The official launch date of my new book, KILLER ROUTINE, is…today! I’m very excited to be guest blogging, Margot. I love your blog—every time I read it, I learn so much.
KILLER ROUTINE is the first book in the Last Laff Mystery series, where my protagonist is a stand-up comic.
Despite the protagonist’s profession and the setting (the series takes place in and around a comedy club), the Last Laff books aren’t “funny” books. The emphasis is on mystery and suspense. But there are plenty of humorous situations and conversations—after all, these are comics I’m writing about. Most of the time, I found these parts (relatively) easy to write. On the other hand, the few scenes when a comic is on stage, delivering his routine, I found much more difficult to compose.
Going in, I didn’t realize how hard writing a stand-up routine is. (But now I know. Boy, do I know!) And it took me a while to figure out why, but I believe I have the answer. Think about the comedians you’ve seen perform. Each has a distinctive delivery style. A certain attitude. Their own sense of timing.
And that’s the problem. Those things—delivery style, attitude, timing—are extremely difficult to depict on the page. Those are things you need to see and hear, in order to fully appreciate.
To illustrate my point, I transcribed a short bit from a very well known comedian. No pauses, no goofy voices, no visual or auditory clues whatsoever. See how funny it strikes you. About halfway through, there’s a clue to the comedian’s identity. Once you know, I bet you imagine his style for the rest of the bit. And I also bet it will seem funnier. A whole lot funnier.
How many people have cats? Let me ask you this: Do you trust them? Because I’ve got to get a pair of cat handcuffs and I’ve got to get them right away. Just the little ones that go around the little front paws. Or maybe the manacles that get all four paws.
What a drag. I found out my cat was embezzling from me. You think you know a cat for ten years and he pulls something like this. Found out while I was away, he’d go out to the mailbox, pick up the checks, take them down to the bank and cash them, disguised as me. He had the little kitty arrow-through-the-head. And the little kitty bunny ears. And I wouldn’t have caught him but I went outside to his house where he sleeps and there was about three thousand dollars worth of cat toys out there. And you can’t return them because they have spit all over them. So now I’m stuck with three thousand dollars worth of cat toys. Oh sure, they’re fun. Got the little rubber mouse, has a bell inside of it. Ha ha ha. Boy, I hate it when it goes under the sofa. Whoa, gimme that, gimme that.
If you didn’t guess, this bit is from Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy album (for all you non-geezers, an album is like a CD). And trust me, it’s pretty hilarious when he performs it live (judging by the audience’s reaction, as well as my own).
On paper, it just doesn’t have the same effect.
And that’s what I ran into when I tried to write a stand-up routine for the page, as opposed to having it performed in front of an audience.
So here’s what I did. I intentionally made the routine bad, and had my character (not the protagonist) perform it at an open mic night (where the routines are a little less, um, polished). My less-than-stellar routine fit right in. You see, I have no trouble whatsoever writing bad comedy routines.
One of these days, though, I’m going to have to write a really funny bit. Wish me luck!
The first book in Alan Orloff’s Last Laff Mystery series, KILLER ROUTINE, is now available, at your favorite booksellers and on-line. His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, came out last April and was nominated for the Best First Novel Agatha Award. For more information about Alan and his books, please visit www.alanorloff.com.
Thanks so much for your visit, Alan, and for sharing what it's really like to try to be funny and write a great mystery at the same time. I had no idea of the work it takes. I don't have the humour DNA in me, so I admire your ability to integrate humour into what you write. Folks, do pay Alan a visit at his terrific blog, and check out Killer Routine, too!