I am proud to say that I write romantic comedy, but I can’t say that I am naturally funny. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But the decision to make other people laugh while my characters fall in love was a conscious one. Unlike drama, humor is very subjective. What’s funny to one person may not make another so much as crack a smile.
There are certain ‘rules’ to jokes, certain aspects that make them work. Usually. And timing is everything. But first you have to understand humor. Men and women laugh at different things. Amazing, huh? For example how many men do you know who love the Three Stooges? Now, how many women? There are a few of the female persuasion who enjoy a good slapstick, but for the most part that brand of humor belongs to the men. The best way I have ever heard it explained was, “Women will laugh at a man slipping on a banana peel as long as she knows he deserves the fall.” This so-called female humor requires a set up, then a follow through. The first part of the joke might not be funny, but the second time it comes in, well, that’s when the laughter starts. For example, in my new Romantic Comedy, Love Potion Me, Baby, Brice Van Sant drinks a cup of shampoo (work with me here) and ends up marrying the first woman he lays eyes on—Suzanne Rose. The next morning he can’t remember her name. Naturally Suzanne is upset; she thought he was her prince. Instead he turned out to be a “big, fat toad.” Later, when Suzanne is forced to have dinner with Brice and a elderly business colleague and his wife…
She looked to Brice. Lie, his eyes commanded. But Suzanne was already growing tired of this decent. Despite Melvin’s candid remarks, and Claire’s bossy, Mother-knows best attitude, she liked the Greeleys.
“He’s my little toad,” she gushed, very proud of the syrupy tone of her voice. At least her words were true.
“Toad?” Melvin and Claire screeched at the same time.
Brice smiled charmingly. Drat the man! “Just an affectionate nickname. Right, my little salamander.”
The rule of three—for some reason, three is a magical number. Designers will tell you to hang pictures in threes, everyone knows bad things happen in threes, but humor also relies on the rule of three.
The room fell into an eerie silence. No one said a word. No one breathed. No one even chewed. “I’d like to tell you what a low-down, good-for-nothing, pond-scum-sucking bastard you work for.”
“Oh, snap,” Vanilla whispered.
“He’s untrustworthy. Non-committal. And he wears socks to bed,” Miriam continued. “Even during—”
“Oh, snap,” Vanilla whispered again.
“Argyle socks.” Miriam announced, as if that somehow transformed the act of wearing socks into a felony.
There’s also another ‘rule’ at play here—the rule of the unexpected—this requires some set up. Everything has to be in place for something expected to happen and then wham, the unexpected hits instead.
Silently, she lifted her head. She rose to her feet slowly, almost methodically. “Trick you? Trick you? Trick you, Mr. We-Were-Meant-To-Be-Together? ‘Oh, Suzanne, let’s get married,’” she mimicked. “‘I love you.’”
“I never said that.” How could he? He didn’t even believe in love. Love destroyed. “At least, I don’t remember saying—”
“You don’t remember?” Her voice rose in pure fury. “Allow me to help you recall. Last night you proposed. And I said yes.” She held up her left hand where a plain gold band, identical to his, sparkled in the light of the new day. “This is my wedding ring. This—” she made a sweeping gesture around her—“is the honeymoon suite. And this—” she picked up the pineapple from the breakfast tray— “is the fruit we were supposed to have for breakfast.” She drew back her arm.
Brice ducked just in time.
The large, edible missile went sailing over his head and crashed against the wall.
Some guys never learn. I like this ‘rule’ best. What woman doesn’t want to be the one to turn the rogue around? Now that can’t happen until the end of the book which leaves plenty of page space to teach him a lesson or two. And Brice, my friends, is one of those guys…
“An annulment, Suzanne. We can go back to Davidson and discuss the details. I can assure you I’ll provide you with an adequate settlement.”
Her mouth opened and closed twice before he realized once again he’d said the wrong thing.
“Suzanne, I—” The phone rang again. “Oh, hell.” Brice snatched it up. “Van Sant,” he barked.
“Boy.” The gravely voice boomed across the phone lines. Great, justfantastic. “Do you want to explain to me why you missed our meeting last night? We had very important matters to discuss. Matters of the utmost importance!”
“Settlement? You mean, money?” Suzanne’s cheeks were ruddy with anger. “You want to pay me for being your wife for one night. Isn’t that a little like prostitution?”
“Boy, are you there?”
With a shake of his head, Brice placed one hand over the receiver. He closed his eyes and then opened again, focusing his gaze on Suzanne. “If you’ll just be quiet for five minutes, I’ll pay you double.”
I hope you enjoyed this look into Humor and Love Potion Me, Baby. Long live the Romantic Comedy!