Ever since I started writing I have noticed a major deficit in my work--I'm not funny, at least on paper. In my high school journalism class I was supposed to write a humor piece--it fell flat. Same thing in my college writing classes. Jokes, gag lines, funny stories, even those I had successfully told in person, died on paper. My plays were all dramas, my poems were all tragedies.
It's not that I don't have a sense of humor, (I ever aspire at times to depraved Irish wit) or even say funny things occasionally, I do. My occasional sarcasm is usually recognized for what it is. It's just the humor never seems to survive the journey to the printed page (or computer screen.)
When I started blogging, I discovered there were a lot of humor blogs out there, and they were often among the most successful. There is all sorts of funny out there: wistful funny, snarky and sarcastic funny,, laughing through the tears funny.
And I envied them.
I envied them their readership, but even more I envied them their ability to make people laugh, to make a difference in their readers' days.
But as I read more and more humor bloggers, I made a discovery. The writers who were the most effective at getting laughs were among the ones who were also being most gut-wrenchingly honest about their experiences with depression and addictions. Just because their posts had a light tone didn't mean their lives were as well. Many of their stories were harrowing.
I have had my own relatively brief experience with postpartum depression. Diagnosed by my family doctor, alleviated by the first medication she tried, I saw just enough of the tip of the iceberg to know the 90% below the waves is far worse. I am filled with admiration for those who not only surmount their problems, but share them with others and provide laughter as well.
I have been thinking about these things this week, in the wake of Robin Williams' suicide. So many of bloggers have contributed heartfelt posts about the tragedy, often in response to those who just do not appreciate that depression is an illness, just like any other. (For further evidence, see every person on the Net who says they understand his death better now that they know he was dealing with Parkinson's disease as well as Depression.) Cracked Magazine ran a superb article Tuesday morning on the link between Depression and humor (who would know better, they are some of the funniest people on the Internet), making many of these same points as well.
I am in awe of those who make laughter of their pain, or in spite of their pain. They are a true gift to the rest of us. But I have learned that I am not that person, and hopefully will never have to be. I am happy to remain in the appreciative audience, well aware of the price the entertainers have often paid.
I don't want to be a funny writer.