Bad Decisions Make the Best Jokes

Right now, my sense of humor is flickering like a dying light bulb in a scary basement. Ironically, I’m a little tired from writing funny books, not to mention the kids never sleep and my husband has been out of town. Right now it’s 11 pm and instead of sleeping I’m writing and listening to a cat puke. I’m just going to hope I don’t step on that in the morning. Even so, it’s mostly the funny books that have me beat. I’m currently in the final round of edits for a summer camp romance novel. I sent in a proposal to write the book last year (book for hire kind of thing). The publisher picked me to write it because of my light and funny voice and my amusing plot idea. Let me tell you, writing this light, funny romp has been absolute torture. The first draft I sent in was too funny and quirky. There wasn’t enough romance (bad considering it was supposed to be a romance).  I pretty much rewrote the book. The next draft was better, but I was still light on romance. Clearly, I’m not a very romantic person. I’m still tweaking things. There are some funny parts left, but I’m getting pretty surgical with these jokes. I cut most of them. This funny book is dead serious business. I can’t wait to take a nap when I turn it in. I think my sense of humor will come back after a few nights of good sleep.

I’ve been watching a lot of stand-up comedy lately. I’m too tired to watch anything with a story I have to follow at the end of the day. The funniest comics basically make fun of themselves. It’s all anecdotes about trips to the doctor’s office, bad dates, insecurity. This avoids the problem of meanness in comedy. If you’re making fun of yourself, it’s not mean and most people will relate. Although, I have to say, I’m sick of hearing about how slutty Amy Schumer is. Who cares!

My favorite funny mystery writer is Lisa Lutz. I love The Spellman series! I also love Heads You Lose. If you haven’t read it, it’s almost like a manual on how to write a mystery because it contains notes from the authors, Lisa Lutz and David Hayward, at the end of each chapter. They’re jokes, but I found them useful. I still need to read The Passengers, which is “a dead serious thriller (with a funny bone)” according the New York Times Book Review.

You know that quote, “Bad decisions make the best stories.” That pretty much sums up humor for me. Comedy and regret go together like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson (I leave it to you to decide which is which).  My first book was certainly a study on some of my own bad decisions, not to mention societal bad decisions. (Reviewers who called it fluff–they had no clue how much personal struggle went into that book!)

Anyways, if the foundation of humor is spinning bad decisions into comic gold, it’s the one career that can legitimately be built on poor judgment. Well, I guess any career in the arts. If you fail–you can write a country song, tell some jokes, paint a picture–your imagination is the limit. I’d call it a silver lining, except that implies it might be worth money. It’s just a lining.


14 thoughts on “Bad Decisions Make the Best Jokes”

  1. Oh Sam. I hope you get some sleep, avoid the cat puke, and find your sense of humor again! But yes – in the middle of a catastrophe don’t a lot of people say, “This will be funny…someday”?


  2. You’re right, funny books are dead serious. It’s so hard to know what to cut without ruining the humor. Some sleep should help!


  3. Good luck with the final edits, Sam, and I hope you’re able to get sleep soon! I know the feeling with cat puke…it’s a haunting sound not knowing where it’s coming from, lol. Have you watched the Louis CK stand-up yet? It’s hilarious! Definitely going to check out Heads You Lose, thanks for the recommendation!


  4. A nice nap will change the world for you, I hope. I’ve often pondered the difference between in persona between the stand-up comedian and the comedian back-stage. Some of them are pretty grim people. I think Jerry Lewis made a movie about it once, one in which he wasn’t funny at all. I don’t know how you guys spin laughter at the snap of a finger. It’s amazing to me.


  5. Sam! You’re hilarious without sleep. Never, ever sleep again. Avoid the cat puke, though. But yes, humor is serious business. Just the other day I was lamenting my perfect childhood because where’s the humorous pathos in THAT??


  6. I’m with you Becky! Sometimes I worry that my kids’ lives are too normal, like I should buck the system and live in a van for a year. Someday they’re going to hate me for this white bread Americana thing we’ve got going on.

    Next month, I promise to write a more chipper post. I’m gonna be cheerful god damn it!


  7. I SO agree. Quite honestly, my whole life is one bad decision after another, but in the end I win because those “bad” decisions have turned out to be the best jokes ever, and I LIVE for jokes. Yes, I read “crime” books and there is nothing “funny” about murder, especially for the victim, but REALLY, what is life without laughs and humor?

    Those who can find even a tiny bit of humor in the darkest circumstances are those who have fulfilled lives. How many times do I have to tell you that? 3 no 7!

    OK now on the count of three — everyone laugh, and then take a nap.


  8. 3 no 7–I’m in for the laugh and the nap. I’m sitting here on a conference call, my head nodding as I struggle to stay focused. I’m not feeling at all funny! Good luck, Sam, on wrapping up those edits. Hang in there!


  9. Totally not slut shaming Amy Schumer! All for sluts. I just want her to add some new jokes. I know way too much about her vagina already.


  10. Sam, I bet this new book is hysterical! You do need that nap. I can’t imagine how to write humor, but you have the perfect light voice for it and you carry it off so well. Your editor will love this round and all will be fine in Borman world, you’ll see. Well, maybe except for the cat puke. Why the heck is it so slippery? I’m gonna start feeding my something sticky just to solve that problem. We watched London has Fallen last night. The Prez claims his life is based on Bourbon and Bad Decisions so – you’re in good company, and the guy who played the Prez – name escapes me– way cute.


  11. Sam, everytime you write about puke, whether it’s you or your cat, I fall more in love with you. In a healthy, readerly kind of way. So I sort of hope your life never really gets sorted out and you never get enough sleep.

    Should I be ashamed?


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