Tag Archives: comedy

The Challenge of Writing Funny Stories During Covid-19

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, I have often wondered how other artists were coping with it, and how their creative processes were impacted.

In the beginning of the self-isolation period, this was all very new to us and like most people, I turned to the news to remain informed and to try to make sense of it. But it didn’t matter which channel I watched, even when the coverage was seemingly balanced and factual, it was scary. For an empathetic, sensitive person, the statistics alone drew very strong emotions.

In trying to find levity, I turned to social media only to find many people posting the same news articles that were starting to get me down in the first place. In the spirit of psychological self-preservation, I had to taper my news consumption and to self-isolate from social media.

When times get tough, I have the honour of being able to say that I can turn to my art to try to keep my mind occupied and to centre myself.

In the early years of writing this blog, I made the conscious decision that I wanted this to be a light, safe and fun place for people to turn. This was as much for the readers as it was for me. Once I reached that decision and found my voice, the stories followed without having to look too hard for them.

As the pandemic struck, I already had several blog posts in first draft, recounting the stories of stress, anxiety and unexpected humour behind the recent purchase of a home and the selling of my current home.

Finalizing those blog posts and keeping to my usual posting schedule was relatively easy. Coming up with new material after that series was surprisingly challenging.

I think it would be fair to say that for writing, inspiration can sometimes be a tricky thing. The “Eureka!” moment of a viable story idea and the discipline to write come from within. But the content that goes into the story often comes from threads of human experience.

That was when I realized how so much of my blog content is based on social interaction and how difficult it can be to write a blog post with a sprinkle of observational humour, when interactions with other human beings are suddenly scarce.

Let’s face it, when the trips outside of the house have been limited to grocery stores, pharmacies, the occasional take-out food and the curb-side pick-up of pet food and cat litter, that’s not a lot of opportunity to observe people’s foibles or for funny things to happen.

However, there was that one time I went to get a squirt of hand sanitizer which missed my hand completely and landed as a spoonful-sized cloudy blob near the bottom of my shirt. Fortunately it happened as I was entering a store that was limiting access to only a small number of shoppers at a time, so it’s not like many people could point or stare. Plus, I was wearing a mask at the time, so it’s not like they’d know it was me.

But beyond that, even if I returned to my index cards and journals to build stories based on past observations, will the posts need more setting up and explaining that these were pre-social distancing observations? Will they still strike the same chord with readers who are in the social distancing frame of mind?

But before I got too worked up in trying to make a blog post fit like a square peg in a round hole, in occasionally keeping an eye on my blogging statistics, I discovered that two past posts saw a huge spike in page views. Interestingly, they were appropriate for Covid-19 times, but never mentioned a word of it: “50 Reasons Why I Like Baking” and “Where Have All the Exercise Shows Gone?” a funny combination in itself.

Maybe there is a bit of the “Field of Dreams” movie’s philosophy when it comes to writing blog posts: “build it and they will come”… sooner or later.

Maybe writing a relatable story can be simpler than we think.

Perhaps in the same way that we’ve all had to adapt to new ways of doing things, as artists, we may also need to adapt and dig deeper to find the lighthearted stories that connect us, even in the absence of social interaction.

I sometimes wonder if in our “old normal” there was so much funny material to draw from that we didn’t have time to notice all of it. Or perhaps because of its abundance, we filtered out much of it, to the point that we may not recognize it in our “new normal”.

Either way, one certainty in life is that irony and humour are still there and will always be. We just need to keep an open heart, mind and spirit to allow those moments to tickle our funny bone, and then to do our best to share those stories with others.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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When Did Everything Become an “Experience”?

Back in my school days, I was a huge fan of marketing classes and thought that one day I might want to work in advertising. Life took a different spin and I didn’t end up working in that field, but I still had the opportunity to put some marketing know-how to good use in the field that chose me.

Just the same, as much as I bow to the wisdom of the marketing masters, I really don’t understand when or why everything suddenly became an “experience”.

Picking up something at the store has become a retail experience. Getting a bite to eat has become a dining experience. Music is now a listening experience and movies are now a viewing experience.

Did everything have to become an experience?

I was amused when I recently visited an establishment and noticed a poster prompting readers to tell management about their experience. The odd thing is that it was posted in the men’s washroom.

What would I have written back? Do they really want a description of my bathroom experience? (Careful what you wish for! Creative types with a sneaky sense of humour might actually take you up on the offer.)

“My approach to the urinal was a pleasant one as the aroma of disinfectant pucks filled my sinuses with a gentle, welcoming blend of lavender and chlorine.

The automatic flushing mechanism was very effective in bathing the urinal in a fresh cascade of water, reminiscent of a serene waterfall, a perfectly choreographed three seconds after I stepped away. I couldn’t have cued it better if I had flushed it myself. Continue reading

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10 Things You Must Never Do at a Comedy Show

Over the years, I have had the great pleasure of attending many stand-up comedy shows. I have always been a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine and that a good dose of belly laughs can be a welcomed break from the seriousness of the world.

I have been most fortunate in being able to catch a few shows a year, whether they featured major icons of comedy or rising young stars who were able to successfully guide us into taking a step back and have a chuckle at the silliness that surrounds us.

I would even add to the mix certain musical artists who share so many funny stories between sets of music that you aren’t sure whether you saw stand-up comedy with a side order of music or music with a side order of stand-up comedy.

Either way, I am most grateful for the artists who have the knack for telling a funny story and made a few hundred or a few thousand people laugh. It’s an incredible talent and a joy to behold!

