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The Woes of the Single Humor Writer

by Rose Madeline Mula

Every trade has its tools. For a humor writer, the three most important requirements are a sense of the absurd, a computer or word processor, and a spouse not necessarily in that order. Though the first two are key, without the last one, a humorist is truly handicapped. Not only are mates a treasure trove of comic ideas just by themselves, they can also provide children, who are an endless source of hilarity (as long as you keep that afore-mentioned sense of the absurd.)

For instance, do you think Erma Bombeck (whose writing I always loved) would have made the splash she did if she had been single, like me? Dont get me wrong. She was a clever, talented lady; but in addition to her natural wit, she had two huge advantages a husband and kids. In other words, a live-in cast of characters feeding her material and dialogue daily.

Erma had it made from the day she said, I do. Even before, as a matter of fact. If she had been writing back then, she could have done a whole series of articles on the wedding alone: Drawing up the guest list (I dont see why we cant invite my uncle Rocky; hell be out on parole by then.); choosing the bridesmaids (I know youre my best friend, Clarabelle; but youll be eight and a half months pregnant, and I dont want to be upstaged by the stork); planning the reception (I realize that pheasant is expensive, Daddy; but Ill die if we have to serve peanut butter sandwiches.) The mishaps during the ceremony the best man losing the ring, the groom losing his lunch, the organist losing her music and playing the only song she knew from memory Please Release Me, the departure for the honeymoon amid tears and hysterics his mothers...

His mother would also come in handy when the honeymoon was over to provide all the standard meddling mother-in-law humor. Then there could be tales of learning-to-cook disasters, the first quarrel, the division of household chores disputes, the disagreements about whose parents to visit for the holidays

And when those wells ran dry, all Erma had to do was get pregnant a surefire source of material for daily columns for nine months. Its always hysterical to read about someone elses morning sickness. As for labor and delivery, theyre a scream.

Then, of course, theres the baby itself and its comically adorable and/or humorously aggravating progress from infancy to the terrible twos through the terrifying teens. If Erma needed an idea for Mondays column, she could merely peek into the bedlam of her sons bedroom and get enough inspiration for every Monday of the year. On Tuesday, she could always rely on her husband to say or do something hopelessly unromantic or chauvinistic, and a thousand words would be a snap. On Wednesday, she merely had to look into the washing machine where she would be sure to find a hitherto missing pet frog, the family cat humorously frazzled, the cake she had baked for the church fair, and three unmated (like me) socks. On Thursday, her little girl might decide that her twelve Barbie dolls would like to go for a swim in the toilet bowl. The resulting clog would necessitate a visit from a plumber who would turn out to be a Jay Leno clone; and quotes from him would help her meet her deadlines for the rest of the week.

And if things ever got dull around the house, Erma could simply go to a PTA meeting, and the teachers tales of Juniors antics would supply enough material for a years worth of columns.

I, on the other hand, dont have all those people helping me since I foolishly never realized the commercial value of a husband and children and remained single. That wouldnt be bad if I were a twenty-year-old swinger and could mesmerize readers with anecdotes about my hedonistic lifestyle. Once, when I was younger, I did try to join one of those couples swap clubs advertised on the Internet purely for research purposes, of course; but they refused me membership when they investigated and found out about me. Not that Im a writer, but that I didnt have a mate to swap.

Unfortunately, I never find zany surprises in my washing machine; and though I do need to call a repair man from time to time, instead of Jay Leno I usually get Solemn Sam. I did crash a PTA meeting once, pretending to be a parent, but I couldnt pull it off. I didnt look harried enough.

I once even tried one of Ermas old tricks of wearing ankle socks with my wedgies. She always got hysterical reactions when she did that. Unfortunately, my timing was off. I waited too long, and all I got was admiration for being one of the first to wear a kicky new fashion.

I guess if I want to get serious about my humor, though its a bit late, Im going to have to get myself a husband. Im holding auditions next Monday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. All applicants will be judged on witty repartee and appearance. Neatness does not count since theres nothing funny about unrumpled socks and shoes that match. Ad- libbers who dont use prepared notes will be given preference, as will applicants with domineering mothers. Oh, wait. That ship has sailed. Its not likely that applicants my age have mothers who are still living. I will therefore settle for someone with an obnoxious, intrusive ex-wife and/or dysfunctional grandchildren.

Who am I kidding? At this point I will consider anyone who inhales and exhales fairly regularly.

©2009 Rose Mula for

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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