"People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made."
-- Otto von Bismarck --
Old Reichskanzler Bismarck 's oft-misquoted admonition would have been truly exhaustive if it included a warning against observing the creation of humor. Believe me, it ain't pretty.
People have the notion that crafting drole musings for this noble publication (Query to self: Is this the piece I promised to Atlantic Monthly?) is all beer and skittles. It's not. Alright, perhaps some beer, but definitely few skittles.
First of all, it's a lonely occupation. My scrivening must be done in isolation from those family members still sensitive to the regular ejaculations of epithets directed towards my miscreant word processing software:
"Waddya mean you can't spell check obscurantist, you lousy ?&*^%#@>!!!!"
Second, the job's drenched with the constant disappointment of editors hacksawing finely crafted prose into gibberish.
The frustrations are so great, in fact, that I often think of chucking it all and walking away. So, for those who aspire to the vaunted position of financial humorist, be prepared: a job could open up at any time. To help you ready yourselves, I offer this step-by-step guide to creating quality humor.
Not that I ever actually did that, mind you.
- Sit in a straight, comfortable chair in a clean, well-lighted place with plenty of freshly sharpened pencils. Ask yourself, "Why do I need pencils when I'm using a word processor?"
- Read over Journal articles for column ideas. Try to suppress your laughter; the bloviation is sometimes its own humor treatment.
- Stroll to the kitchen for coffee. It'll help you concentrate.
- Ponder, while in the kitchen, the prospects for tonight's repast. Rummage through the recipe file for Böttenlos kock fisken; reorganize the recipe file by nationality, tossing out all dishes made with yak milk or cabbage. Make a second pot of coffee.
- Trudge back to your clean, well-lighted place; sit in your straight, comfortable chair. Count your stash of freshly sharpened pencils.
- Peruse the Journal articles again. These guys can't actually be serious, can they?
- Check your e-mail; reply to everyone, including those offering you printer cartridges at "!!!FANTASTIC SAVINGS!!!".
- You know, your computer's clock may be off. Call up the Naval Observatory's atomic clock for synchronization. Then move room-by-room through the house to ensure all timepieces are correct.
- While in the kitchen, get a coffee fill-up. Make a third pot.
- Return to your clean, well-lighted place with the straight, comfortable chair. Gaze at your collection of freshly sharpened pencils. Mutter obscenities.
- On the blank word processing screen, type the letter "I." Pause to regard its lonely beauty. Utter fresh oaths.
- Check your e-mail again. Surely those printer cartridge guys got your message by now.
- Rearrange the icons in your computer's writing folder, first by type, then in alphabetical order. Try to decide which method is more esthetically pleasing.
- Return to the kitchen for a coffee refill.
- Back to the hell-hole of a clean, well-lighted place with its straight, comfortable chair and its cursed collection of freshly sharpened pencils.
- Hit the Journal articles again; marvel at the pomposity until your eyes glaze over.
- Lie face down on the floor. Moan softly. Fend off your dog's well-meaning tonguewash. When did he nose his way in, anyway?
- Check the TV listings for "inspiration." At the sight of a listing for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," phone a friend. Unfortunately, he won't be a writing colleague. You'll end up discussing the finer points of tomato gardening for three-quarters of an hour.
- Reality will come crashing through in the form of a voice from down the hall: "We're due at my folks' in a half-hour. Are you DONE yet?"
- You'll now be possessed by the muse. Words will fly from your fingertips.; you'll finish the piece in 20 minutes.