Tag Archives: satire

Selling the Absurdity: Why Some Writers Suck at Being Satirical

I enjoy satire quite a bit. That’s not to say I’m the supreme authority on it, but I know good satire when I see it. I’ve read Jonathan Swift, Miguel de Cervantes, Kurt Vonnegut, and Voltaire all with genuine, audible laughter. They all have an ability to use the written word as an épée to foil their critics. When written appropriately, it can be quite disarming.

There are plenty of writers, especially bloggers, who think they’re up to the challenge of acquiring biting, satirical wit. That, in and of itself, is quite admirable. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals and working toward them. Satire is a higher form of comedy. Everybody loves a clown. So, why don’t you?

(I love spooking the anti-clown crowd. Say “anti-clown crowd” five times fast.)

The problem with writing good satire is not remotely believing what you’re writing. It is paramount the article be absurd to a reasonably intelligent human being. We’re not looking for MENSA candidates here, just people who can read well and be rational enough to conceptualize the argument. That way the reader can easily understand what’s being argued and think “there’s no possible way on Earth you mean that!” For example, A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift promotes cannibalism as a way to control population. This is what we call a red flag.

I love absurdity. Its abstraction turns logic on its head and draws a mustache on it for looking stuffy. It’s the rainbow bridging a tortoise and a tea cup. It’s the creative side that spilled the beans and then ate the mailbox. It’s that color I look for in any good satire.

What I find with the novice satirist is they’re not absurd enough, which leads me to suspect they believe what they are writing on some level. That’s just insulting, because then the writer becomes the essayist version of an Internet troll. Anyone who wants to make it in writing will want to avoid that perception at all costs.

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Something Quite Appeeling

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

I, Sir Nathaniel Aloysius Carlisle Humperdink Elderwine XIII, Esq., have accepted to undertake scientific exploits from Her Majesty’s Panel of Frivolousness (HMPF). In my first experiment, I have been commissioned to determine whether or not nail clippings can truly be peeled like bananas. Being selected to test a hypothesis like this was not only a great honour, but a chance to prove myself at panel. It seems the chairman has come to the assertion his clippings are often shaped like bananas, and as such, could be peeled like them. This is an unsurprising declaration from the venerable prolocutor, as bananas have always been his favorite food. On one specific occasion, it has been rumored the Speaker of the Panel arrived at the department gates to find our chairman planting several banana trees in the council room.

First, I needed to obtain a sample of nails for the experiment. While it wasn’t immediately known where I could find such material, I set out to the forest to harvest such a curious item. Many hours were spent in wooded areas admiring the complex nature of these… animals? Vegetables? Minerals? It was a rather good mystery regarding taxonomy. How long has it taken for these… things… to evolve such wonderful camouflage? I dare say millions, maybe even billions, of years. Albeit a bit discouraged, I sat upon a log in a clearing. A strange sight it was! The rather metallic trunks of the tree had grown perpendicular branches exactly two meters in length in front of it. Nature has such a mathematical precision about her! Brilliant, I say! It was almost made for sitting.

During my rest, I was greeting by a nymph of the forest. I knew she was magical, as she was as brown as bark and her head bore four great dimples similar to a fort post. She was as stunning as she was mystifying. The dryad before me conveyed a warning. She said I had not respected the ways of the enchanted forest, and must seek my way out. I was simply dismayed! What have I done to offend nature’s garden? Apparently, making a campfire from the magical barrel of tinder and hunting the rolling beasts at the edge of the forest upset the wood nymph. I had always been under the impression that pack animals made for great sport and fine dining. Little did I know my sabre would prove poor armament against the herd and I was quickly routed in the scuffle.

Upon my trek outward, the dryad insisted upon following me. Undoubtedly, this made me quite nervous as nymphs as well as other enchanted creatures of the forest have been known to make mischief upon weary adventurers. I pressed onward quickly, as to confuse the sprite of my location, but she was now hot on my heels. Using leopard-like maneuvers, I began to climb trees and bound from branch to branch. My skill has not be matched by anyone alive to date! There was little fortune in this action though, as one of the trees dropped its limb and I plummeted toward the Earth. My troubles were far from over, as my landing was situated at the top of a ravine. The bulk of my supplies, as well as few articles of clothing, began to scatter themselves along the bank. I was not able to stop, until a boulder proved a sufficient barrier.

