (at the time), Louise Lasser, who auditioned for one of the commercials. She got the job, of course.

Brenda Hyde said...

LOL Now I'm going to be thinking of "k" words all day long!

You know-- I love humor in the books I read, but I've found out that writing with humor is not near as easy as it seems. I wish I could just get the witty banter that's in my head to jump on to the page!