Patrick McManus, The Deer on a Bicycle: Excursions into the Writing of Humor (Spokane: Eastern Washington University Press, 1997)
To atone for all my sins committed in high school and college English classes, I try to read at least one book a year on the subject of writing. Knowing I couldn’t fathom another serious book on the subject, I picked up a copy of Patrick McManus’ guide to writing humor. I’ve read some of his other books and always get a chuckle out of them and was shocked to see that he had a book published by a university press! McManus is the type of author you want to keep on your nightstand. You can read a story or two before sleep and have hilarious dreams. He was also once a college English professor.
There are two parts to this book, the first being the “how to” section, the second being a collection of some of his best writings with his comments on how each piece came about and what he was attempting to do.
“The basic purpose of the article was to amuse and entertain, not inform,” McManus admits following his piece “Wild Life in a Room with a View.” McManus claims (if you can trust a humorist) this to be his last “straight piece” before going strictly to humor. This truism goes for the entire book. Reading the book, I was humored. I laughed; sometimes I laughed hard enough to cry. The other night I was reading it while lying in my daughter’s bed so that she would go to sleep. I should have gotten up when I heard the first little snore, but the story was too interesting that I kept reading and when I got to the punch line, I laughed so hard she woke up thinking something was wrong and I had to find a more serious book to read while she tried to go back to sleep.
This book inspired my recent post about my 7th Grade Math teacher. Depending on whether or not you liked that story may say something about whether or not you’d want to read this book. I recommend it because I recommend anything that McManus writes, not because I think it’s going to help make us better comics. Another book that I found had a lot of helpful hints on humor, believe it or not, was Stephen King’s book, On Writing.