'Secrets of Tickling the Funny Bone' by C. Suresh


Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand. — Mark Twain


I laugh a lot--sometimes on silliest things, but have found myself lacking when I am on the other side of the... umm... joke/humour. Sometimes they fall flat and sometimes I don't get the timing right. I have always been in awe of people who can come up with a pun with a click of the fingers. 

In an effort to unravel the mysteries of finding the funny bones and tickling them, I invite Suresh Chandrasekaran, author of 'A Dog Eat Dog-food World' to shed some light on the subject and enlighten us to the nuances of humour with written words.


On Amazon
Over to Suresh Chandrasekaran


The first requirement to be able to write humour is…a sense of humour! Everyone has it, except

when it comes to jokes on themselves? Not really or, at least, not to the extent that is necessary to write humour.

Everyone understands and laughs at common jokes. Jokes are normally based on stereotypes – of people or events. A joke is easy to laugh at because the outlined situation automatically conditions the listener to fill in the subsequent response and then an unexpected light-hearted twist springs up at the end. Unless your appreciation of humour goes beyond jokes, it is difficult to write humour.

'He died in a misunderstanding with a tiger. He thought the tiger was dead; the tiger didn’t'

I am sure all of us know of someone who will not know what is funny in this P.G. Wodehouse description. By the time you finish explaining that it was not a difference of opinion in a discussion with the tiger that caused his death, you will start wondering yourself about what was funny in it.

'I have lost both my parents. 
To lose one parent may be regarded a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.'

If there is someone who only gets angry at the callousness of the second person in this Oscar Wilde play, you know one more who will never write humour. (Not that he will want to. Someone like that would, probably, think of writing humour as too frivolous for adults to indulge in.)

The essence of humour is incongruity. Even when it comes to jokes, it is the very incongruousness of the punch-line that makes it funny. In the first quote above, it is the incongruousness of the description – as though someone was holding a sewing circle discussion with a tiger – that makes it funny. The second works on the basis of a pun on the word ‘lose’, and uses the incongruous meaning to tickle the reader.

P.G. Wodehouse was a master at using incongruous descriptions. Consider his description of the laughter of Honoria Glossop –

‘a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge’. 

Or this one –

‘she looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.’ 

The humour lies all in the metaphors that he uses, so effectively, to evoke laughter. Writing humour requires an imagination that can think in terms of such comic metaphors.

Juxtaposing one thing with another to create unexpected hilarity is a tough art. I take recourse to the Master again -

'Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.'

The ability to imagine a person marrying over and over again as jumping from one woman to another like a goat jumps from rock to rock – THAT sort of imagination is needed for humour-writing.

Uff Ye Emotions
Exaggeration is something that is used very frequently in writing humour. Back again to the Master–

‘I would walk a mile in tight shoes to avoid him’. 

Notice also the manner of the torture that the person is willing to undergo in order to avoid the other guy. It is this scintillating ability to both use a funny metaphor as well as to convey an exaggerated view of how avoidable the other person was that set P.G. Wodehouse apart as the best humour writer of all times.

Exaggeration would also mean exaggerating the idiosyncrasies of characters. In fact, that is what caricature is all about – exaggerating one particular aspect of a character to comic effect. The immortal characters of Wodehouse are testimony to the great effectiveness with which he managed to do them and, yet, he made them seem like rounded characters which is pure genius.

The wider the knowledge of the humour-writer, the better he is able to write humour. Take another example, again from the Master –

‘She put the cat into the washing machine by mistake and pushed the button. Soon the cat was doing sixty revolutions a minute, like one of those Latin American countries’.

This was a time when Latin America was in the throes of revolution and P.G. Wodehouse uses his knowledge of that fact to such great comic effect by punning on the word ‘revolution’.

In a schoolboy story, P.G. Wodehouse has a stout character about whom another boy says,

“Upon what meat doth this our Leslie feed that he has grown so great”. 

In this case, to even understand the humour, the reader needs to know that the original quote comes from ‘Julius Caesar’ where Shakespeare has Cassius say to Brutus,

“Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed that he has grown so great.” 

The pun on ‘great’ alone would not get as much laughs as the manner in which Wodehouse misquotes Shakespeare.

The biggest boon that a humour writer can have is the ability to describe vividly. Nothing gets a reader to laugh sooner than a piece of writing which evokes a vivid comic image in his mind. I return to one of the earlier descriptions – ‘She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression’. The vivid imagery can make you laugh all by itself.

Above all else, the humour writer must be gifted with a whimsical mind-set. A mind that looks upon the world at an offset and sees comedy where none exists to anyone else’s eyes.

Which brings me back to where I started. A humour writer has, above all, to have a…sense of humour!

