Humor keeps us sane (sort of) during bad times, especially in fiction

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“It hadn’t occurred to me until I read them that antiwar novels could be funny as well as serious. “Catch-22” is crazy funny, slapstick funny. It sees war as insane and the desire to escape combat as the only sane position. Its tone of voice is deadpan farce. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is different. There is much comedy in it, as there was in everything Kurt Vonnegut wrote, but it does not see war as farcical. It sees war as a tragedy so great that perhaps only the mask of comedy allows one to look it in the eye. Vonnegut is a sad-faced comedian. If Heller was Charlie Chaplin, then Vonnegut was Buster Keaton. His predominant tone of voice is melancholy, the tone of voice of a man who has been present for a great horror and lived to tell the tale. The two books do, however, have this in common: they are both portraits of a world that has lost its mind, in which children are sent out to do men’s work and die.” – Salman Rushdie in What Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” Tells Us Now

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I’ve been a fan, not only of Salman Rushdie, but of both Heller and Vonnegut, so I agree about the “funny” when it’s part of an otherwise grim work. Those of us who watched M*A*S*H as a movie or a TV series know the sharp knife humor can have in an otherwise serious work. One reader review of one of my Florida Folk Magic novels said that since I was writing about a grim subject, she saw no place for the humor I included. Needless to say, I didn’t respond, though I didn’t agree. Humor, I believe, not only helps keep us seen during insane times, but it introduces within a novel a strong and necessary counterpoint to the primary flow of horror and dread.

Perhaps, like the booze and jokes at a wake, humor–while it may contain a dash of denial–helps us cope with the worst of life. Perhaps it shows us that in the worst of times, we are still human. Or, perhaps it’s such a wild card that it shocks some sense and sensibility back into us when our lives and/or our world seem to have hit rock bottom. Heaven doesn’t need humor as much as hell needs humor.

Humor, it seems, can also show us the senseless reality of horrible things in a way that melodramatic prose cannot. In a way, satire and humor bring out the idiocy of events and views in a clearer way than a straight recitation of facts.  Long ago, I learned that as a psychic/empath, I could most easily “read” a person by saying something humorous or otherwise unexpected during a conversation. Suddenly, as they try to figure out the comment, they become open and transparent. Yes, I know this isn’t a nice thing to do, but I never promised you I was a choir boy. Likewise, the unexpected humor (or farcical statement) can blast open a reader’s mind to the real truths in a grim novel.  S/he sees, then, what s/he might otherwise miss.

Of all the novels I’ve read about war, I was probably more devastated by Johnny Got His Gun and All Quiet On The Western Front than any other fiction. Yet, they do no remain in my memory with the same power as Slaughter House Five and Catch 22. Why? Because they were a one-note samba of horror, unrelenting, and without a moment’s rest.

While the characters in war are likely to tell the worst possible jokes about their situation, the author isn’t there to poke fun at them but of the idiocy of their situation. So, authors risk the truth whenever they have an urge to turn the novel into an ongoing joke. The humor, like the devil, is in the details, the unexplainable moments, the orders from a bureaucracy far away, and the system itself.

Make the readers laugh. They may not thank you for it, but they will be stronger for it, long term.







Nobody cares: my SPAM queue is empty

When I log on, I normally see a WordPress notice that says there are 100000000000 messages in your SPAM queue. Basically, I think that if a spammer does such a poor job trying to comment on one of my posts that his/her comment ends up in the SPAM queue, s/he is sending substandard SPAM. But today, the queue was empty.

I felt so alone, discounted maybe. Perhaps spammers are boycotting my blog because they go in the SPAM queue where their efforts are all for nothing.

