Making it Look Easy

I was feeling a bit … let’s call it “feisty” … at some of the panels this weekend. I found myself jumping in to argue with several of my fellow panelists. (But only when they were wrong, of course!)

During the humor panel, it was put forth as a truism that you can’t force humor. It must come naturally. Organically.

I would like to point out that passing a kidney stone is also an organic process.

So I got feisty. Because you can force humor and make it work. You know who does it all the time? Professional humorists. Howard Tayler (of Schlock Mercenary) was in the audience, and we chatted a bit after the panel. SchlockHoward has been producing a daily webcomic since June of 2000. Not because Schlock flows organically from his–

Ack. Very Bad Image. Strike that.

The point is, I guarantee there are days Howard doesn’t feel funny, and doesn’t want to work on the comic. But he does the work anyway.

As I write this post, it also occurs to me that of the panelist who said you can’t force funny and Howard in the audience who in fact does exactly that, only one of these two people currently makes a living from their humor.

I’m not trying to bash my fellow panelist here. I disagree with them, but I understand where their assumption comes from. Because while you can force humor, that humor will fail if it feels forced. We’ve all seen the guy who tries too hard to tell a joke and ends up flopping. Heck, I’ve been that guy more times than I like to think about.

One sign of skill is the ability to make it look easy. I watched Jef Mallett draw his character Frazz last month. He sketched a bit, then began inking lines, making it look so easy and natural I’m sure a lot of us were thinking, “Hey, I could do that!”

And maybe I could. With years of practice and work.

Ask a professional comedian how many times they’ve practiced their routine. Ask them how often they bounce jokes past other comedians to learn what to keep, what to change, and what to discard.

I think this one pushed my buttons so hard because not only do I disagree, but I’ve heard similar claims about writing. “You can’t force the writing to come.” “The story has to flow naturally, when the muse is ready.”

Well, my muse is ready every Monday through Friday at 12:00 sharp, because that’s the only time I’ve got. Some days I don’t feel like writing, but I force myself to do it. As a result, I’ve written at least one book a year for close to a decade now.

And you know, there are some damn funny bits in those books, too.