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Friday, January 9, 2015

Writing Humor

It's hard to write material that makes people laugh. Almost every time I look for a birthday card or get-well card, I look at (and reject) countless silly cards that were an attempt at being funny before I finally find one that is funny, or, more often, close enough.

My favorite humorist is Dave Barry. Almost everything he writes cracks me up. Just recently one of my critique group members introduced me to another humor writer, Patrick McManus, who is also genuinely funny. Below is an example of his work.

The First Deer
by Patrick McManus

People often ask me how I ever became such an awful hunter.  The answer is my first deer.  I never fully recovered from it.  Many years ago I reported on this incident in a column for Field & Stream Magazine.  I believe that column was collected in my first book, A Fine & Pleasant Misery.  I could tell you for certain but I would have to get up and walk across the room and check the book.  Anyway, the report went something like this.  Although my memory may be a little shaky, everything about this report is true.
When I was 14 years old, there was nothing I liked better than deer hunting. But I had one problem.  I had never been and had no one to take me, because my father had died when I was very young and all the neighbors were afraid to be around me when I was armed.  So one fall day I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I tied my deer rifle to the handle bars of my bicycle, put a little sack lunch in the basket, got on and started pumping up the mountain in quest of my very first deer.
About half way up the mountain I came across a real hunters’ camp.  It was beautiful!  Just like one of the illustrations of a hunting camp in an outdoor magazine.  There were big white-wall tents, men walking around in their beautiful hunting gear, big four-wheel drive vehicles—oh, it was absolutely wonderful!  When the hunters saw me, pumping my bike up the mountain in quest of my very first deer, they thought I was the funniest thing they had ever seen and they started hooting and hollering and teasing me.  I said to myself, “You guys just wait!  You’ll be surprised when I get a deer before you do!”
Well, just as I crested the top of the mountain a beautiful four-point buck stepped out of the brush and stood there looking at me.  I didn’t know what to do—I’d never shot anything before, but finally I managed to snap off a shot.  That deer dropped like a rock!  I was amazed!  It had been such a difficult shot, too. The rifle was still tied to the handlebars!
I rushed over to the deer to look for a bullet hole but couldn’t find any.  Then I noticed a big chunk had been taken out of one of its antlers.  I had hit it so hard in the antlers that I had killed it!  My problem then was how to get the deer home so my grandmother could dress it out for me.
I somehow managed to drag the deer over to my bicycle.  (Deer are a whole lot heavier than you might think.) First I tried draping it over the rear-fender carrier but its hind legs dragged on one side and its head and front legs on the other side, so I knew that wouldn’t work.  Suddenly I remembered that I often carried friends of mine astraddle of the rear-fender carrier!  Yes! I thought.  I twisted the deer up and around and finally got it sitting astraddle of the carrier.  Then I tied each of its front legs to either side of the handlebars.  Finally, I wiggled in between its legs and got on the seat.  I now had the deer’s head draped over my right shoulder.  I started to pedal—it’s a lot harder to pedal with a deer on a bicycle than you might think.
Just as the front wheel of my bike went over the crest of the mountain and we started down the steep decline, I heard something strange.  I had never heard anything like it before—it sounded kind of like--I don’t know exactly what--kind of like --a snort.    I turned and looked at the deer.  It was blinking its eyes!  Right away the deer panicked—its first time on a bicycle—but there was nothing I could do about that now! The bike was picking up speed and bouncing over rocks and around logs and the deer was thrashing around and blowing deer slobber all over my face and it was terrible.
Just then we passed the hunting camp.  I could see the hunters were surprised I had got a deer before they did. We continued on down the mountain and suddenly I realized I had made a serious mistake.  I had forgotten to tie down the deer’s hind legs.  As it thrashed around it somehow managed to get its hind hooves on the pedals.  And then it caught on to pedaling!  It started to like it!  Now we were really flying down the mountain!  If you think a deer can run fast, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a deer of a bicycle! When we reached the bottom, I threw myself off and lay there on the ground as I watched the deer disappear over the horizon with my bike!
Later I heard that it was shot by police--while holding up a liquor store--in Tacoma, Washington--with my rifle!
I think that first deer is the reason I never became a very good hunter.

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