I tried to put a panel session together for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Atlanta this spring. The topic was going to be humor, which I thought would go over well. I got my editor at McSweeney’s to consider being on the panel; he knows funny and teaches at a university, so I just needed to find two more people who could speak amusingly and convincingly about humor, satire, the comic, lightedheartedness, whimsy, whatever, to a crowd of writer-teachers and grad students. I couldn’t find any.
The writers I contacted don’t teach and didn’t want the expense of traveling to speak at a conference; the academics who might speak about humor in literature would never go to AWP, since it’s not scholarly. Anyway, the AWP crowd wouldn’t care to hear papers read to them on, say, “Humor Appreciation as an Adaptive Esthetic Emotion” (a very interesting article from Volume 19, Issue 1, of HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research.)
I never set out to write humor, if that’s what I write (I’m sure you have comments on that). But having written for a humor magazine for a year now, I have thoughts about it. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the funniest joke I ever read—maybe the archetype for all humor—which Mark Twain stole from Abe Lincoln.