Humor #writing teacher and author Patrick McManus
If you haven’t come across McManus, you need to log off, go down to your local used bookstore, and find him in the humor section. I’ve found that McManus’s works turn up regularly at my local used book store, less often at the used section of my local library, and not at all in the “Tin Can Mailman” over on the Arcata coast. This bookstore is more literary and oriented to the sort of discards that come out of the university’s lit classes. This says something about who gravitates to McManus. But I think everyone who loves good writing should pick up one of his many collections of short humor. The Deer On The Bicycle is his latest work, and thankfully it is still in print. it is his gift to all of us who aspire to write humor, and it contains both useful suggestions and some of his best work.
Short fiction is a delight to read but tough to sell. McManus managed to break into this market with his work in Outdoor life. It isn’t surprising then that many of his themes and subjects depict him as a hunter and hapless outdoorsman. I can’t say that I own a gun, but I do appreciate Pat’s take on the wild. I especially enjoy his stories about his younger years. They’ve inspired me to focus on my own childhood.
The introduction of Deer on a Bicycle describes the origin of the work, and I”ll be going through it in greater depth as I continue to blog on this. But he says that he found it difficult to continue teaching, so he collected his lecture notes and offered them up. He says:
“I have no idea whether this book will help anyone to become a humor writer, or any other kind of writer for that matter. But perhaps it will at least offer encouragement in the sense of readers saying to themselves, “He can do it, surely I can.”
McManus is write about this, but it is wrong of him to minimize his contributions. He’s a gracious man. Being funny here and there is something that many of us can pull off, but doing it, as he has done, consistently for more than 30 years takes discipline. It helps, too, to approach humor as an object worthy of study. McManus does that, without being pretentious. Technique matters as it gives the working writer something to draw upon. His book contains a number of techniques or ideas worth considering.
I especially appreciate McManus’ commentary. He describes the circumstances behind each story. This book does for humor writing what Jerry Seinfeld did for stand-up with his 2002 documentary, “Comedian. ” This is all the more impressive in that I have yet to see any other book on comedy or humor writing that comes close. There are other books, collections of interviews, which offer a few tidbits, but McManus offers up his full bag of tricks, the fruits of 30 years of his craft. This, I think, is an extremely generous gift. You really need to buy this book if you are serious about humor writing.
I’m going to highlight his suggestions, but he notes that “people become humor writers because they can’t help themselves,” not because they bought a book. Still, if you want to take a shot at it, no other single book will give you as much help. Stay tuned, and you’ll see.