Andrea Askowitz & Lucie Frost

Andrea’s Responses to Lucie’s Questions

Do you think humor can be taught?

I think humor writing can be taught. There are patterns to humor. Humor is a mix of surprise and recognition. So, if you know that, you can write something that surprises and is also obvious.

This joke is an example:

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“To get to the other side?”

“No, to get to your house.”

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“The CHICKEN!”

So, at first, you’re surprised, but then you recognize what just happened. That’s a really good joke pattern that can be replicated.

Writing humor is also about timing. One way to improve your writing timing, is to land your sentences on the strongest note, rather than bury what is important in the middle of a sentence. Sentences can be reordered. This technique also works for dramatic sentences. For example: The world is going to shit while I sit watching. Or: While I sit watching, the world is going to shit.

This is a close call, but I think a sentence ends better on shit.

Do you use humor as a defense mechanism? Are you hiding something?

Totally. Humor is a defense mechanism. Some people cry when they’re anxious, some people sweat. I start saying stupid things, and sometimes they’re funny. I never felt like the pretty one growing up. And all of my friends were gorgeous, which is probably why they were my friends. I was queer but didn’t know it and in love with them, probably. To get any attention whenever we went anywhere, I had to develop other charms. So, I said funny things. Usually I said the thing everyone was thinking, but was afraid to say.

All those times I was hiding that I was anxious or insecure or feeling ugly. Or maybe I wasn’t hiding. Maybe people were like, “Oh, there’s that girl who thinks she’s ugly and is overcompensating by talking too much.”

In writing I go toward the joke when I’m getting too deep emotionally. I catch myself doing it. I try to resist, but then my story isn’t as funny. It’s a tough balance.

Can you share three of your favorite, funny Twitter accounts?

I’m totally jealous of funny people on Twitter. Some of my favorites are @DuchessGoldblat, for sheer commitment; @DocAtCDI, because I think he wrote every joke book I read as a kid, and @SwedishCanary for off-color, stupid funny.

You can give three physical gifts to a new writer. What are they?

1. Laptop. 2. If they’re over 45, a giant monitor. 3. A Cuban cafetera (which I think is really Italian). You can buy one for $9 at the grocery store. They make the best coffee.

I know you’ve just written a book. Was it easier or harder than your 50 essays in a year project?

Harder.

Lucie’s Response to Andrea’s questions

What about you, Lucie? Do you think writing humor can be taught?

I’ve had some amazing humor writing teachers—Elissa Bassist, Brooke Preston, and Riane Konc, to name a few—and they have taught me so much about writing humor. So absolutely, you can learn to write humor.

BUT…I do think you have to have a mind that sees the funny. I doubt I could write literary fiction, and I suspect some literary fiction writers wouldn’t be great at humor. The trick is to learn what you most enjoy writing, what your mind is most naturally drawn to, and then study how to write that.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t?

White water rafting, maybe? But in warm water. And with a guide who will pluck me out of the water when I fall in.

What’s your best party trick or stupid human trick?

Hmmmm, I have a badass whistle. I can trill my r’s and make a tongue taco. When I was a kid, I had this insane upper register scream, but I have no idea if it’s still around. Where could I test that out without law enforcement getting summoned?

I had a friend once who had a dog who would catch spit in mid-air. The dog loved the spit-catch game so much that he would get excited and start hopping whenever my friend cleared his throat. It was both disgusting and hilarious.

What writing projects are you working on these days?

Mainly, my book proposal. The book (How the Hell Did I Not Know That, a humorous memoir about figuring out what the heck I was going to do with my life after retirement) is written, so now I’m hustling to get an agent.

And I’ve started working on my next book, also humor. It’s still incubating, so I can’t tell you much more than that.

And I’ve been trying to write some non-humor pieces, mainly personal essays.

Since I gave you my three favorite Twitter accounts, who are your favorite, funny Instagram accounts?

My all-time favorite is @pleasehatethesethings, with all the worst in home design. I can spend hours laughing there. I also love @katestopherkristy. And I want to buy every single sticker @snarkheart is selling.