"Everything is funny, as long as it's happening to someone else.” – Will Rogers
This month, as we’re gearing up for the joy of spring, we’ll be looking at a more lighthearted genre: funny or humorous novels. Since we’ve already covered memoirs in a past post, we’ll be focusing on comedic fiction rather than non-fiction in this month’s installment. A comedy novel is, quite simply, a novel-length work of humorous fiction. The writers of these novels try to amuse the reader, sometimes with subtlety and sometimes with much broader strokes. While funny fiction may primarily aim to make people laugh, this may not be as obvious (or easy to do) as it sounds. There are many different types of humor, and what makes one person laugh might not work for another. Everybody has their own sense of humor and, as such, comedy can take many different forms to please and amuse different types of people.
Humor can be viewed as a spectrum with complete absurdity or buffoonery on one side, and more subtle, thought-provoking ideas on the other. One of the most useful elements of humor for authors is irony, which lies closer to the subtle side of the spectrum. While writers may rely on different styles of humor, there are a few elements that are often seen in comedy novels:
- Surprise – something unexpected, or a sudden shift in perspective
- Misdirection – either the author misdirecting the reader through the plot, or a character misdirecting other characters
- Incongruous juxtaposition – predicting or expecting one outcome, and getting something completely different; for example, when a joke (or scene or event) goes in an unanticipated direction
- Timing – using the rhythm and tempo of the dialog and plot to enhance the humor
- Ridicule – of social nonconformities, other characters, or society; or the writer making a character ridiculous
- Irony – using words in such a way that their intended meaning is very different from their actual meaning
There are a number of different forms of comedic writing. Some of these forms include:
- Farce – an exaggerated comedy based on broadly humorous or highly unlikely situations
- Parody – a literary work imitating the characteristic style of some other work or of a writer in a satirical or humorous way, usually by applying it to an inappropriate subject
- Satire – a literary work in which vices or stupidities are held up to ridicule and contempt
- Dark comedy – humor that comes from sarcastic wit and finds comedy in the bleak, the devastating and the miserable; humor that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo
- Romantic comedy – stories about love, marriage, and courtship, and their effect on the central character. Jane Austen may be considered the queen of the romantic comedy
Comedy novels have been around as long as stories. In fact, some of the first comedy on record originated with Aristotle in ancient Greece (4th century BCE). No matter the time or place, people have always looked for something to laugh about. Comedic authors range from Shakespeare to Mark Twain and P.G. Wodehouse to Douglas Adams, so there’s something out there that will tickle anyone’s funny bone.
Visit one of our library locations and have a laugh on us!