Laugh along with…Bryce Moore!


Pretend we have absolutely no idea who you are. At all. So…who are you?

I’m Bryce Moore, author and librarian extraordinaire. I write YA fantasy (my new book Vodnik just comes out at the end of the month—it might even be in some stores even as I type this). That takes care of the author part. As for the librarian bit, I’ve worked in public libraries and universities, and I’m currently employed at a small liberal arts college in western Maine.

Quick. Don’t think about it. What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?

Gah! There’s too much pressure in this interview already. Funniest book? Something by Terry Pratchett. Love his Discworld books, and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents stands out in my mind. Then again, I also had an omnibus Dave Barry book growing up, and that one was always good for multiple laughs.

 What is the funniest word?

I know I’m supposed to go with something highbrow here. Something like onomatopoeia. But I’m not, because there’s one clear winner in the English language when it comes to funny words, and (like it or not) that word is fart. I’m sure my kids just laughed right now–where ever they are—for the simple fact that I wrote those four letters. In the right context, diarrhea is right up there, too. I don’t know why fart jokes work. They just do. Kind of like electricity.

 

 What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

 

I’m rewatching the entire series of Arrested Development, my favorite TV show of all time. Every episode is just jam packed with hilarity. Right now I’m in the episodes where Tobias is dressed up like a fat British maid. Love that show.

 

 What’s the most horrible thing you’ve ever laughed at (comedy is tragedy plus time, you know)?

 

The TV show Wipeout—that one where people go through the obstacle courses as fast as they can, but inevitably run into walls or other painful objects in the process.  You’ve got all these people getting potentially really seriously hurt, and it’s just so funny. Then again, they all knew what they were doing when they signed up for it, so I don’t feel too guilty laughing at their expense.

 

 Where can you be found (online, offline…how ever you want to be stalked)?

 

My Twitter handle is @bmoorebooks. I also have a blog at brycesramblings.blogspot.com that I update every weekday. You can also come by the book’s Facebook page at facebook.com/vodnikbook

 

What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read that you wish you’d written?

 

Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

You’ve written something funny. Tell us about it.

Well, for all the seriousness of the Roma subplot in Vodnik, I’d like to think there’s a good dose of humor, too. Most of it comes from the main character—he’s obsessed with movies, and he sees much of the world through a what-movie-is-this-like lens. I also did my best to avoid making the villains too . . . villainous. The main bad guy is sort of like what you’d end up with if you had Woody Allen playing Dracula. You kind of have to read it to get it.

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Laugh along with…Amie Rose Rotruck


Amie!

Pretend we have absolutely no idea who you are. At all. So…who are you?
Once upon a time there was a girl who, more than anything, wanted to be a writer. So she became an electrical engineer.

Quick. Don’t think about it. What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?
Three Lives to Live by Anne Lindbergh.  I do wish that book was better known because it’s the funniest thing ever.  So, now you know about it.  Go find it!  Read it!

What is the funniest word?
Squonk.  Hey, you said, think quick, I didn’t think it was supposed to make sense!

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
My offspring throwing her food on the dog.  The dog just doesn’t care and the offspring just really enjoys it.  Can’t help but laugh!

What’s the most horrible thing you’ve ever laughed at (comedy is tragedy plus time, you know)?
My aunt’s funeral.  It really was a comedy of errors from start to finish.  Topped off by the pallbearers nearly falling in the grave because there was so much snow on the ground.  It actually lead to an idea for a new book, so we’ll see how funny that ends up!

Where can you be found (online, offline…how ever you want to be stalked)?
Livejournal  (amieroserotruck), Facebook, Twitter (amieroserotruck), my website www.amieroserotruck.com.  I don’t update nearly as often as I should or as I would like, but you can find me there!

What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read that you wish you’d written?
Three Lives to Live by Anne Lindbergh.  See above!

You’ve written something funny. Tell us about it.
Young Wizards Handbook: How to Trap a Zombie, Track a Vampire, and Other Hands-On Activites for Monster Hunters is a very funny book at times, if I do say so myself.  I never thought of myself as a comedy writer, but something about hunting monsters produces giggles!

