Yes folks, it’s that time of year again, where thoughts turn to zombies and we are reminded by the Center For Disease Control and FEMA that the federal government has preparedness pages for the apocalypse. I kid you not, see for yourself. And here. This year the only difference is that in Congress and at the White House, shit just got real. The whole country is apparently making a guest appearance on The Apprentice, and we are all fired.
I don’t know about you, but satire goes good with these times, like a fine claret goes with a eulogy and fava beans. And, coincidence! My first political satire article was published today! I’ve also entered a humor writing contest whose results will be announced in October. And, yippee-ki-yo, I’m taking an online study/mentoring course with the incomparable Scott Dikkers, co-founder of the satire news site The Onion.
Let’s unpack all this and answer the question, Huh? Comedy? What d’ya think you’re doing, Karen? Here’s an explanation.
- Coping with these dystopian times, as mentioned in a previous post, requires either an ability to flounder well in the soul-sucking mud of our current news climate, or to rise above it with satirical skewers of words. Finding myself writing the occasional, stealth fake news headline back when I worked in government, and then seeing how, when it was passed around the office it made co-workers laugh, was a revelation: satire and the laughter it evoked made everyone feel a little better! And writing it freed something in the brain that shrank my absurd daily realities, of watching climate change denial become entrenched in government, down to a manageable size. It not only didn’t overwhelm me, it energized me. As a result, a confession: I’ve been writing satire in secret for years, mostly as a coping tool. Thus, when I saw the chance to study with Scott Dikkers, I signed up for his Comedy Business School, and am just getting started. Scott has a number of books out on many aspects of comedy/satire writing, and along with the lessons he’s developed, he’s a goldmine of support and learning. Which leads me to…
- Summoning up the confidence to submit satirical work for publication took awhile, but I’ve been amassing a tidy pile of rejections for about a year. Then about two weeks ago a call went out from a satire/comedy online magazine called Robot Butt, for submissions to celebrate “Dystopia Week,” which I honestly believe should be enshrined by Congress. The topic they asked for was “dispatches from a future Kid Rock Administration,” so, being the luddite I am and knowing not much about Kid Rock, I researched him, wrote an Onion-esque piece that took the current political absurdities and magnified them, and sent the thing in. The editor wrote back saying it was exactly what they were looking for. Boy oh boy, one doesn’t hear that very often! “President Kid Rock Announces Public Policy Changes in First Hundred Days” is now published!
- The humor writing contest is on a comedy web site called Slackjaw. They made a Facebook page for entrants, called Flapjaw, where we all network and share our stuff for critiques. It was quite a process to write, critique and prepare for entering the contest, but again, I learned a lot and enjoyed it. There are some seriously accomplished writers in there who are also entering the contest, so the competition is fierce. But who knows, right?
Seeking out humor during dark times is a great way to cope. Anyone who watches SNL or Colbert or reads The Onion or Robot Butt gets a rejuvenating shot of oxygen and dopamine while laughing. And learning to write comedy, while harder than it looks, is a great way to not only cope, but it actively does something to your brain, something that, between laughs, feels a lot like empowerment.
*Dystopia Week logo shamelessly pilfered from Robot Butt magazine.