Now here is the same picture upside down.

Instead of looking at what you think is in the picture, look at it as a group of shapes and lines of different sizes and different shades of gray. Carefully try to copy these lines and shapes in the same shades on a new piece of paper. Give it about twenty minutes.

When you are finished, turn your second drawing over and compare it to your first. If you are like most people, your second drawing will be much better.

Why did this happen? With your second drawing you threw out all your preconceptions about what the thing you were sketching looks like. Instead you drew only what you saw. All those rules you’ve created in your head about what that thing is actually prevent you from seeing it for what it truly is.

Does that surprise you? Do you find it funny? It’s funny peculiar and not funny ha-ha you might say, but the two are not really that far apart. Often what separates a funny peculiar story from a funny ha-ha story is the way it’s told. They both have the element of – to quote Monty Python – “and now for something completely different,” an essential element of comedy.    

Just as some people are born with a natural ability to draw, some people are born with a natural ability to be funny. Practice, practice and more practice are all they need to make their talents shine.

Others, however, think they have too many problems and their lives are way too serious for them to ever be funny. That is the opposite of the truth. It’s almost impossible to write comedy where there are no problems.

“My husband is so perfect, we have a perfect marriage, and I love him so much,” might be a good basis for a country song, but it sure doesn’t sound like the opening of a stand up act. “My husband snores,” however, has potential. Anytime something lousy happens to you, just remember that with a little bit of distance and comic perspective you might find it hilarious.

You might not need to go to art school to know how to draw, but it helps. A born comedian might not need to know why something is funny to be hilarious, but it can help too. That’s why in the next chapter we will take a look inside jokes, to discover what it is that makes them work. Further on we'll take a look at the House of Funny mirrors and lenses: a bunch of new ways to look at the world that will give you a humorous perspective on just about everything. 

Welcome to the House of Funny. My name is Shevi, and I will be your assistant tour guide.  If you would like to meet your actual tour guide, get a mirror and look in it. 

Now you might be thinking, “If I’m going to guide myself, why do I need this book?” Don’t be a smart aleck. Although the House of Funny we’ll be going through belongs to you, you don’t know it very well yet, which is why you need an assistant. I’m going to be the straight man… straight woman… straight something… anyway, I’m definitely going to be straight -- not that there is anything wrong with not being straight. I’ll be straight, and you’ll be crooked… wait that’s not it. I don’t want you to be crooked. I just want you to be funny. I want you to be funny, and you want you to be funny, so we are clearly on the same team. (Phew, I saved that one.)

As I said, your tour of the House of Funny is about to begin.

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Did you like what you read, and do you want to read more? If so, we would like to hear from you! Return to Shevi Arnold's homepage, and click on e-mail.

 

The House of Funny: The Guide to Finding the Humor in Your Life is currently searching for a publisher. We will update the website when new information becomes available.