An adventurer/physic/scientist/noble does not let adversity stand in the way of their goals. It would be much easier to retire to my estate after such misfortune, and nurse my wounds with gin and tonic. However, the stoutest of hearts share their lives with history pages, and I took heart once again. My bravery was rewarded with treasure. During my equipment check, my assessment noted the loss of one shoe. I do adore my oxblood wingtips, and grieved a bit for its demise but this grief quickly dissipated once I saw a banana-like formation dangling from my extremity. Carefully, I plucked it from its roost upon my big toe and flipped through my illustrated journal. Indeed! It was exactly the material I needed to proceed with my experiment. The enchanted forest had taken pity on me, and blessed my feet with the power of producing this curious product. Truly, science does not always have the answers to Mother Nature’s abilities. I’ll have to instruct Martha, my faithful servant, to notify me of any other produce the next time she is grooming my feet.

Back in my laboratory, I found my work far from over. It would seem this fruit, as it were, is not to the same scale as my hands. A tragedy indeed, as I am unable to manually peel anything of that size. This required some serious thought. I spent most of the evening up in my study researching books of size. Big books, little books, and mid-sized books all held nothing of value. A setback like this could prove the end of any adventure, but there was room for one last try. Sitting on my throne of the glistening white, I recalled a play from Thomas and Gerald where Thomas made a compact meal of Thanksgiving dinner via the use of alum.

The laboratory could not be close enough. I made a makeshift basin of a mixing bowl and a concoction of one part alum and nineteen parts water. Moving quickly meant less time to reconsider, as the bleeding edge of science can terrify any man. I dipped my hands into the mixture and waited. Minutes were hours in this tortuous game of patience. By the benchmark of ten and five minutes, I retracted my palms to examine the result. There was no noticeable change in the size of my hands, only an advance in age as fine wrinkles appeared on my fingers. Complete failure! In a rush of frustration I dashed the bowl upon the floor and swiped several texts from their shelves. This was not going to be a favorable report for the chairman.

Martha, hearing the calamity, burst through my laboratory doors. She was afraid I had turned myself into ghost again and was trying to walk through walls like last time. Upon seeing my distraught state, I reluctantly told her of my misfortunes. Maybe she thought I was practicing my Vaudevillian skills, as she began laughing hysterically. A flush of anger came over me and I erupted with a passionate objection to which she said, “if you want to play around with your toe nails so badly, why not use some tweezers?” Of course, it’s not my hands that need to be small, rather small instruments. I’m very fortunate to be able to translate plebeian observation into useful scientific action.

With two tweezers and a pair of loops “borrowed” from the jewelry store down the road, I hit my biggest break yet. The texture of the fruit revealed several horizontal lines, something like baklava.  The tweezers were a bit clumsy at times, but with a little effort I found a person could peel portions off the clippings like a banana. Burning Bunsens, it actually worked! I was left with a rough inner core, which was presumably the edible reward of my toil.

The “meat” of the fruit was crispy, flaky, and had a slight nutty taste. A bit dry, I found myself in need of a beverage afterward. It was truly of Divine inspiration overall. Wait until the chairman hears my report! He’ll be delighted beyond words.

As you can see, my dear reader, anything is possible with a lion’s heart and a terrier’s tenacity. You’d do well to remember that on your future journeys. Until next time, I bid you adieu.

Yours Very Truly,

N. A. C. H. Elderwine XIII, Esq.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Maine Philosopher to Receive Prestigious Local Award

Icon corncob with leaves. Français : icone pla...

Dramatization of Copper Corncob Award

Monday marked the arrival of Maine Philosopher Austin Hodgens for his receipt of the Copper Corncob Award for being outstanding in his field. Hooterville periodically bestows the municipal award to any person demonstrating “outstanding examples of American-ality.” With such recognition of minor American holidays and a direct line to large Biblical figures, Mayor Noelle Redenbacher decided it would be a perfect fit for the New Yorker gone Mainer.