Funny Books on My Shelf


Humour is so subjective. What one person finds achingly funny, another will find painfully contrived. At the risk of alienating everyone here, here are five books that make me snort.

The Princess BrideThe Princess Bride, S Morgenstern’s Classic Tale Of True Love And High Adventure.

The “Good Parts” version abridged by William Goldman.

I saw the movie first, back in the 1980s, and immediately fell in love with it. A whole bunch of us would gather at a friend’s place and watch it together, saying all the lines. (This was before the internet). Years later, I got hold of the book. No, not the original Morgenstern in Florinese, but the ‘Good Bits’ by William Goldman, written way back in 1973 and with extra bits added on for various anniversary editions. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe.

Get hold of the book any which way you can. Make a cup of good tea or coffee, and some biscuits. Get comfortable and let it all wash over you . . . Don’t skip ahead to the actual book. Read all the prefaces and preambles first. For they are the book within a book . . . a dweam wivvin a dweam . . .

“Along with the good, I have regrets. I’m sorry about the legal troubles with the Morgenstern estate . . . and I’m sorry the Cliffs of Insanity have now become the biggest tourist attraction in Florin, making life hell for the forest rangers.”

Vernon God LittleVernon God Little, DBC Pierre. The only Booker Prize winner I’ve ever read. After it won, way back in 2003 I kept hearing about how insanely funny it was. But also literary. (In other words, Good For You). When I first picked it up, I thought ‘It’s too thin to win the Booker. Maybe the judges were tired of all the brick-books and wanted a quick read?’

As we know, brevity is the essence of wit. Every character, every sentence in this book is so sharp and precise. The voice so sarcastic and cutting, it absolutely deserved its win.

Not that I’ve read any others, so what would I know?

One of my favourite mal-mots of Vernon’s is about how he only has a condition, whereas one of his friends has a disorder, and that’s a “Get out of jail free card”.

It’s the voice that gets me from page one right on through to the end. “Eileena’s eyebrows perch high this lunchtime too, as far as her wooden hair allows. I don’t know about where you live, but around here we take the moral high ground with our eyebrows.”

That’s one of the few quotes that doesn’t have big swears so I can paste it here. VGL is a short book with great quips and loads of swearing. Some people say swear words are a sign of a small vocabulary. To them I shrug and say, “meh”.

(I’m not talking about Pierre’s second novel because it still upsets me too much.)

Gone With The Wind

Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell.

Like Vernon God Little, this book has a teen protagonist, but you wouldn’t call either novel a ‘YA’ read. I’m reading GWTW again now and loving it. It’s not full of swearing, thank goodness, but it’s so politically incorrect I flinch every time I see the ‘n’ word so I kind of skip over it and pretend I can’t see it. This may also be the only Pulitzer Prize winner I’ve ever read as well.

What I do see is Scarlett O’Hara tearing her way through Georgia like a spitfire. I love strong protagonists. Scarlett is so unlikable and selfish, and yet she’s utterly captivating. And so funny even if she doesn’t realise it (although I’m sure the author did!)

I love the scene, just after Scarlett makes a dress out of curtains and rushes off to Rhett to try and sweet-talk him into giving her money. And wasn’t Rhett simply wicked for abandoning her and Melly on their way back to Tara so that Rhett could ride off and join the war.

Rhett says, “Southerners can never resist a losing cause.  But never mind my reasons.  It’s enough that I’m forgiven.”

To which Scarlett says, “ “You’re not.  I think you’re a hound.”  But she caressed the last word until it might have been “darling”. … In a moment I’ll be crying, she thought in a frenzy of wonder and excitement.  Shall I let myself cry?  Would that seem more natural?”

MolvaniaMolvania: A land untouched by modern dentistry.

Jetlag Travel Guide

A fake travel guide for a country that doesn’t (but so easily could) exist.

Contributors to Molvania include Philippe Miseree. “A professional traveller since his youth, there is not a city or town Philippe has not recently been disappointed by.”

Having signed the Kyoto Protocol, Molvania plans to phase out all brown coal use, replacing it with diesel. The capital, Lutenblag, began as two towns. Luten – Place of Many Hills and Blag – Municipal Tip.

“After a fire in 1654, much of the town was rebuilt in the baroque style. After another fire in 1951 it was rebuilt in concrete.”

