Bring me the Head of Light Entertainment
So, the adventure story I’m writing now is not, strictly, a comedy, even though there are jokes, a few references, and one or two slightly silly bits. But there is also a lot of violence, family issues, and death. There is no contradiction here though – joking and being silly is often the way human beings cope with traumatic and horrible situations.
In the first world war, for example, British soldiers stationed in Belgium found a printing press and started to make their own satirical magazine. They were caught in an industrial war on a massive, friends dying to bullets, artillery, mustard gas, or just the horrible conditions they had to live in. Yet, they made light of it, printing fake ads selling off parts of No Man’s Land, laying odds on the weather (5 to 1 mist, 11 to 2 frost, 8 to 2 chlorine…). But this is what humans do. When confronted with death and terror you learn quick to joke and poke fun at it, not because you’re trying to make light of suffering, but because the alternative is to be utterly crushed by it.
Of course I’m not writing a story set in the first world war. I’m writing a fantasy sci-fi adventure thing. But humans are still the same – being somewhat silly and laughing in the face of death. The trick/difficult part is getting the level of humor right – we’re not writing an absurdist comedy and not looking for massive laughs that would totally upset the tone of everything else going on. Not often anyway. Instead, when I’m writing humorous scenes what I’m looking for is to just make peope smile. Not guffaws – just a happy, contented, ‘awww’ kind of thing that maybe just lasts one or two seconds – before the monster comes in and skewers that character you like.