When asked why copper was the metal used for the trophy, the Mayorship responded, “that’s a great question. This is a real recent thing, and the first corncob was actually made of gold. Unfortunately, the second time the cob was to be awarded, Cindy Messerschmitt down at the Pig in a Poke Bar ‘n’ Grill needed 32 replacement teeth. Doc Dentine, our local dentist, wasn’t able to procure materials in time, and as a result, we used the gold from cob. In its place, we melted all the pennies we could find and that seemed to work out. By the way, you’re not going to tell the Feds about this are you?”

There was a little trouble on the city’s only landing strip, as Old Farmer McIntyre’s two cows, Millie and Pumpkin, refused to move of the tarmac. With a little luck, and a bit of bribery, the sprightly Cessna was cleared to touch down amid Hooterville’s welcoming committee and the Black Swamp All-Star Jazzercise Squad. They had Austin sweating to the oldies in no time.

After the ceremony, this reporter found Austin running a few laps down a country road in his running toga. “I think it’s wonderful to be recognized by people outside of Maine. It’s a good feeling when you know you’re connecting with others throughout the country.” That’s about all I could record, before I collapsed to the ground. I had to give him my congratulations, and then take a little breather on the asphalt.

Other supporters of Mr. Hodgens were delighted to weigh in support of his recent award. The Hootenanny, the city’s oldest and only newspaper, phoned the campaign offices of Mayor McCheese. The gubernatorial candidate has greatly benefited from the philosopher’s support on his blog. Being that the Mayor was unavailable at the moment, Zeus took the call:


Zeus: This is fantastic. Austin has been an integral part of our campaign, and Mayor McCheese and I couldn’t be more pleased to hear of this accolade.

Me: Is this taking any time away from his support of Mayor McCheese?

Zeus: Oh, no. With the marvels of modern technology, humans can be more omnipresent like me. I think I have the edge in that market though.

Me: Was there any dissent, when news arrived?

Zeus: None at all. Austin is great friends with everyone here at the campaign headquarters. Although we were a little… surprised at the source, considering there have been some unpleasant accusations against the Mayor from your newspaper. Stop making faces, Sir. I can see you; I am still Zeus.

Me: Humph!


…and there you have it, folks! Inspiring new philosophers across this great nation, we here at the Hootenanny look forward to more cutting edge material from the Modern Philosopher soon.

So, what do you think? Was Mr. Hodgens the right choice for this highly-coveted award? Who would be a great candidate for the next time Lulu the Organ Grinding Monkey trades in all of her pennies for bananas? What is the mean airspeed of an unladen swallow? What is your favorite color? Do I have pretty eyes? Where’s my dog and wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?

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The Great Big Mall in the Sky

Even with the pleasure of TSA’s company, I am willing to bring my spirits back into balance. Yes, gentle citizens, I cheer myself up and don’t require the services of another human being to do so. I think that’s a wonderful quality to have, as plenty of other people are seemingly lacking in this department. This is a self-service comedy area, friend.

To my good fortune, there’s always a SkyMall catalog to keep me centered. For anyone who has flown on a plane since the 90s, they will immediately identify with the name and the vast amounts of premium junk hawked within its glossy folds. After all, we’re Americans! If we want to throw our hard earned pay away on the Bedazzler and the Flowbee, then we are free to do so, by God. To quote Philip J. Fry, “shut up, and take my money!”

Let’s take a look at the wonderful merchandise one can buy while flying the friendly skies:

The Solowheel

In an attempt to capture any remaining fervor from the Segway, the good folks at Inventist have offered a single-wheeled solution for all of those lazy unicyclists out there. It’s called the Solowheel, and for a mere $1,800 it could be yours. Annoy your friends, family, and neighbors as they see you rollin’. Don’t worry, they’re just hatin’. It only makes you look like an extra from B.C., the comic strip. This is not to mention you could get a pretty sweet Huffy for a fraction of the cost.

