Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Musings: Comic Relief

The fascinating thing about language is the simple fact there are two languages that transcend any linguistic or other cultural barrier. These being laughter and music.

I'm not a humorist by any means, but I do enjoy reading things that are laugh out loud funny. My favorites are the surprising funnies that come completely unexpected. Neil Gaiman has done this for me several times in Neverwhere, American Gods, and The Anansi Boys. I found myself reading along and suddenly, without warning, in particularly intense moments, Mr. Gaiman will throw in a twist of comic relief right in the middle of it, leaving me giggling out loud.

The element of comic relief isn't limited to Mr. Gaiman, Betty Smith used it several times in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of the most intense books I have ever read. Frank McCourt's, Angela's Ashes, required comic relief due to the tragic nature of the story. Both of these books had me crying and laughing in the same sitting.

Utilizing comic relief requires a certain finesse. The timing in the story has to be just right, or the 'funny' fizzles out and loses its punch. I think we have all experienced a book where the author seemed to have tried too hard to hit funny, and missed by a mile; or used it in the wrong context and morphed the effort into an epic fail.

I do not think authors intentionally try to work comic relief into their manuscripts. Somehow, I think it just happens, and it is just as surprising to the author as it is to the reader. In the end, it can be one of the most important elements of a story. If readers are left with something to smile about, remember for several days, or years, then the technique was well played.

Comic relief, something to think...laugh about.

Enjoy your day and smile; we all smile in the same language.