people laughing

Guest post

7 Reasons Why Funny Writing Is Important

We believe that funny writing is important – it makes people smile, which is our mission at Farrago. We asked Paul Flower, author of The Great American Cheese War and The Great American Boogaloo why he believes funny writing is important.

By Paul Flower
17 November 2022

1. Funny writing makes us laugh

My wife is a retired elementary school teacher. She’s a fan of children’s books, and for Christmas I typically buy her a few new ones to read to our spectacularly advanced grandchildren.

This year’s prize title was I Eat Poop by Mark Pett. I bought it not because the subtitle, “A Dung Beetle Story”, promised keen scientific insight for developing minds.

I bought it because it made me giggle at the thought of this precious next-generation of our clan wanting their parents to read I Eat Poop to them.

It was a form of payback for my kids’ keeping me awake for most of the 1980s and 1990s.

2. It makes important topics easier to digest

Pett’s approach is hilarious and smart. Our grandkids enjoy the book, not because of the seemingly disgusting title. They like it because the humor makes a scientific and ecologically important topic––animal dung––interesting and easier to digest. (Sorry.)

3. Funny writing helps expand our minds

Funny writing makes us laugh at almost any aspect of life. And that’s not just good for our souls; it helps expand our minds, gives us perspective on serious issues, and––if we’re lucky––it can make us shoot milk out of our noses. And who doesn’t love that?

4. Comedy keeps us sane

Also, comedy keeps us sane.

Back when kids were torturing my wife and I with sleep deprivation––and, seriously, it’s awful––someone gave me Babies and Other Hazards of Sex by Dave Berry.

Today, when I encounter a screaming infant, one of the scenes from Barry’s hilarious take on baby-rearing invariably pops into my head.

In it, he describes two parents standing a few feet apart while passing a screaming child back and forth and saying, to paraphrase: “I don’t know, could she be sick?” “Maybe it’s her tummy?” “Do you think it’s an ear infection?” “Maybe it’s nothing. Do you think it’s nothing?”

There aren’t many parents, traumatized by hours of a screaming, miserable newborn, who haven’t played that game.

Barry’s funny version makes his readers feel a little less overwhelmed and, importantly, a lot less alone.

5. It celebrates the wonderfulness of weirdness

At the other end of the comedy spectrum is the wonderful weirdness of David Foster Wallace’s mad masterpiece, the novel Infinite Jest.

At more than 1,000 packed pages (and head-bending footnotes), it’s a dark and brilliant take on America’s infatuation with entertainment, among other themes.

You’ll never read anything that makes you think and laugh so hard, often at the same time.

6. It can hold a deeper meaning

Garrison Keillor’s novels, on the other hand, offer a folksy, American midwestern brand of comedy that sneaks up on readers, as it did on listeners when he hosted “Prairie Home Companion” on National Public Radio.

His tales of life in the mythical town of Lake Woebegon are warm and witty.

But there’s often deeper meaning lurking in the shallows. For instance, he opens his novel Pontoon with: “Evelyn was an insomniac so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that.”

See what he did there? Made you laugh. Made you wonder. Funny writing can do that.

7. There’s lots of funny writing to read

Wander around the Farrago site, and you’ll finds dozens of brilliant examples of funny writing in action.

Do some digging. And some giggling.

Who knows what you’ll discover?

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