                                                                            _______

Wow, thank you so much Suresh. These are real gems you have shared with us.
I totally agree that everyone should have a sense of humour even if they don't write in that genre. Life is healthy and beautiful with laughter all around.

Ladies and gentlemen presenting the Blurb of 'A Dog Eat Dog-food World' by C Suresh.

Buy On Amazon
A hilarious pseudo-history of marketing management, which explicitly denies resemblance to any actual history, and which will be horrified if some semblance be found. The story of a man who discovered that the path of life is strewn with treadmills and, if you get on one by mistake, you could keep running all your life to stay in the same place. The story of how a businessman may just be minding his…err…business and the ‘Invisible Hand’ can cause unexpected consequences to arise out of his innocent actions. There is no point blaming the tale for being exaggerated because that is precisely what it seeks to be – an ‘exaggeratio ad absurdum’ of some facets of the world. Anything you learn from the book – be it the basics of marketing management or a satirical view of Society – you do at your own risk.

The tale only dogs the doings of

Spike Fortune who only sought to feed dogs and, later, sought more dogs to feed.

Jerry Fortune who, being fortuneless, gets dragged helter-skelter behind his uncle Spike in the latter’s careening pursuit of commercial success and gets sandwiched between Spike and

Tyke who was Spike’s resident genius on enticing dogs with their wares. He also has to help Spike in his rivalry with

Tom Rich, who is unwillingly dragged into upstaging Spike and tries to do it by teasing the palates of cats, helped by the bumbling efforts of

Jasper Rich who would rather be partying than chasing cats with cat-foods.


***
Spike Fortune, who, being unable to justify his existence by making money, is obsessed with justifying his existence by spending all his inherited wealth. Lead into the paths of commerce, he discovers that, while it may seem attractive to set out to lose money, the natural consequence of having people consider him a loser was indigestible. Having set out to feed dogs, Spike becomes obsessed with feeding more dogs and, later, having more dogs to feed. 

Jerry Fortune, who discovers that there are perils to having your livelihood depend on a benevolent uncle. Tied to his uncle’s coat-tails by a need for sustenance, he is dragged helter-skelter behind Spike in the latter’s careening progress in pursuit of commercial success. Having first been a mere interpreter between his uncle, Spike, and the resident marketing guru, Tyke, he later finds that being in the middle can get very uncomfortable, indeed.

Tom Rich, who had never realized that the easy contempt he had for his schoolboy acquaintance could prove so dangerous. Spike’s meteoric rise in the world of Commerce puts him in a position of either having to prove himself better or have all that contempt come back with usurious interest. He drags his nephew, Jasper, along in pursuit of teasing the palates of cats.

All that Spike and Tom had wanted was to be a winner in their respective businesses and, more importantly, in their own private game of one-upmanship. They had no idea that their humble quest would redraw the contours of Society and set in place principles that both businessmen and Society would live by.

'A Dog Eat Dog-Food World' Book Links
Print Book On Amazon
Print Book On Flipkart  
eBook On Amazon
On Goodreads
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Know The Author - Suresh Chandrasekaran (C. Suresh)

Fiction has been an addiction but the need to make a living took Suresh through Chemical Engineering and a PGDM at IIM-Bangalore and, from thence, to a long 16 year stint in the area of finance with specific expertise in fertilizer subsidies at IFFCO and a further two years as consulting expert in the same area. That, in his words, about sums up the boring part of his life, except for the people he was privileged to meet.

Born on 27 September 1963 in Chennai, Suresh can be a dithering Libran most of the times. A company town upbringing at Neyveli and Engineering at Annamali University, Chidambaram was leavened by management education at IIM-Bangalore and, later, working life at IFFCO, New Delhi. Having decided very early in life to write full-time after securing a financial future – which also incidentally meant that he remained single in order to make it as early as possible - he quit employment at the age of 41 and his consultancy at 43, and returned to Bangalore.

Otherwise, he can be described as a mess of contradictions – a bookworm but avid trekker; alone but never lonely; enjoys solitude but loves company; lazy but a perfectionist, the litany is endless.

Trekking, which side-tracked him from the writing for which he quit his job, is a major passion and he does, at least, one trek in the Himalayas every year in addition to numerous local treks.

He reignited his passion for writing with a fairly popular blog. The blog has been rated among the Top 5 humour blogs in India, twice in succession - in 2014 and 2015 - by BlogAdda, and has also been listed third among the Top Humour Blogs by Baggout.

He also has a short story published in a collection “Uff Ye Emotions” and has edited and written a novelette in an ebook anthology “Sirens spell danger”. He can be reached on Facebook, where he is more active. He does have a twitter handle - @CSuresh16 – but he has no handle on using it regularly.

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