Here are some examples of the kinds of wonders I usually find in the queue:

  • I notice that you need some interesting posts in this blog. Get posts from our software and you’ll never write another one. (Hey clown, have you noticed that I’m a writer and can hardly call attention to my work by using canned posts?)
  • Date Russian babes. (My wife doesn’t allow me to date Russian babes.)
  • Try this safe and effective Viagra substitute for a stunning 15-hour erection. (If I go into the gigolo business and/or start dating multiple Russian babes, I’ll let you know. Don’t call me, I’ll call you–yeah, right.)
  • Our off-grid investment plan is so effective and private that only 10% of our clients end up in jail for money laundering. (I hope those clients weren’t using too much bleach.)
  • I’m going to bookmark this post so I can come back and read it again. (Please don’t.)
  • Free burial insurance without having to list preexisting conditions. Many of our clients have been dead for weeks before a well-meaning relative forges their signature on the application. We guarantee that only 10% of our clients wind up in the wrong grave yard. (Tempting, but no.)
  • We’re selling real SPAM at a discount. This week, 50% off “SPAM® with Portuguese Sausage Seasoning” that normally sells for $3.50. Free “Wood SPAM® Brand Piggy Cutting Board” with every thousand dollars you order. (Okay, you’re Hormel Foods trying a new marketing approach, right?)
  • Scientists have proven it’s now safe to brush your teeth with Saniflush if you don’t use it 100 times a day. We have a warehouse full of the stuff we snapped up when the brand was discontinued, and that means a deal for you. (No.)
  • New home security system test. Our pros will attempt to break into your house to see if your system works. If you don’t see us, your system failed. If you do, your system is effective. Send $1000 and your address along with the typical times of day when nobody’s home. (You guys work for SNL right?”)
  • Guard your Internet connection from fake news. Download our $56.00 virus and you’ll never see another phony news story again. (Will I see any more SPAM?)

If your comments ever end up in my SPAM queue, try again, you know, if you feel lucky.


Malcolm is the author of the satirical crime novel “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.” (Only 10% of his readers go nuts before getting to the end up this novel.)

Searching for fresh new clichés

Searching for fresh clichés to use in political commentary and social media is a full time job. Here are a few that might wet your whistle or knock the balls off a brass monkey:

  • Going with your gut is evidence of diarrhea.
  • What doesn’t kill you probably is covered by the new health insurance bill.
  • A rose by any other name may not be a red.
  • Democrats are looking for a witch behind every Russian.
  • Good crack is always illegal while a good crack often goes viral.
  • Skydiving is good to the last drop.
  • Absence makes the heart look yonder.
  • All’s well when the last lawyer is finally paid.
  • An idle mind is a Congressman’s playground.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a thousand bucks on the street.
  • A bad seed probably comes from a GMO lab.
  • CNN beats facts into ashes if not asses.
  • Too many reporters are calling a spade a shovel.
  • You can’t judge a crook by his cover story.
  • Today’s political commentary is usually crock and bullshit story.
  • Obstructionists are a few bricks shy of a stone wall.
  • A sleeping Senator beats a Kangaroo loose in the paddock.
  • Today’s Kodak moments have probably been PhotoShopped.
  • We’re waiting for freshman Congressmen to wake up and smell the bait.
  • Caught like a dear who woke up on the wrong side of somebody else’s bed.

You probably didn’t hear it here first.




Frankly, I think the hairball express is worse than the karma train

For one thing, one can never be sure when (or if) the karma train has arrived. The hairball express leaves evidence.

If you’re a cat person–and by that, I don’t mean you’re a cat who turned into a person–you know what that evidence is. If you’re not a cat person, it’s better that you don’t know.

Cat people notice that when the hairball express stops, it’s more likely to be on a rug or a couch than on a tile or linoleum floor. It often stops at night: this means you step in what it’s left for you.

Some people “own” thee cats. This means the hairball express stops more often because the cats get together and set up a schedule so that–basically–the house has full coverage. That means more hairballs in more places at more times, than normal. In this case, less is never more. More is more and when there’s an epidemic, more often becomes the new normal.

That is, one expects to find a mess when they first wake up, whenever important company have come by for dinner, or while one is praying that the hairball express will stop at somebody else’s house. The people we have in mind when we create such prayers are those who keep missing the karma train.

You know who those people are. They have all the money and/or play hideous music on their car radios at midnight with the windows open. There’s more than enough trailer trash scum whose lives cry out for a visit from either the karma train or the hairball express to make things easy for the fates when they decide who’s gonna get it tonight.

I’ve sent countless e-mails to my cats explaining that hairballs are better left in the litter box than on: (a) my living room recliner, (b) the magazine that came in today’s mail, (c) my pillow, or (d) the first edition of the Gutenberg’s Bible that I was planning to take to the Antique’s Roadshow. I can here it now: “Malcolm, with this cat puke on it, the book is worth $37.50. Without the cat puke it would sell, at auction, for $1000000000000000000.”