To me, the show that will always be remembered most fondly is a Just for Laughs Gala in Montreal hosted by the legendary Joan Rivers, a couple of years before her passing.

But over the years, I have had many eyeball rolling moments at audience members. I often ask myself if they’ve ever been to a comedy show as they seem to break every unwritten rule about attending a comedy show and in some cases, annoying the rest of the audience.

To help set the record straight, here are my suggestions of things you should NEVER do at a comedy show: Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Lists, pop culture

A Half-Baked Post about the Importance of Halves

Do you remember those childhood days when adding “… and a half” to our age was of critical importance? I was watching a TV show recently where they interviewed a young star who was asked how old he was. When he added “…and a half” it took me back. Waaaay back!

I can’t remember exactly when I started, but I recall adding “… and a half” to my age since the beginning of the school years when fractions were first introduced. “What a great invention!” I thought.

When I place myself back in childhood, I remember always being one of the shortest kids in my group of friends and when grown-ups would be guessing my age, they were always on the younger side.

While I’d like to think I’ve acquired better social skills since then, at the time, I did not hesitate in correcting those crazy grown-ups by telling them exactly how old I was. It seemed like adding “…and a half” proved them even more wrong.

In my 20’s, as my career was just starting, those halves would still show up from time to time in response to how many years I had been in the work force or how many years I lived in that first apartment, but the halves started losing their importance and fading from vocabulary. Continue reading

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When Money Talks

Shopping CartsIt was a quiet Friday night at the grocery store, picking up the essentials for the week ahead, when I spotted it on the floor, peeping out from behind the rack of discounted fruit. A five dollar bill!

As human nature would suggest, I took a look around, as if somehow the link between this five dollar bill and anyone in the store would be immediately obvious. The store was a ghost town. There was almost no one to be found.

I took another look around, this time to see if anyone else saw it. Clearly there was no risk of anyone swooping in to collect it.

Normally, when it comes to picking up a coin off a sidewalk, I wouldn’t think twice or look twice to locate an owner. I would just do it. But this case seemed different. Maybe it was because it was private property. But what hit me the strongest was the fact that it was five dollars, not five cents.

As these thoughts were blazing through my mind and the ensuing analysis of whether to pick it up or not, I’m not sure if the fumes from my recent oven cleaning had anything to do with it, but I could have sworn the five dollar bill said “Psst… Psst… André! Not meant for you!”

I took another look around to see if anyone else heard that, but again, the nearest customers were either squeezing the Charmin or inquiring about whether they stocked Grey Poupon. I looked down again and considered what the five dollar bill was saying. Continue reading

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Filed under Fiction, Humour, Inspiring, Misc blogs

10 More Things about the Cat That Make Me Laugh

ivyatplayLast year, I dedicated a post to the Top 10 Things about the Cat That Make Me Laugh. A year later, she remains a boundless source of comic relief and a welcome diversion from the preoccupations of adulthood.

Here they are: Ten More Things about the Cat That Make Me Laugh

20- The cat who cried wolf

After almost two years, I am getting pretty good at understanding the subtle inflections of her meows and what they mean. If she meows repeatedly and succeeds in walking me to where she might have a concern (who is training who?), I am usually able to figure out and address the situation. But if I have ruled out issues relating to food, water, litter, sleep, play or her nemesis is at the back window, what else is there? I am convinced that she has learned the art of “crying wolf” just to get some extra attention and getting me to step away from what I am doing. Not so surprisingly, it works.

19- Finding myself trying to explain the story of the cat who cried wolf… to a cat

When I stop myself and realize that I am explaining the story of the cat who cried wolf, I snap myself back into reality upon realizing that I am trying to negotiate with a cat. We all know who wins anyway, right?

18-Galloping during game time

The pure joy she expresses when we start playtime is unmistakable. Her usually gentle, soft footsteps are replaced by the cadence of a prize racehorse, as she gallops around the house running after balls, chasing a piece of yarn or the ever popular laser pointer. I never knew that cats could run quite like that. I don’t get how we never had a series about a bionic cat because I think we have our star right here.

I also discovered that her galloping around the house can also be a sign that #2 is coming soon. I am not sure of the connection, but it seems like more than a coincidence now. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Humour, Lists

Where Did My “Get Up and Go” Go?

Get Up and Go It didn’t seem that long ago that it didn’t matter what day of the week it was, I could put in a full day at school or work, do something during the evening, even if it meant hanging out with friends until after midnight, and still get up the next day, bright eyed and bushy tailed, to grab the bull by the horns, to turn over a new leaf, and to move mountains.

What happened?

I realize that the responsibilities of being an adult do consume a fair bit of time and energy. However, my responsibilities at work translate to food on the table, my mortgage and bills are covered and that I have the means to enjoy fun experiences in my down time.

But lately, a typical Friday night consists of picking up my groceries on the way home, then a reasonable facsimile of a meal for dinner, a glass of wine, watch the news, maybe one prime time show and then I am pretty much ready to call it a night.

When it comes to going out, there have been times that on the way back after an eventful evening, I see carloads of folks half my age headed in the opposite direction on their way out to party. Then I wonder what went wrong. That used to be me… “Where did my get up and go” go?

Worse yet is to wake up one morning and to be hit with the old familiar feeling: every classic symptom of a hangover. Then in thinking back, realizing that the night before was an evening on the couch with the cat, a ginger ale and Netflix. Sigh!

It should come as no surprise that my running joke about having a caffeine I.V. through the day seems to come up more and more often these days. Continue reading

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