The pressure is on.
I found out Tuesday night that Will My Dog Hate Me was nominated for a DogTime Pettie award as Funniest Pet Blog or Blogger.
This would suggest to me that, if I want to win, I’d better be funny from now until July 29, when the voting ends.
A friend once asked me if I could help her “write funnier.” I didn’t think I could analyze what comes more or less naturally to me — and, really, who needs the competition? — but today it occurred to me that, if I can’t be consistently funny between now and July 29, maybe I can explain why I think some elements of humor work. This may or many not get me some gratitude votes.
I’m okay with pity too.
Not everyone is going to agree on what constitutes humor but, today being Travel Thursday, I was planning on focusing on two incidents in San Diego that I thought were inherently funny. Which is to say, you can’t add humor to your writing; you have to see it in situations and then try to articulate them as sharply as possible.
Incident #1: As my friends and I were sitting around and relaxing before dinner at their home in San Diego, Frankie lifted his leg and peed on their rug.
Incident #2: Frankie and I were invited to dine in a San Diego restaurant that was purported to be pet friendly. Apparently management didn’t get the memo — or didn’t pass it along. When we arrived, the hostess, flustered, said she wasn’t used to seating dogs on the patio but supposed it would be okay if I could show her Frankie’s papers.
So what’s funny here?
Alliteration is funny
These two incidents could be summed up by “Pee” and “Papers, please.” I was just lucky that I was nominated for a Pettie and not an Oscar. People have written treatises on why the repetition of sounds is pleasing (or, if overdone, contrived and annoying). In any case, it’s a way to link ideas that don’t necessarily belong together and…
Putting disparate things together is funny
Or at least startling. What do awards, urination and an immigration law in Arizona have in common? I got you wondering with that title, didn’t I?
Bodily functions are funny
Ask any kid. When in doubt, mention pee, poop, or underarm odor. When you can combine one or more of these elements — say, with underarm farts — it’s a bonus.
Animals are funny, especially small cute ones
Frankie has wild hair and an inquisitive little face. Plus he’s a terrier, which suggests a tendency towards mischief. A grown man urinating in your living room — creepy. A small dog, boldly going where many had gone before (as one of my friends, whose household is always lively with dogs and cats, explained)? Funny. I imagine the expression of horror on my face when I realized what Frankie was doing was pretty amusing, too. Finally, there was the fact that my friends were not upset. Not being welcome back to a home in a city you love to visit is not amusing.
Mocking snobbery/injustice is funny
Here’s where we get beyond slapstick and bathroom humor and move in the direction of political wit and satire. Asking a mixed breed dog for papers evokes a host of associations — the first that came to me, as I mentioned, was with an Arizona law that would have required people to show papers to prove they were not illegal aliens. The term illegal alien, offensive when applied to humans — undocumented workers is a far more neutral way to put it — is amusing when it refers to a small dog who has big ears that look like they could be used to get signals from outer space.
When I alluded to this incident on Facebook, my friend Pamela of Something Wagging This Way Comes commented that perhaps the restaurant’s hostess had seen the picture of Frankie as a space alien. It’s an inside joke for regulars to my blog, one I’ll let you in on here.
Oh, it goes without saying — as anyone who named her website Something Wagging This Way Comes can attest — that many, many people think puns are funny. Even when they make you groan.
Humor for Humor’s Sake?
I can be as frivolous as the next person; hey, I was originally going to devote my blog to dog dressing, its title being short for Will My Dog Hate Me If I Dress Him? I think anything that brings a little laughter into the day is worth pursuing.
But I’m also a bit of an activist for causes I believe in. And since I adopted Frankie those causes tend to be animal oriented. The longer I blogged, the more it became clear that it’s more effective to focus on the positive, to make people understand the joy that pets can bring into their lives rather making them feel that rescue, for example, is a duty. That’s why I started running two video series: Spay & Neuter with a Smile and Pet Adoption Videos That Don’t Make You Want To Kill Yourself. You’ll find some of the best examples of both in the Austin Humane Society’s Awesome Ad Campaign.
This brings me back to the Petties (bet you thought I’d never get here)
If I win, I’m going to donate the $1000 prize to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Frankie was not adopted from there but two of his pet sitters started volunteering there and both ended up being permanent staff members. I don’t want to make a strong case for causality, but Frankie tends to be an inspirational dog.
So. Go to DogTime.com to cast your vote for Will My Dog Hate Me in the humor category. Every day. Twice a day. Starting today and going through until July 29. You’re not allowed to stuff the ballot box, virtually speaking — I would if I could — but two votes a day add up.
Do it for the dogs of Southern Arizona. Do it for Frankie. Or else I’ll bring him to your house and have him pee on your rug.