“Humor Block: Busted!” by Jon Sindell

Jun 5th, 2019 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

When a hard-working humorist knuckles down to a grueling session of writing funny stuff, he is frequently confronted with a mortifying emptiness of the brain’s humor center known as “Humor Block.” God only knows how to deal with it—and these are His/Her/Its tips.

To begin with, since humor often arises in reaction to others, imagine that a supportive friend with a superb sense of humor is in the room with you. Since you are a writer and have no friends, you will have to stretch your imagination wide. As long as your imagination is fired up, you might as well imagine that your friend is not only a humor aficionado but an ultra-hot woman. An ultra-hot woman who will enthusiastically gratify your every desire.

Your. Every. Desire.

Where was I?

Right! Imagination. Imagine that you espy a large black raven sitting on a bust of Pallas just above your chamber door. Congratulate yourself on knowing what “espy” means, then recall how in high school you were the only one who understood Poe’s super-subtle sense of humor (you never actually spoke to anyone in high school, but you could just tell that those losers were clueless). Remember how “The Tell-Tale Heart” inspired you to become a humorist, and allow yourself a fleeting smile of vindiction upon recalling that the kids who sneered at you—and gave you wedgies—and dumped Gogurt on your head— are now stuck in boring jobs as dentists, veterinarians, and business owners where their flattering minions fake-laugh at their dumb jokes while you create world-class humor for your imaginary friend, a humor connosseur who would never flatter. For when Cookie says you’re the funniest guy in the world, she means it. Just as she means it when she says you’re the world’s greatest lover.

Ask Cookie to put on that short, sheer pink thing, even though it’s not time yet for your Saturday night date.

Brew some coffee. Note that “brew” sounds like “bro,” and contemplate avenging yourself on your girlfriend-stealing, thick-mustachioed brother, Jason Peter, by thinly disguising him as a girlfriend-stealing, thin-mustachioed sister named Jane Peter who will be the butt of a scathing satire presently titled “Title To Come,” which you will later title ”The Title Hath Come.”

While sipping your coffee, remember that the girlfriend who jilted you said, because she “owed it to you to be honest,” that your brother is twice the lover you are. Take your thumb from your mouth and ask Cookie for reassurance about your virility. When she looks away with a mocking smile, fall into a deep funk for three weeks during which you will gobble countless handfuls of double-stuffed Oreos as an ironic rebuke of Cookie. She will, of course, prove too thick to get it.

Emerge from your funk on a bright June day recalling the euphoric first days of summer vacation when you were a kid. Remind yourself that summer is for fun, and put down your writing for three months to “recharge” and “gather material.” Laugh at how other writers talk of “recharging” and “gathering material” to hide the fact they have nothing to say. Try not to notice that Cookie is sexting your brother. Admit that her full, pouting lower lip drives you crazy, and you just can’t quit her.

Return to your humor piece when you notice that the leaves are turning. Smile inwardly at the knowledge that writers like George Eliot and F. Scott Fitzgerald would write rhapsodic prose about the glories of autumn in a pathetic attempt to compensate for their patent inability to write straight humor. Observe that turning leaves are inherently trans, and consider writing a humor piece about non-binary leaves. Come to your senses, and compile a list of topics off-limits for humor. After five hours, nuke the remains of last night’s nachos. While you wait, jot a list of politically-correct topics for humor on a cocktail napkin. Consult Mao’s Little Red Book on political correctness, and consider the comic potential in bourgeois re-education, the banning of Western music and art, forced-labor camps, and government-engineered starvation. Consider writing a New York Times op-ed parody: “Comedy Was Better Under Communism.” Contemplate the scatological, profane cheap-shots hurled by America’s TV comics at public figures, and observe that the complete absence of humor in communist states was greater than unfunny material from a mathematical perspective, for zero exceeds negative numbers. Reflect with surprise that humor may indeed have been better under communism.

Sacrifice a heaping spoonful of congealed nacho cheese on your altar to P.G. Woodhouse, P.J. O’Rourke, striped PJ’s, and PBJ’s, and recall that pee jokes were a guaranteed laugh-getter in third grade. Realize that there may be a toilet bowl’s worth of humor in the work of today’s TV comics after all.

Stride purposefully across the basement floor, being careful not to trip on video-game controllers and giant bags of Cheetos, and disconnect Cookie from her phone while she’s sexting your brother. When she looks up at you with a pout, biting down on that luscious lower lip of hers, toss the short, sheer pink thing on her lap, and tell her in the manly way she adores that you expect her to be wearing it when you return.

Take your elderly parents’ dog for a walk, for you’re behind in your rent on the basement—aka “the place where the magic happens.” You’re not beating Humor Block today anyhow.

But know, my son: you are a man.


Jon Sindell wrote the story collections The Roadkill Collection and Family Happiness (both from Big Table Publishing). His humor has appeared in The Big Jewel, Defenestration, Feathertale, Go Read Your Lunch, The Higgs-Weldon, Points In Case, right hand pointing, The Short Humour Site, Thrice Quarterly, and before barnyard animals in petting zoos everywhere. Much of his writing hides in plain sight at jonsindell.com.

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