Monday, February 15, 2010

Being funny without trying

Agent Kristin Nelson recently shared a collection of church bulletin bloopers. In addition to providing a good laugh, the blog post served as a good reminder to me that the funniest humor often stems from things that aren’t meant to be funny at all.

Many moons ago while working as a newspaper reporter, I was editing an article about a guest speaker who would be talking about buffalo diseases. Clearly this was to be a sellout event. While reviewing the speaker’s bio, I stumbled across the following sentence:

John Doe became an expert on Brucellosis during the six years he spent as a buffalo in Yellowstone Park.

Once I stopped laughing and picked myself up off the floor, I did a little research and discovered that John Doe had not actually spent six years crawling around a national park on all fours eating grass. The missing word was “herder.”

It’s been more than a decade, but I still can’t type that sentence without risking laughter-induced incontinence.

Another bout of accidental humor came a number of years later when I was writing my very first love scene in a novel. It was risqué and steamy and took place in a shower. I was feeling pretty proud of it until I got the following note back from one of my critique partners:

“I know he’s a great lover and all, but did you mean to have him lick the back of his own neck?”

Upon closer inspection, I realized I had used the pronoun “his” when I meant to use “her” to describe the hero trailing his tongue along some exposed flesh. I briefly considered leaving it the way it was, as I’m certain many female readers could see the merits of such a skill. Eventually, I decided the sex appeal would be negated by the hero’s habit of using his exceptional tongue to bathe and catch insects.

Now that I’m writing humorous fiction, almost everything I write these days is supposed to be funny. Even so, it’s humbling to know that I’m never quite as funny as when I don’t mean to be.

Got any amusing typos to share? Leave them in the comments so we can all have a good laugh today.


Linda G. said...

Wow. I wanna read the original version of tongue-boy's scene. ;)

Your post reminded me of one of my more memorable incidents of being unintentionally funny. The theater god & I were playing the board game "Clue" with the kids one evening. After many rounds of losing miserably, I finally found myself in position to solve the mystery. Terribly excited (and, okay, maybe a little tipsy on the very nice Shiraz TG had been pouring down my throat), I proudly declared, "Professor Plum did the library...with Miss Scarlet!"

Of course, my kids were at precisely the right age for my slip NOT to pass over their heads. Not that it could've gone unnoticed with their father falling on the floor in hysterics, anyway.

snacks said...

I once received a Christmas card from a vendor that said

"We look forward to working you for years to come."

I've forgotten the vendor but I'll never forget how hard I laughed at that. Still kills me.

Linda G. said...

Snacks -- that slip from a vendor? Sounds Freudian to me. ;)

Tawna Fenske said...

Linda G. LOL on the risqué game of Clue! Go, Professor Plum!

Snacks, I love the vendor card! For some reason that reminds me of a typo I saw on a résumé once from a guy seeking a job with our marketing team: "I am seeking a position in pubic relations." Good luck with that, buddy.


writinguphill said...

A former colleague of mine in the communications department of a health care system once asked me to proof a short piece she had written introducing a new physician to the community. One sentence included the following phrase: "Dr. So and So is bard certified..." and I wanted to know all about the requirements for becoming "Bard Certified" as a writer of Shakespearean status.

Tawna Fenske said...

writinguphill ha! Bard certified. Quite a handy certification for a physician to have. He can quote Macbeth while performing an appendectomy!