Molvania was followed by two sequels, Phaic Tan and San Sombrero, which beautifully captured the magic of the original, then proceeded to wrap the joke in a sack and beat it repeatedly.

Every book I write is a product of my life to that point and the culture I’ve consumed. I’m so glad I inhaled this book so long ago, for this, and The Princess Bride and reading atlases for pleasure, gave me the confidence to create the world of Brugel.

Knit Your Own DogKnit Your Own Dog – Easy-to-Follow Patterns for 25 Pedigree Pooches, Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne

Muir and Osborne are very clever, crafty women. Their wearable UK fashion designs are stylish and offer a touch of whimsy. Knit Your Own Dog is so adorable you can’t help but love it. Each pattern features glossy colour pictures showing incredible detail of how you at home can get out your knitting needles and create cute animals.

The introductions to each breed crack me up.

Labrador: “Vladimir Putin has a black Labrador called Koni. Buddy, the Clinton’s chocolate Labrador, was tragically run over before he had time to write his White House Memoirs.”

Also, how could you resist 25 types of tiny knitted doggies?

Oh be still my heart, there’s a sequel – Knit Your Own Cat!!!!

Now that I’ve exposed my terrible taste in “Literature”, feel free to share some of yours. What are the books you can read again and again?

Or, is there a book you think is hilarious but nobody else ‘gets’? Share your pain.

Laugh along with…Nina Hess!


Pretend we have absolutely no idea who you are. At all. So…who are you?

I am currently the editor-in-chief of Wizards of the Coast’s publishing division in Seattle. We publish fantasy fiction for adults and children related to Wizard of the Coast’s game properties, such as Dungeons & Dragons. I founded Wizards’s children’s book imprint, Mirrorstone, which published Sucks to Be Me and the Supernatural Rubber Chicken, and I also teach a Writing for Children course at the University of Washington.

Quick. Don’t think about it. What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?

There are so many, but as a kid I was a big fan of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I love funny stories that have heart. More recently, I loved Tom Angelberger’s The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda.

What is the funniest word?

Poo.

In elementary school, my little sister had an art teacher named Poo Putch. Just saying her name would make us burst into giggles. I practically had a whole stand-up routine developed around that one.

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

The preview for Unicorn City. I can’t wait!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V7BZy-dCyc

What’s the most horrible thing you’ve ever laughed at (comedy is tragedy plus time, you know)?

Well, let’s see, the last thing I can think of is when my baby peed in my husband’s mouth on the changing table. That was pretty horrible for him, but hilarious. Luckily neither one of them held it against me. I am also one of those awful people who can’t help laughing when someone falls down. Pratfalls and pee and poo; I obviously have a 4th grader’s sense of humor.

Where can you be found (online, offline…how ever you want to be stalked)?

www.ninahess.com or http://community.wizards.com/bookclub

What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read that you wish you’d edited?

I have two at the moment: Millicent Min, Girl Genius and D.L. Green’s Zeke Meeks series.

What’s the latest funny book you’ve edited?

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons by Shelly Mazzanoble

Vote! March 2012…which book is your funny pick??


We’re trying something different here at Read It and Laugh. Because we like different. And because doing it (i.e. compiling a list of jaw-droppingly funny books) the other way was…well…too complicated. And kinda confusing. And while we like different, we don’t really like to look confused. It makes us look funny…but not in a good way. SO. Introducing our new monthly poll wherein we randomly select ten blindingly hysterical books and YOU get to vote on which one goes on the list. You can suggest new books. And if you don’t see your fav on the list this month, don’t worry. There’s always next month. And the month after that. So…VOTE! Which book is going to make it onto the Master Funny List???

Cringe Comedy


In a conversation about humor writing and funny films, I was recently introduced to the term “cringe comedy.” These are comedies where the humor comes from having characters in such embarrassing situations that they either squirm or are too oblivious to realize they even should be squirming. If you find yourself watching a scene through gaps between your fingers, you’re either enjoying a cringe comedy or viewing one of the Saw movies.

Saw

Or, you know, maybe both!

