Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Special Guest Post With Celia Rivenbark

Thanks to WOW! Women on Writing we have special guest Celia Rivenbark here with us today to talk about being a humor writer.

If you have any thoughts on this topic please feel free to leave a comment!

Ten Things You Need to Be a Humor Writer

Celia Rivenbark

Because I’m a Virgo, I love lists and this topic is dear to my heart. Here goes!

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first: You need a sense of humor. That extends beyond cracking yourself up making pooty noises with your armpits several times a day. Favorite quote of all time? “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs—jolted by every pebble on the road.” (Henry Ward Beecher). My other favorite quote of all time? “Not responsible for articles left behind in clothing.” (the local Laundromat).

A great agent. You can’t get anywhere without one so stop trying already. You’ll look really goofy after a while.

A nice little stock of things that make you laugh lying around. When I’m feeling dreadfully blocked, I’ll read a little Jack Handey and get my mojo back.

The ability to wring funny from current events. As I write this, Obama is having the Cambridge cop and the professor over for beers in hopes of getting them to make up. I’m going to write him and ask him to help me patch things up with the carpool bitch who ALWAYS gets out of her car and chats, thus holding all of us up. I mean, since he’s got time for this sort of thing…

A tough hide. Don’t be too sensitive. Over the years, I’ve gored everybody’s ox at some point. Hate mail happens. So do lazy editors who cut your punch lines to make your column fit whatever hole they have. You’re not splitting atoms or saving lives here. Move on.

Jokes on top of jokes. Dave Barry, a little known comic who, I believe, lives on a bed of plantain peels in a Miami alley, once noted that humor writing has to be funny from start to finish. You can’t build up to a punch line many paragraphs or even pages away. Stuff that sucka full of funny and they’ll hang on to the very last word. Which also should be funny.

Good hair. No, really. Good hair is a requirement for success in any field. Also really big boobs. I have neither but it doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the need for them.

Funny friends. Most of my best stuff has sprung from a girls’ night out. Listen to them kvetch about kids, dogs and husbands. Then exaggerate the hell out of it. Well, looky here. You’ve got yourself a demographic and one that will always be loyal to you.

Speed. I never rewrite anything. I never spend more than 30 minutes on a humor column for the newspaper. If I do, that means it sucks and I tear it up and start over. If it’s good, it comes fast. Don’t turn this into a job, for God’s sake.

Humility. It won’t make you a better humor writer but it’ll definitely make you a better person.


Celia Rivenbark is the author of Bless Your Heart, Tramp: And Other Southern Endearments, We're Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions Of A Tarnished Southern Belle, Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like A Skank: And Other Words Of Delicate Southern Wisdom and Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny With A Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits.

Her newest book, You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start In the Morning is now available online and in stores.

Visit Celia online at her website, www.celiarivenbark.com.