Sunday 27 November 2022

Behind a Screen, you say? Writing Comedy as an Older Woman

 On SLEUTHSAYERS, with the following post, repeated here for my regular readers...

Today, I'm writing a serious blog.  ('NO!  Don't do it!  Don't-' [ sound of body being dragged offstage...])

 I write comedy.  I wrote stand-up and had a regular column gig for several years.  I opened conferences on the speaker circuit  Nowadays, most of my crime short stories and novels are (hopefully) humorous.  My blog...well, that sometimes goes off the wall.

But I'm noticing that as I get older, if I do comedy in person, it seems to be more shocking.  Or rather, I am shocking people more.  They don't know how to take it.  I see them gasp and act confused.  Did I really mean what I said just then?  Was it meant to be funny?

I don't believe it's because I'm writing a different level of material.

So why?  Why does my comedy seem to shock people more than it did thirty years ago?

It's not the material.  It's my age.

Writing comedy when you are 30 is 'cute.'  I can't tell you how many people told me that I 'looked cute on stage' as I innocently said some outrageous things that made people laugh.

Now I know this is a controversial statement to put forth.  So let me say that this has been my experience, and perhaps it isn't everyone's.  But I have found that saying outrageous things on stage when you are 60 is not cute.  Women over 60, in my experience, are rarely described as 'cute' (unless they are silly and feeble and very old.)  Women over 60 cannot carry off 'innocent' (unless portraying someone very dumb.)  Women over 60 are expected to be dignified. I've found that women my age are not well received by crowds (especially liquored-up crowds.)

Phyllis Diller was a wonderful comic.  She did outrageous things on stage, and we laughed with her.  But she dressed like a crazy-woman and had us laughing AT her.  Some women I know dislike the fact that Diller made herself ridiculous in front of an audience.  I don't, because I know why she did it.

Here's the thing:  comedy is by nature dangerous.  It often makes fun of things that other people take seriously.  In fact, it's almost impossible to write or perform comedy and not offend someone, somewhere.

Women who are young and pretty can get away with murder.  Even better, they can get away with comedy.

But a woman over 60 who makes of fun of younger women is (often) seen as jealous, not funny.  A woman over 60 who makes fun of men is (often) viewed as bitter, not funny.  A woman over 60 who makes fun of other women over 60 can get away with it, but the big audience isn't there.

There are simply far fewer things an older woman can get away with poking fun at.

So what's a poor old gal to do?

I've been supremely lucky.  I've been able to transfer my somewhat madcap comedic style to writing books.  I can still make my living in comedy, but it's from behind a screen now.  The written page is a delightful medium that leaves much to the reader's imagination.

Which is probably a good thing, because right now I'm doing the Covid braless shlep-dress thing at this computer.  You don't want to see it.

Melodie Campbell gets paid to write silly stuff for unsuspecting publishers.  Her 17th book, The Merry Widow Murders, from Cormorant Books, is now available for preorder.

 The Author in her comedy days...

 The Author today...

Sunday 13 November 2022



from Cormorant Books! Now available on Amazon and Indigo for preorder! Many thanks to the readers who let me know. (Yes, there will be the usual ebooks.)

The Merry Widow Murders: Campbell, Melodie: 9781770866928: Books -