I’m writing this post because the hairball express has been stopping by our house 4-5 times every 24 hours. This tells me somebody’s put a hex on my house or my cats. I will find you. And when I do, you’ll probably find a cow patty covered with gravy on your dinner plate after you’ve eaten half of it (the patty, not the plate).

Frankly, I think it should be obvious to everyone whether they’re named Frank or something else, that the basic design of cats needs to be tweaked so that there are fewer hairballs. Learning to clean themselves with a sponge rather than a tongue might be a start. Or, perhaps, strong stomach acid that works like Drano so that they don’t swallow a handful of fur and then throw it up on my brand new LL Bean shirt. Bean probably voids my lifetime guarantee on the shirt for such perils as cow patties, meadow muffins, and hairballs.

Look, one reason I signed on to be a cat person rather than a dog person is this: dogs have to do their business outside. That means somebody has to come home or wake up to let the dog out. Cats are supposed to do their business in the litter box. But no amount of training seems to get through to them that hairballs belong in the litter box. My wife and I try to set a good example by never throwing up on furniture or pillows or priceless heirlooms.

All that is lost on the cats. In fact, if you’re a cat person, you already know that–except for expediency–everything is lost on cats.


Malcolm R. Campbell promises you that when you read “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” you won’t find any hairballs in the story.

Okay, who in my zip code is an Ashley Madison User?

When I saw the news story These Are the Only Three Zip Codes With No Ashley Madison Users, I would have bet money (a few dollars or so) that our little slice of NE Georgia was on the list.

Over 39,645,000 anonymous members!
Over 39,645,000 anonymous members!

After all, according the 2010 demographics, the population of this zip code is only 2,432.

But no, the cheat-free zip codes are Nikolai, Alaska (99691), Perryville, Alaska (99648) and Polvadera, New Mexico (87828).

Okay, I’ll stipulate that the population of all three of those zip codes combined is less than our “neighborhood.”

My theory is that the people in those zip codes are signing up under fake e-mail addresses that purport to come from our zip code.

It’s much easier to assume that than to think, hmm, I wonder if the guy who drove by in that old Ford pickup truck is “out on a date” while his wife cans okra at home.

gritspackagePlus, I always thought that those of us who like grits were ever faithful due to the influence of minerals from the granite millstones in the grits that activate the conscience. This is true whether you’re throwing a packet of Quaker grits in the microwave with 1/2 cup of water for 90 seconds or using more exotic recipes out of books like “Good Old Grits Cookbook” or “The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook.”

Maybe one clown in our zip code is allergic to grits and/or his/her spouse and ruined the reputation of the whole place when Santa looks at the naughty list. We need to find that person and lure them up to Perryville, Alaska where s/he will either ruin the place or jump on the hooker wagon and off the hookers.

Perhaps a brave soul will put up a fake call girl business card at the seed & feed and the tractor supply company and see if they get any hit-ons. If that fails, maybe our suspect works at a nearby college in, say, the drama department.

If that doesn’t work, we’re going to have to bribe somebody at the cheaters’ record-keeping department to say we’re not doing nothin’ we shouldn’t be doing. Or, make grits mandatory.


New Jock front CVR full sizeMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” a comedy/satire with a few characters who might be part of the Ashley Madison family.


You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”

A few days ago, an article zipped through my Facebook timeline in which the author claimed that lucky people tend to have more good luck and unlucky people tend to have more bad luck.

AcesNow that I want to link to it, I can’t find it. So, you’ve gotta trust me on this. Apparently–at cards anyway–people with a lucky night in progress tend to start playing a bit more conservatively. This increases the chances they won’t lose all  their dough.

People with bad luck get desperate and want to turn things around, so they start taking more risks, This increases the chance they will lost all their dough.

I’m not sure what was supposed to happen if the person didn’t think about luck one way or the other and just kept doing what they were doing. But I have this sneaking feeling that if a person has to ask himself “Do I feel lucky?” his luck–such as it may be–will get worse.

I say that because I’m very superstitious. If I were playing for a major league team and had hitting streak going, I’d never change my socks. I’m the kind of guy who thinks a pitcher’s no hitter will go in the toilet if one of the announcers says, “this guy almost has a no hitter.”

