How to Write Comedy
|Mary Wakefield Buxton|
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— Are men crazy? That’s the topic of discussion for today.
The other day I was minding my business writing stories in my office at the “Pineapple Palace,” with “Lady” dutifully under my desk and asleep, so I could nudge her with my toe every now and then to let her know I loved her, when lo and behold the lawyer comes out from his tool shed in the backyard where he has been holed up all afternoon. He has a most happy look on his face, always a dangerous sign.
“How would you like a new bird feeder for the front patio?” he asked. Before I could answer he went on to tell me how he had found an old toilet seat in his tool shed and he thought he could quite easily fashion it into a nice bird feeder for the front patio so I could enjoy watching the birds feed in the morning as I had my breakfast.
I stared at the man for a few seconds too shocked to speak. “No thank you,” I finally managed to say in my very coldest speech.
“Well, what’s wrong with you, Mary? Too fancy for a toilet seat bird feeder?”
“How about if I painted it pink? No one would ever know it was once a toilet seat.
“No,” I said through clenched teeth.
How about if I added some mesh around the lid? To keep out the squirrels?” he continued. “Its original use would be completely disguised with a ring of wire mesh.”
“No!” I repeated. “I won’t have a toilet seat bird feeder in my front yard!”
“Well, what about the back yard? Couldn’t you use it in the back yard?”
“No!” I was shouting now, losing my usual cool.
“Well, how about a new planter? Couldn’t you use a new planter?”
“NO! NO! NO!” My eyes were starting to pop and a vein was emerging from the side of my neck.
“Then, how about a nice new frame for a picture in the gallery?” The lawyer persisted, as lawyers tend to do. I began to think about picking up the phone and canceling my 50th wedding anniversary party scheduled for late summer.
People ask me where I get my ideas for comedy. Does this conversation answer such questions? The truth is I am a serious writer, one who reflects and comments on the many profound problems in our society. But, humor keeps coming my way, like gnats swarming on a hot summer’s night. Usually it is man-inspired. Every so often I throw up my hands and give up.
As comic writers do, I exaggerate. Take a funny circumstance like a lawyer’s emergence from his tool shed on a Saturday afternoon with the brilliant idea of creating something I could use from a cast off toilet seat. Now that really happened and that’s funny. How could a writer take that piece of comedy and enlarge upon it?
The story is embellished like so: I beckoned the lawyer to have a seat. “I have an idea for your toilet seat, dear,” I said sweetly. He sat down to hear me out obviously appreciating the fact that his wife of so many years had finally discovered the good sense of finding a use for everything. I mean, why buy a brand new birdseed feeder when a pink toilet seat encased in wire mesh could serve just as well?
“You know that sign you have down at the Urbanna law office? The one that says Trustbuilders, Buxton and Buxton, P.C.”
“Yes?” the lawyer said, taking the bait.
“Well, what about incorporating that toilet seat into your sign?”
“In what way?” he asked with his usual curiosity, as if he were considering how to save some poor soul’s estate from massive federal taxes.
“Well, why don’t you hang the toilet seat opposite your sign with the following words: ‘This law firm will keep the lid down on high fees.’ ”
The lawyer stared at me incredulously, obviously stunned, as if suddenly aware gnats could bite. “I’m not sure the Virginia Bar would approve.”
“Well, then, how about this? ‘Don’t let your hard-earned estate go down the toilet . . . see your lawyer today!’ ”
The lawyer stood up, now fully horrified. “I can’t believe you would come up with such outrageous ideas! It’s obvious you’re poking fun at my good intentions not to be wasteful!”
Off he strode indignantly back to his tool shed to find yet more precious castaways in his valuable collection. Broken fans, rusty cans, perhaps a flat tire or two; one only can imagine what a man in his tool shed will think of next.
But he’s right about one thing. I do need a new birdseed feeder for the front porch.