Things are tense these days. I hope I’m not shocking anyone by saying that. There’s a lot of negative emotions going around, and people deal with them in different ways. One of the healthier ways is to engage with a good movie, game, book, or other form of media and get lost in a story. As a person empathizes with characters, they achieve catharsis as they experience their emotional journey together with the characters they empathize with. People enjoy dramas to release their sadness, they enjoy action to feel power over a world which often shows them to be powerless. Some enjoy horror for the endorphin rush, or to release pent up negative emotions in a more healthy way than going to the hardware store and looking for a chainsaw that’s light enough to chase someone with, yet not so light that it can’t get the job done.
Um, for example.
You get the idea. Engaging with stories in all of these genres help emotions to be released, and these genres are taken more or less seriously as their own entity. They win awards, they get critical acclaim. People feel like they can discuss them as art.
Comedy provokes laughter, which is a way to achieve catharsis, too. Laughter is a bonding experience. Laughter allows us to cope with horrible situations. Laughter is, well, fun. Yet, somehow comedy doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
What is the last purely comedic book you read? Not the action-comedy, horror-comedy, romantic comedy, etc. It might be hard to remember.
It seems most times comedy is only accepted when it tags along with another genre. If genres were families, comedy would be the little brother that horror, action, romance, mystery, westerns, science fiction, fantasy, and drama are forced to drag along with them if they want to go out and play.
If you look at Amazon, or any other place to buy books, you’ll probably notice the comedy/humor section is dwarfed by the other genres. In fact, it’s lumped in with crosswords and other puzzles in some stores.
Why is that? Probably because comedy doesn’t sell. Somehow comedic novels don’t get the same attention as other genres, which is why they have to piggy-back onto them. It’s hard to figure out why. On the surface, comedic novels have the same elements as other genres. They have a beginning, middle and end. They have a plot and they have characters.
Maybe that’s where things start to fall apart. People read books for the plot; they read a series because of the characters. As the purpose of a comedy is to laugh, it’s often true that comedic novels don’t have the level of character development that other genres have, and the stakes aren’t often that high. And that’s where the trouble really lies. People need to care what happens in a book for it to grab their attention for long. Sure, some comedic books have deep characters and intricate plots, but chances are that it’s going to get a hyphen with some other genre coming first added to it to sell more copies.
So, wait. Maybe comedy novels are more popular than they first appear. True, the “pure” comedy book isn’t in fashion at the moment, but that doesn’t mean the genre is failing. On the contrary, comedic novels are doing better than ever, thanks to the expectations of modern-day readers.
Unlike in other eras, readers don’t want just one thing. No, they want at least a little of many things. Hybrid genres keep emerging constantly. Weird West, GameLit, and other genre blending categories give people more of what they want, before they even knew they wanted it. And do you know what? I bet they’ve all got a few jokes in them, too. Really, the hyphen is a friend. It’s the hook that gets comedy into your books, into your hands, and into your head.
By latching onto a larger genre, like a parasite, comedy sneaks into your favorite genres without you even noticing. Or like ninjas. Let’s say comedic books are giggle ninjas instead of parasites. Still sneaky, but less slimy. The point is, that fantasy book that made you laugh more than want to swing a sword around was a comedy novel. The horror story that made you chortle with almost shameful glee every time someone bit the big one was humor in disguise.
Comedy doesn’t have an ego. It doesn’t care if it gets second billing. No, comedy is flexible. It adapts to survive, to thrive. Like a thief in the night, comedy comes, does what it set out to do, and leaves. The hero still defeats the evil mastermind, the prince still wins the heart of the prince, princess, or whoever they’ve been trying to win over, and so on. They just do it with a little snark, a bit of whimsy, and the occasional laugh out loud moment.
Comedy never left, and it isn’t going anywhere, even if you can’t quite see it at the moment.
BIO: Noah Sturdevant is a man of many secrets. Granted, most of his secrets involve lost socks and conspiracy theories about otters, so it’s probably better not to probe too deeply. Noah is originally from the U.S.A., and currently lives in Thailand with his wife and daughter. Noah never really knows what’s going on and isn’t sure why he’s writing about himself in the third person, but he hopes you enjoy his books, which you can find on Amazon.
Quick Draw! is an anthology of humorous flash fiction, with some of the biggest names in speculative fiction. In times like these a quick laugh is something we could all use. All profits from the sale of this anthology go to True Colors United, which helps homeless LGBTQ+ teens.
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