Humor #Writing – The Deer On The Bicycle

humor writing teacher patrick mcmanus photo on

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.

#Humor Writing – What I’ve Learned From McManus

funny photo of humor writing author and teacher Patrick McManus

McManus Is The One On The Right, I Think

I’ll admit to a guilty pleasure. I love to read Patrick McManus. His stuff makes me laugh out loud. No, it’s not Trilling, or even Twain, but McManus’s country-fried humor is just the thing to pick me up when I’m feeling flatter than roadkill.

Yes, indeed.

The other thing I like about McManus is that his techniques are out there for all to see. His latest book, “The Deer on the Bicycle,” offers specific suggestions for how to write humor, and they’re helpful, but all of his work offers ideas that can be used elsewhere.

That’s what I want to explore here, suggestions for humor writing. I’ve got a shelf stocked with how-to books, some of them helpful, some not. Alongside those are stacks and stacks of books that have one thing in common–they seek to amuse. My plan here is to review them, but not in the sense of recommending them. No, what I intend to do is to pick at their innards and look at the techniques.

This is a risky business, and not for the usual reasons that are typically given. I know that “humor analysis is like dissecting a frog,” etc. Still, there are some valuable things to learn from looking at the works of others who’ve been there before. I think the real risk of analyzing humor, in a blog such as this, is the obvious criticism that to suggest a technique to fall prey to formula writing. You can’t write a formula for funny, but you can take ideas and raw material and improve it with attention to detail. Part of this refinement comes from applying and trying various techniques.

So, that’s the goal here. Looking at techniques. My initial interest will be in humor writing, but I may wander into the world of stand up, or screenwriting. I’ll just see where the mood moves me. I’ll try to give spoiler alerts, if you worry about such things.

Hope you enjoy the ride.

Robb – We’ve Moved - funny picture of a snail

Humor Relocation – A Slow Process Indeed

Just a quick heads-up from to let you know I’ve moved the domain over to another server and tucked the online classrooms into cyber-crawlspace. 🙂

The content off the old site is being polished and ported over here. So, some of the posts may seem a bit dated at first, and I’ll label these “the best of” or “redux” so you know that you haven’t entered a six-year-old time warp.

I’m reworking my approach, and in addition to book reviews and writing tips, I plan on offering interviews, guest posts, and (soon) pod-casting. I think you’ll like these changes. Please let me know.

The newsletter will contain more contributors and feature their work. Look for “The Best Of” funny stories, business tips on landing gigs and pitching your articles. So, I encourage you to join the ranks of the humor pros or rabid fans by signing up. It’s 100% spam-free.

It takes time to get all the bells and whistles up and running, so you can expect to see more robust features over the next few weeks, and if you have a favorite comic, humorist or funny screenwriter, even if it is yourself, please let me know.

As always, I can be reached at:

robb AT

And you can visit my personal humor site at

Just use the @ in place of AT, and knock out the spaces. This is your editing assignment for the week. 🙂