For me, the ultimate cringe comedy was classic episodes of The Flintstones. As a kid, I could not watch an entire episode in a single sitting. Fred and/or Barney would inevitably make a bad choice leading to an outcome so outrageously embarrassing that I’d have to turn off the TV and leave the room to keep my face from permanently freezing into a cringe.

And while I was still thinking about The Flintstones, my wife and I were in the market for children’s eyeglass frames and came across this:

Flintstones Eyeglass Frames

Yes, those are Flintstones brand eyeglass frames for children

This is the single funniest product I’ve ever seen! It works on so many levels:

  • Many children today have no idea who the Flintstones are. My daughter, for example, has never seen an episode of the show and only knows Fred Flintstone as a breakfast cereal mascot and multivitamin shape.
  • The Flintstones was originally aimed at adults, rather than children. It aired in prime time and was at first sponsored by a cigarette manufacturer!
  • If you want your eyeglass designs to seem hip and modern, it may not be the best choice to go with a stone-age motif. The town of Bedrock hadn’t even invented glass!
  • The only major Flintstones character who wears glasses is Fred’s boss, Mr. Slate.
  • No kid has ever wanted to be more like Mr. Slate!
Mr. Slate

Mr. Slate, prehistoric eyewear spokesmodel.

They do appear to be perfectly nice eyeglasses, but on behalf of whoever decided to license the Flintstones name for this purpose, I just have to cringe!

Comedy Blindspots


I was on a humor writing panel this past weekend at the Arisia science fiction convention in Boston. It was great fun and I had a blast sharing some of my favorite books, movies, TV shows, and comics, as well as getting into the theory behind “bringing the funny.” I also got great recommendations of funny things that I will be looking into. Some were new to me, but others made me wonder, “Why haven’t I read/watched/listened to that before?” And often, I had no good answer.

It got me thinking about comedy blindspots–funny stuff we would love if only we dared to give them a chance.

For example, at the conference I got an enthusiastic recommendation for the Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb. Since I have a three-year-old in the house, I’m already more familiar that I’d like to be with the Disney Channel lineup. I know the names of the Neverland Pirates, how many steps Agent Oso needs to take, what hand-motions make the Little Einsteins’ rocket go faster, and what magic words will summon Mickey Mouse’s creepy flying butler. In the process of watching these other shows, I’ve been exposed to a zillion commercials for Phineas and Ferb which, perhaps, failed to capture the quality and content of the show. If my Arisia sources are to be believed, Phineas and Ferb is one of the best-written and funniest shows of all time, but I never gave it a chance because the commercials made it look lame, derivative, and badly animated.

We shall see.

Are there any funny books, shows, or movies that you avoided for a long time because you didn’t realize how good they really were? Leave a comment and let me know!

Resolutions


I gave up making resolutions during high school, back when I never could keep my resolutions to “be popular/prettier/stylish/have better skin/figure out what in the world cuticles are and why I’m supposed to push them back.” (I still don’t know the answer to that last part, but magazines always try to sell me odd-looking tools for this purpose.)

But then in 2005, I decided to make a resolution again and since then I’ve made the same one: To laugh more.

Simple, concise, and it reminds me to not stress out or take things too seriously. Because if I don’t remind myself of this, I COMPLETELY stress out and the husband says I turn into Medusa.  And Medusa is more scary than funny.

So I try to surround myself by things that make me laugh. This year I’ve started watching the new ABC Family show “Jane by Design,” which is cute and funny so far. I’m checking out the books on our inaugural Funny List for some laugh out loud reads. And maybe when temperatures warm up and I start kayaking again, I’ll take another unplanned tumble into the pond while trying to get out of my kayak. It certainly had me laughing for days last year when I did it.

What are you doing to laugh more this year?

To help me laugh more, why not go over and nominate some other funny books you know of for our Funny List?

 

The Gifting of the Hand


A few weeks ago, I read an article in the New York Daily News about one of my favorite gags, the longstanding joke. In 1950, Texan Acker Hanks mailed a card to his neighbor, Lee Kelley. As the two men constantly played jokes on each other, the very next year Kelley thought it’d be funny to mail the card right back to Hanks. Hanks, who found the joke hilarious, mailed the card back the following year. The tradition continued for the next sixty years, though Kelley moved across the country. When Kelley died, his widow continued the tradition. Each year, the pair included letters with the card, updating each other on their lives. Now that Kelley’s widow is in a nursing home and unable to continue the tradition, Hanks says he plans to frame the card, as it’s come to mean so much to him.

