2012 NMAs: Humour

No piece of writing has made me laugh more than the Scholastic Books adaption of Spaceballs. I remember reading it on a family camping trip and doing my best to muffle my snorts and snickers as everyone was sleeping in our small tent trailer. Ultimately, I’m told, I did a bad job of muffling.

For my look at the humour category, Spaceballs will be the benchmark of funny. Does a humour piece evoke as much ha-ha as the young-adult novelization of the Mel Brooks film? If not, where on the scale from Spaceballs to a tax form does the article fall? My guess is that nothing will match Spaceballs because that book is 100 per cent pure giggle juice for a 12-year-old boy.

While “How I Lost the War Against War and Learned to Love Arnold Schwarzenegger” by Caroline Adderson (Eighteen Bridges [.pdf of story]) and “Jessica Grant on How She Survived Her First Hurricane” (ELLE Canada [.pdf of story]) are funny and fantastically written, they are not very Spaceballs. Their humour is much more understated, more grown up. Adderson writes about trying to raise her son to eschew anything that resembles violence or aggression. That means no water pistols or shoot-’em-up movies. It’s her battle against Boy. Grant’s story is a nicely off take on weathering Hurricane Igor in Newfoundland. Its humour is wry and sneaks up on you. As for emotional reactions, the story did make me wince because it features some significant oral surgery and its aftermath. These are both great stories, but I think their low Spaceballs ranking will keep them from gold. (The judges also use the Spaceballs scale, right?)

“Housebroken” by Pasha Malla (The Walrus) got a snort out of me with a well placed swear. Nice work.

I didn’t dig Jonathan Goldstein’s “China in 72 Hours” (enRoute [.pdf of story]), which is weird because I’m a fan of his National Post column. Maybe it’s the Spaceballs goggles. Now that I think of it, his radio show has made me laugh out loud, but I don’t think his prose ever has.

“Mostly Awesome, with Brief Periods of Terrible” by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall (explore [.pdf of story]) is solid. However, the chronicle of a hike that went pretty off the rails provoked more winces than guffaws. explore also gives us Ian Brown’s fitness adventure involving roller skis [.pdf of story]: high wit and high speeds.

And there’s the Scott Feschuk trilogy that features Tim Tebow, summer camp and Stephen Harper. “A Reading from the Book of Tebow” (Sportsnet) is a good riff, in a biblical mode, on the quarterback’s religiosity and NFL zealotry. “James and the Giant Poo” (Maclean’s) is the anti-ode to summer camp. My favourite of trio is “‘The what? I thought I was against those.’” (Maclean’s), an interview between 2005 Stephen Harper and 2011 Stephen Harper. It’s solid satire, which I sometimes feel is tougher than farce or straight wit. Satire works from a moral base. Both the writer and reader have to share in the world of right and wrong encompassed in a work. You know, like, eating babies is wrong. We all agree, right? Feschuk takes aim at hypocrisy and political cynicism. Satire—the best tool for calling bullshit on bullshit.

Well, it seems I’ve strayed from the Lone Starr/Barf/Dark Helmet/Princess Vespa perspective. To get back on track, I’m happy to announce that Bruce McCulloch’s “The Mouse and I: A Love Story” (Swerve) is the Spaceballiest of the category. The Kid in the Hall’s look at the effects of rodents in his house provoked one full-on laugh and another snort. It’s the edgiest of all the nominees and not just because he uses the phrase “eye-raped,” but that helps. This story should win gold. However, I’m not ready to put all my money on McCulloch. I think all that Feschuk in this category portends something. To metaphorically bet against my team, I’ll say “James and the Giant Poo” for the win. Everybody loves “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” tales of camp. And it has “poo” in the headline, which is very Spaceballs.

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