Monday, September 8, 2008

The Comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You're Not

The Comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You’re Not by John Vorhaus
Book review by Belle Scarlett (

Petruchio and his favorite shrew, Kate. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Harry and Sally. Ross and Rachel. Carrie and Mr. Big. What do these iconic romantic couples have in common? Will they, or won’t they? How hard will they make us laugh before they finally do? And why, oh why, am I answering my own questions with yet more questions? The answers to these and other laughable ponderings can undoubtedly be found in The Comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You’re Not by John Vorhaus. I consider it my go-to humor primer whether I’m writing a full-on comedy or merely want to lace my romance characters’ sexual chemistry with some fun banter or a humorous twist. After all, love and laughter go together like Sam and Diane.

Vorhaus is my comedic answer to Strunk and White, had they been a vaudeville act. Since I have A.D.D. when it comes to writing reference books, they must be entertaining or succinct, preferably both. Vorhaus delivers up a rapid, droll textbook that elicits chuckles thanks to his engaging prose that practices the comic rules it preaches. He gives us such handy dandy comedy tools like “jokes vs. jokoids”, “the comic set up and pay-off”, “four facts about the comic character”, “the rule of three”, “wince factor”, “comic callback”, and how to “avoid clichés like the plague”. Even his chapter on practical jokes turns out to be an actual practical joke.

In Toolbox, Vorhaus guides our big clown feet through the ABCs of “comedy hell” and encourages us to lower our sights, thus giving us permission to take risks until the good stuff flows. Moreover, Toolbox offers helpful information regarding basic plotting that is surprisingly accessible for all writing levels. Vorhaus peppers many chapters with effective writing exercises, so budding comedy writers may begin throwing figurative pies in faces post-haste.

Giving the reader a clear, practical method of organizing and structuring comedy writing that is oh so useful, Vorhaus teaches writers who don’t believe they were born funny how the funny happens, and gives them the tools to begin firing their own comic plots and characters out of a cannon with confidence. As one testimonial by a sitcom producer on the back cover of Toolbox asserts, “I don’t think people should read this book. They’re liable to learn all our secrets and take my job.”

I use the serviceable tools I learned from Toolbox every time I sit down to write romance because my paranormal alpha males desire exceptional heroines who provide them with both love and laughter throughout their preternaturally long lives. We never tire of the sport of courtship in the game of the love. There are probably petroglyphs on a rock wall somewhere depicting the timeless romance formula of “caveman gets cavegirl, caveman loses cavegirl, caveman drags cavegirl back to his cave by her hair, and they all live HEA.” So now, let us count the comic lovers … who are some of your favorite sexy, funny couples?


Debra Glass said...

Nice review from Ms. Scarlett! This one is going in my research library.

Word Actress said...

Sexy, funny couples - hmmmmmmm - I love the chemistry between Kate Hudson and Matthew Mc Canaughey. Their last movie 'Fool's Goal' was a dud but that didn't keep me from watching the two of them together. Richard Gere and Diane Lane are teaming up again in 'Nights in Rodanthe'. I think this is their third pairing and I just think they're so sexy together. 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' - a horrible movie -was saved by the amazing chemistry between Brad and Angelina. I knew leaving the theatre it was bye-bye Jennifer. Tony Danza and Judith Light in their 'Who's The Boss' days seemed to be having a lot of fun. I liked Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in 'Pretty Woman' but she WAS playing a prostitute!
Me and big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton on 'Dancing With The Stars' - I don't think wife Gabby would go for that, though! Sexy funny's a tricky one - Jenny McCarthy seems to be pulling it off though I can't think of anything she's been in where the guy was sexy funny too. I know when I sign u I'll think of lots of other examples but this is a start...Mary Kennedy Eastham - Author - 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget' and the novel-in-progress 'Night Surfing - A Story of Love and Wonder in the Waves of Malibu'

Anonymous said...

I better get this book immediately since I'm attempting comedy and am not funny! I have lots of favorite couples, but add the sexy sizzle and that's a lot harder. I'd have to say Angie and Brad in MR. AND MRS. SMITH also as they had the most heat I've seen in recent films. Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott Thomas were also pretty steamy in THE ENGLISH PATIENT and I loved Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche in THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, one of the sexiest love stories still. And going way back, Elizabeth Taylor (in her prime) and Paul Newman in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF had to have been one of the sexiest couples onscreen of all time.


Vivienne Westlake said...

Okay, so I'm gonna pick...Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett! Come to think of it, I'd say Bridget Jones and Daniel Cleaver are pretty funny, though Daniel is the bad boy, not the keeper. I read and write historical romance, so I prefer the witty banter and innuendo. I'm not too into 'snark' but I find it works great in urban fantasy (I do love those Buffyesque heroines).

Nicole Terry said...

If I were going for quirky sexy, I'd have to say Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. But for sexy/sexy, I'd agree with Mr. and Mrs. Smith. And for classic sexy, it'd have to be Breakfast at Tiffany's.

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