A far as I know, the article had no answer for the bad luck that happens if you change your socks or mention a no hitter in progress. It also didn’t say what would happen if a guy asked himself whether or not he felt lucky.

So, I’m wondering how the readers of this blog feel about good mojo vs. bad mojo and whether you’ve ever been rash enough to ask yourself if you feel lucky.




— Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella with a lot of mojo in it. If you’re feeling lucky, you might win a free copy of it in the current GoodReads giveaway.

A few potentially humorous quotes about writing

When a blogger is too tired to write something original, s/he compiles a list of something or other. Today’s list is composed of funny quotes about writing.

  • writing“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker
  • “I wrote a few children’s books. Not on purpose.” – Steven Wright
  • “Frankly, my dear, I should bury your script in a drawer and put a lily on top.”  – Noël Coward
  • “If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us.” — William Faulkner
  • “If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.” – Kingsley Amis
  • “One trouble with developing speed-reading skills is that by the time you realize a book is boring, you’ve already finished it.” –   Franklin P Jones
  • “Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.” – John Steinbeck
  • “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” — Robert A. Heinlein
  • Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.” – H. L. Mencken
  • “Panicky despair is an underrated element of writing.” ― Dave Barry
  • “I leave out the parts that people skip.” – Elmore Leonard
  • “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
  • “It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.” – Robert Benchley
  • “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain
  • “When male authors write love stories, the heroine tends to end up dead.” ― Susan Elizabeth Phillips
    “In Hollywood the woods are full of people that learned to write but evidently can’t read. If they could read their stuff, they’d stop writing.” – Will Rogers
  • “I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.” – Patrick Dennis
  • “This is the sixth book I’ve written, which isn’t bad for a guy who’s only read two.” – George Burns

Review: ‘The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy’

The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold GuppyThe Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy by Gina Collia-Suzuki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Alex and her husband Roy move into an apartment in a middle class English neighborhood and meet their grumpy, greedy and potentially insane neighbors, Ben and Pat Guppy, it becomes abundantly clear before chapter one ends with “And with that the battle lines were drawn up,” that any sane person would begin considering murder as a viable alternative to long-term unpleasantness.

After all, in any aquarium of dazzling tropical fish, the guppy is background clutter at best. But, should the rather plain and unamazing fish go rogue—like Benjamin and Pat in the finite world of the apartment building—then when all else fails, stricter measures appear more reasonable than reasonable measures.

In the well-written and vastly humorous “The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy,” Ben and Pat are quite accustomed to ruling their environment. New tenants, such as Alex and Roy, are informed by the 70-year-old Benjamin Guppy on day one of his rules and expectations: bedtime (and quiet) begin at ten except on Sundays when they commence at nine, dinner is at five. It gets worse. The Guppy’s don’t like to hear music, water draining out of the bathtub, or toilets being flushed.

Alex, who tells this story, says of Benjamin Guppy on the first page: “He made no effort to conceal his dislike of us from the outset, his opinion being formed immediately that we were not his sort of people. I consider myself fortunate in that.”

The Guppy’s shenanigans, and the delightfully droll and deadpan way the novel unfolds, are reminiscent of the outlandish kinds of circumstances played out in the 1970s BBC sitcom “Fawlty Towers.” Benjamin and Pat are clearly a couple of rogue guppies, yet their outlandish activities, their low character and the absurdity of their endless fishy demands for money for fabricated damages to their flat appear to be unnoticed by everyone except Alex and Roy.

Will Alex kill Benjamin? She has cause. And while her cause is a funny one—from the reader’s perspective—it’s hard to imagine Benjamin and Pat being humorous in real life. The strength of the book is an understated humor that builds throughout the novel rather like a snowball rolling down a steep hill. While some of Benjamin’s and Pat’s abusive words and deeds become a bit repetitive, Gina Collia-Suzuki’s style and tone more than makes up for that.

“The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy” is good for a lot of laughs, some uncomfortable truths about the nature of ill-bred apartment dwellers, and—for philosophers—an opportunity to ponder just how long a couple of angel fish can possibly swim in the dark and dangerous currents of an environment with so little privacy and space, the walls might as well be made of glass.

View all my reviews

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” “The Sun Singer,” and “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey.”

