Dear Literary Fiction Snobs,
How dare you? How fucking dare you?
How dare you look down your noses at us humor writers and roll your eyes. How dare you whisper behind our backs — or say to our faces — about how our work is somehow less important than your touch-the-heart agony porn?
I’m tired of your preening, your arrogance, your snobbish stance that we humor writers are not good enough to be in your tiny independent presses and tinier literary journals. I’m tired of the way you think that we’re somehow less-than because we don’t write weepy shit.
And I’m not having it.
You treat us like the bastard child of fiction. You think that because our stuff is enjoyable, you’re not supposed to like it.
Or that because it’s fun to read, it must have been fun to write, which means it wasn’t hard. That because we didn’t suffer for our art or write about a shitty life it makes our work less important.
But we’re not scribbling doggerel with a crayon. What we do takes wit, intelligence, and the ability to shine a light on stupidity and hypocrisy. It often takes more work to make people recognize absurdity through laughter than it is to barf out melancholic broodings.
We have to know the secrets to getting a laugh. We have to know theories and practices of humor. We have to understand timing. We have to master language and make it do our bidding.
We’re allowed to enjoy humor. People laugh at a story, and they remember it. They can only be mired in sadness for so long. Humor writers give people an escape from life into a world free from depression and pain, even if only for a little while.
I understand that your work is important and that writing about your issues is cathartic and healing. And that other people can find solace in your stories. That’s great, and more power to you.
I’m not saying your work isn’t important. But don’t look down on those of us who would rather make people laugh. Don’t assume that just because what we do is fun that it’s easy, unworthy, or less good.
Think back over the last 150 years. Who are some of the famous humorists and satirists you remember? Mark Twain, Robert Benchley, James Thurber, Joseph Heller, Erma Bombeck, P.G. Wodehouse, Helen Fielding, Douglas Adams?
But do you remember who won the 1979 Booker Prize for Fiction? Of course not. No one does. But many more people know those 19th and 20th century humorists, even if they’ve never read them.
Look, lit fiction writers, I’m glad you can find small presses who’ll publish your coming-of-age novel about a kid whose parents didn’t love her. That’s great. Plenty of people like reading about other miserable people. But there are also people interested in laughing their asses off, or at least getting a good chuckle. Lots of people.
A good humor writer is a sight to behold. I’ll put good humor writing up against literary fiction any day. You think your shit’s special because it’s literary fiction? That just because there was an AWP panel about historicism, formalism, and structuralism that it’s somehow important?
Big deal. Humorists can monkey-fling grad school buzzwords around too, like expectations violation theory, incongruous juxtaposition, and paronomasia.
We don’t just need agony porn about broken homes and shitty relationships. We also need people who will stand up and not just speak truth to power, but will poke power in its beady fucking eye and laugh in its face.
Keep writing your stuff, lit fiction writers. It’s important. It educates, gives comfort, and tells people they’re not alone. But don’t — fucking do not — look down on those of us who make others laugh.
Because I’m just not having it.