Mounted Squirrel Head

What words are used to describe the Mounted Squirrel Head? Cute and kitschy. If you were going to say “tacky and in poor taste,” I would be right there with you. It seems a bunch of out-of-work realtors have been “retooled” for the advertising industry. The $25 price tag seems a bit hefty, but I’m sure the magic starts once it’s secured to your living room wall. The only time I would purchase one is if it laughed like the deer in Evil Dead 2.

© “Bigfoot, the Bashful Yeti” Tree Sculpture

From the makers of the “Hanging Chimp” statue and the “Grand Tiki” Sculptural Tables comes their greatest polyresin product yet: “Bigfoot, the Bashful Yeti.” Never mind Sasquatch and Yeti mythology are more like kissing cousins, or Bigfoot is arguably more freaked out by flabby white guys in plaid flannel shirts than bashful, this is a treasure with little equal. Think of all the fun you could have entertaining your family:

“Hon-nee! Why are you hiding behind that tree?”

“I’m not, sweetie. I’m right here.”

“Oh! Then who’s that?!”

That is our new ‘Bashful Yeti’ sculpture! Isn’t it adorable? :D”

“Oh! I thought you forgot to wax today.”


Reasonably priced at $70, no wooded residential lot should be with out one. It would be a tragedy to ignore the beauty of this magnificent beast.

Box of Applause & Box of Laughter

This is my personal favorite, and I’ve saved it for last. For $25 per box, the aspiring comedian (ahem) or comedienne can get all of the affirmation their hearts desire with the flip of a lid. In other blogs, I have voiced my opinion on laughing at my own jokes. The point being is if I didn’t laugh at my own jokes, I wouldn’t have an audience. With these little bundles of self flattery, my audience has increased two fold! I won’t double up the count with both boxes, because I’m just that modest.

I don’t know about you all, but all of this SkyMall shopping has made me thirsty. I’ll have to signal over the flight attendant to accommodate me with a half a can of pop and my bag of six complimentary peanuts. So refreshing!

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It’s Probably a Good Thing I Don’t Have Children

After eating two pieces of leftover deep dish and a spoonful of peanut butter while washing it all down with a highball, I’ve concluded I’d be a horrible father. That’s not to say eating pizza and peanut butter in the morning is indicative of poor parenting, but it certainly doesn’t help the case. Does it? No. For those of you falling asleep during the test, the answer is no.

Drinking, on the other hand, is completely understandable. I watch parents with little children and are surprised more of them don’t. I’d be mortified that my theoretical wife lay up in sheer agony for hours merely to give birth to a velociraptor. It would totally be from her side of the family though.

I’ll just be honest about it. I can be a terrible person. I laugh like a jackass when people slip and fall. I laugh when I slip and fall. I have a callous disregard for large-scale injustice (unless it benefits me directly, of course), and I make inappropriate jokes when people kick the bucket. I laugh when a Democrat is elected into office. I laugh even harder when a Republican is elected. I laugh until I cry and say “you get what you deserve, America.” This is not the paragon of fatherhood generally accepted in this country.

Situations between me and my fictitious offspring unfold like scenes from a sitcom gone awry:

Child: *sobbing* “Mommy! Mommy! I dislocated my shoulder!”
Wife: “Oh my God! What did you do?!”
Child: “Daddy said, ‘if I jumped off the roof, I could fly!'”
Me: “That’s a lie! I said if you jumped off the roof and flew, I’d take you to the circus. By take you to the circus, I mean put you in it. You’d make a fine meal ticket.”

*cue laugh track*

Granted, I can be a decent person at times. I give to charity when I can. I’ve thrown away other people’s litter. I’ve notified cashiers their bathroom’s out of toilet paper. I will say, however, that I’m no storybook hero. I’m human. I have flaws, and some of them get in the way. You should also read that as you have flaws, too, and some of them will get in the way. The upshot of that is I’ve not met anyone worth a damn in this world who wasn’t flawed. It’s all part and parcel of being Homo sapiens.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch my imaginary kids learn about the dangers of electricity when they stick their fingers into electrical sockets.

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