My husband’s family also has a longstanding gag that also takes place at the holidays. Several years back, when my husband’s sister was a teenager, my husband’s brother gave her a ceramic hand designed to be placed on a nightstand to hold the owner’s rings overnight.

When my sister-in-law opened the gift, she frowned at it for a few seconds before cracking up and asking, “What in the world is this thing?” It was meant as a sincere gift, but the fact she thought it was a joke started a longstanding tradition we fondly refer to in my house as The Gifting of the Hand.

The next year, my sister-in-law regifted the ceramic hand to another family member. At the same time, my husband gifted my brother-in-law with a candle formed in the shape of a hand to remind him of his creepy ceramic hand gift the previous year. In the years since, the ceramic hand continues to make sporadic appearances under the tree. The candle hand was partially burned, then regifted. A hand with a guide to palm reading appeared under the tree one year, as did a hand-shaped mug (trust me when I say that it was a thing of horror.) Everyone in the family now keeps their eyes open throughout the year for particularly odd hand-shaped items to wrap and place under the tree. With each gift presented at the holidays, we stare at the wrapping paper and wonder: Real gift or a Gifting of the Hand?

What makes longstanding gags so funny is that you know they’re going to happen, but you don’t know exactly when, or in what form, so there’s great joy in the anticipation. From year to year, we never know if a hand will appear under the Christmas tree or quite how it’ll look. I’m sure Hanks and Kelley each raced to the mailbox when it was their year to receive the card, wondering if that day would herald its arrival. Longstanding gags can bond people in ways other jokes don’t, which is what I believe makes them special.

Do you have any longstanding gags with your family and/or friends? What makes them particularly meaningful or funny for you? Give the rest of us some ideas!

Teen Traumas


Final year of school

One of the few surviving photos of me at school where I don't look like a complete numpty.

Why is it that I can forget what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can’t forget some of the traumas from my teen years?

(Actually I do remember, because it was turkey curry and I LOVE that but it ruins a perfectly good introduction.)

It’s fair to say that my the most hideous traumas from my our teen years involve my our desperate need to fit in.

I lived in regional Victoria, in Australia. Our nearest big town was Ballarat – which is where all the high schools were located. From memory, there was only one store in Ballarat that sold uniforms.  I could be making this up.

But I’m not making this bit up: The first day of school, I didn’t know about the “sock rule”. My socks were pulled up above my knees. Everyone else’s were pushed way down to their ankles. It marked me from day one as a loony.

It got worse. A had a growth spurt in that first year and the store bought uniform didn’t fit so well. In an austerity move, my mother shoved my reputation through her brand new sewing machine and MADE A UNIFORM for me.

You cannot imagine how bad it was. Shapeless. Wonky hemmed. Pockets? Obviously I was “just trying to make life hard” for dear Mum if I wanted something as frivolous as pockets.

The true horror of the pocket-less, shapeless, wonky hemmed dress revealed itself at school the next day when one of my friends looked me up and down and said, ‘Did your mum make that?’

‘Yes’

‘She’s put the stripes the wrong way!’

Thinking back on it now, this might be when my ‘mother issues’ grew wings.

Things got worse. Mummy Dearest of the sewing machine she loved not wisely but too well, added a hem to my store-bought dress. A hem that added a further ten centimetres to the dress but did not match the correctly-striped dress’s alignment.

“There’s nothing wrong with being different,” Mum would respond every time I complained.

Excuse me while I go rock in a corner for a moment.

. . .

Back now. I’m OK.

Those real life memories come flooding back in blue-ray clarity every time I write. As horrible as they were at the time, I’m kind of glad for them now. I use those memories and emotions all the time in my books. Not play-for-play, but something like similar and non-litigious.

The cringing. The sense of being out of control. The desperate need to fit in. Oh it’s horrible, isn’t it?

And a little bit hilarious.

Are you brave enough to share your traumatic teen moments for laughs? Go on, it’s been years, you’re over it now . . .