Serious Humor

I have a fondness for the humor in scary stories. A bit of silliness can set up the characters—and the readers—for the sudden dip in an emotional roller coaster ride. I like the discontinuity between serious and humorous. It works in mysteries, suspense, and horror.

Given the current political climate, humor seems to be as essential as coffee. It’s necessary to get through the day. Between Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Saturday Night Live, plus clips of the other late night hosts/comics, there’s plenty of humor for me to choose from. And I know I’m not alone, humor as a coping mechanism is safer than self-medicating, right?

I think so.

But a very wise and interesting acquaintance pointed out to me that humor diminishes serious discourse and can make horrible truths less horrible, by making the terrible normal. He warned me about the normalization of ideas, words, and actions that would, or should, be too bad to joke about. He has a point. Sometimes I think about it when I’m chuckling through Trevor Noah’s opening monolog. Is it bad that I’m laughing?

I went to the Women’s March on January 20 and, although there were many serious homemade political signs, there were also tons of hilarious puns and graphic jokes. Some were so funny that when I skimmed through my Facebook & Twitter feeds, I found that many people photographed the same joking signs about serious issues.

Of course I didn’t manage to catch any of the great jokes with my phone. Even my attempt to capture the giant Ruth Bader Ginsberg costume one marcher wore on his back was only a partial success. I got the face, but the crowd closed around the wonderful black robes. The giant, pink, knitted uterus was pretty funny. (See photos)

Right now, I’m going to keep thinking about humor—appropriate or not—and I think I’ll keep using it in my fiction and enjoying it after a long, hard day of NEWS!


  1. Yes, humour toes a fine line between mockery and normalisation. Look at the way we all accept ‘fake news’ now. Even when we most vehemently disagree with the concept, we all recognize the label.
    The same thing happened with the word ‘spin’. Obfuscation and outright lies were softened in people’s minds by using the word ‘spin’ instead of ‘lie’.
    When no one expects certain segments of society to tell the truth, we all set ourselves up for being lied to.

    • Candy Korman

      Yes… you’ve nailed it. Spin makes obfuscation sound cute. Humor normalizes accusations of Fake News when it’s simply the presentation of facts at odds with the “preferred” point-of-view. And yet… I don’t think I’ll survive without political humor. It’s the sugar coating on the poison pill.