We’re Throwing Eggs at Dads Again This Year

Guest Post by Trick Falls

With Halloween approaching faster than a bat out of hell, my brother Pratt, my sister Niagara and I are making plans once again to gas up Dad’s old Packard for our yearly pilgrimage to One Egg, Alabama for some hard fried trick or treat fun.

Throwing Eggs at Dads began in 1957 when three fresh-face graduates from reform school (my siblings and I) borrowed Dad’s two-tone baby blue and white 1956 Packard Clipper Touring Sedan for some Halloween fun. Fifteen or twenty large sacks of Candy Corn later, we ended up in Alabama’s Houston County with a trunk load of Piggly Wiggly eggs.

Niagara, who was wearing an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini, discovered that 98.6% of the Dads walking their kids around the small town of One Egg were more interested in her tricks than their children’s treats. Just when things were getting really interesting, Pratt and I would hit the poor slobs with a barrage of jumbo eggs.

In the resulting chaos, the kids dropped their candy, we scooped it up and roared off down the road.

The dads, most of whom were in the serious business of growing cotton, corn and peanuts along the road to Cottonwood, had never been egged on by a pretty girl before, so as the years went by, they began looking forward to the “sweet lady who tempts us to take an egg shower.”

It stood to reason, something like this would ultimately happen in One Egg because the town was founded in 1942 by Norfolk Grey after he was run out of Two Egg, Florida for “being a bad egg” and smelling like sulfur when he passed gas in the general store.

Niagara was so popular with the One Egg dads that she began to get innocently provocative pen pal letters from them stating that a Halloween without Niagara was like a fried egg sandwich without mayo.

Pratt, who was disgusted with the idea of stealing kids candy after he got fat in the early 1960s wanted to quit making the trips. Fortunately, we had enough blackmail material to keep him driving that Packard up and down highway 53 year after year after year.

Early on, Niagara’s fame down in Houston County was such that her bikini inspired a song that reached the top of the charts. Today, as the nation’s number two Viagra salesman, Niagara dangles the bottom half of that old bathing suit from her rear view mirror to bring her good luck. Most of the prospective customers who meet her at Waffle Houses and truck stops across the country don’t mind getting a little egg on their face while buying their meds.

This year, our custom bumper sticker for the Clipper will say, “Scrambling Dads for Sweets.” Pratt designed it and, truth be told, he’s very proud of his work.

As for yours truly, I’ll be the driver again on this year’s caper since my trick knee causes me to fall whenever I try to run away from anything. Sure, we’re almost too old for this kind of stunt, but the now-grown-up children of the dads we egged on in those days of yesteryear would never forgive us if we didn’t trick them again while shouting, “The Yolk’s On You, Sugar Daddy.”

Trick Falls is one of the secret pen names of the author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” a satire in which an ass-kicking reporter finds humorous ways to insure his town’s corrupt politicians always have egg on their faces.

Transport Canada Bans People on Flights to U.S.

Ottawa, January 5, 2010–As a result of a terrorist incident on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, Transport Canada has decided to ban persons, individuals, people, creatures and living things of all kinds to provide for the well-being of air travel and all of those enjoying air services thereof.

“The total lunacy of our approach will prove itself in the long term,” said Transport Minister Baird Johnson. “We began by banning books and other dangerous objects. That was a first step. Further testing has indicated–as an American might say–books don’t kill people, people kill people.”

According to informed sources, the inconvenience of the new regulations will be offset by the benefits. Experts say that once people are removed from the equation, air travel will become so safe that when a plane occasionally falls out of the sky, nobody will be there to hear it, rendering the moment soundless.

U.S. officials are considering shutting down the Transportation Security Administration, a cost savings that many believe will completely erase the national debt.

Security Tsar Jim Bob Smith noted, with a gleam in his one eye and a spring in his step, that “planes are now going to be flying on time, every time without the needless security delays we’ve tolerated for the past nine years.”

“Après la pluie le beau temps,” Johnson added, using an old proverb to succinctly say that knives will soon be banned from kitchens, fire from the hearths, and cars from the roads in an attempt to make life so safe, it will no longer be worth living.”

Air travelers who first heard of the new regulations approached security check points on both sides of the US/Canadian border with their mouths agape, whereupon they were taken away for their threatening show of teeth.


From the Morning Satirical News