So, a co-worker of mine recently asked for a movie recommendation. She wanted something funny. I immediately responded with Napoleon Dynamite, which was quickly seconded by the guy sitting next to me. Love that movie - it's the classic story of a nerd trying to get a girl to the dance. What's not to love?
Everything, apparently - my co-worker came in the next day and glared at me. "How could you recommend that movie? It was pure crap! Not funny at all."
I was mystified. I mean, wow. Napoleon? Not funny? But what about Pedro? The time machine? The casserole-eating llama? Kip? KIP???
To me, Napoleon Dynamite is brilliant (especially the liger, gosh!). My friend absolutely hated it.
Comedy has always been like that - one extreme or the other.
Ask a few of your co-workers if they liked Borat or The Three Stooges. You'll get mixed responses. People either love it, or detest it.
Why? Because a lot of comedy pushes the boundaries of what is comfortable. It likes taking you out of that comfort zone and bringing you to a squicky place, where the nerdy kid gets a wedgie or the bride falls flat on her face walking down the aisle. That's why shows like America's Funniest Home Videos remains on the air after nine bajillion years - people love the horrified laugh. I love Napoleon Dynamite because of the bizarre uncomfortable situations that Napoleon finds himself in, and I laugh while I'm horrified.
But, there is a line. A very thin line. Close to it, you're a genius. Unstoppable! Brilliant!
One step over the line of comfort, and you're a crass jerk. What happened?
Easy - you went too far. You took the person out of the comfort zone. Do that, and you'll kick the reader right out of your story, without meaning to. And once you've gone over that line, baby, there's no going back.
I was reading a book recently by a best-selling author, and enjoying myself immensely. It was funny, light, and utterly cute...until the heroine farted in front of everyone else. Farted*. FARTED! In the middle of this charming book. Immediately, the story went over the line from being adorable and cute to being slapstick. The book lost me at that point and I tossed it aside, never to finish.
And that's really why I think comedy in urban fantasy will never be mainstream (you knew there was a tie-together in here somewhere). Or comedy in any genre, for that matter. Comedy is the ultimate in subjective opinion, because what might be classically funny to one person (Napoleon feeding a llama a casserole) might come across as offensive or just out-and-out dumb to another person. Comedy has to hit that perfect medium, inch close to the line but never go over it. The line is different for everyone because of who you are, how you were brought up, and your life experiences.
Any comedy, especially in publishing, can be difficult - you're starting off with the knowledge that you're going to push someone over the line and they're going to think you're not funny. And we all know that when people don't find you funny, they complain. Loudly. Not everyone will ever get your jokes. That makes it difficult as a novelist, because a good portion of our sales come by word of mouth. One "I bought it and it wasn't funny!" can hurt your career.
Comedy might never win you the scores of rabid fans that an intense, serious story will, but that's okay with me. I'll be smiling the entire time (but not farting).
...dang...I was supposed to give away something, right?
AARRRGH!!! I have nothing to give but my love...and who the heck wants that crap, right?
So, I shall give away an IOU in exchange for the winner of the pimpage. Here's what I ask. You don't have to mention the League on your journal (though I never mind that). What I *do* want from you is your favorite funny movie, and why. Then, include a movie that went 'over the line' for you and why it did so. Feel free to spread the word to get more people to enter.
I will randomly pick the best one (ha ha) and will offer them an IOU. I will owe you one signed copy of SEX STARVED when I get my author copies in (or my ARCs, whichever show up on my door faster and in greater quantity). SEX STARVED is bound to offend someone out there with its over-the-top humor and not-so-veiled sexual innuendo, so it's truly appropriate for this post.
So, show me where your line is!