I Get By With A Little Help From Humor

I write in a variety of genres: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and the interesting thing that seems to permeate everything I write is that I have a satirical voice. Personally, I find that injecting humor into my pieces is what helps the reader digest my strongly worded messages. Humor is agnostic. Although not everyone enjoys my sense of it, and to them I say “chacun son gout,” nonetheless it can make both the acts of writing and reading easier. Even in the darkest moments of my life, when I’m on the other side of an open grave burying a loved one, or sitting in the emergency room with a bleeding child, I can find the funny to help get me through those times.

Also, I find that humor helps me to write from another perspective, usually when it’s writing in a male voice, socioeconomic status, or even religion. I’m a mid-thirties, Jewish, married, petite mother of two. Yet, I write satire short fiction from all points of view: men, women, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, religions, atheist, rich, poor, white, polka-dotted, and what have you. For example, when news of a Jewish orthodox rabbinate dictate was reported on, which stated that Jewish married men, whose wives failed or were unwilling to provide them with progeny, were allowed to take a kosher concubine, my feminist mind went ballistic. Of course, I was angry, this was another way misogyny and religions were joining forces to further subjugate women. However, what the world didn’t need was the voice of another angry woman telling men (in this case of the cloth) how wrong they were. Instead, I flipped the issue on its head. Wouldn’t it be funny if the Jewish wives in this situation were enslaved in marital unions where their husbands’ swimmers were less than Olympic in nature? And, wouldn’t it be a riot if not only these women could have a kosher mancubine (my made up word for a male mistress), but found them through speed dating? Hence, Kosher Pickles was born.

In addressing issues of gun control, mass shootings, online parenting forums, and even my postpartum figure, I write from that funny place deep inside that knows no bounds, and generally has to be restrained. Recently, I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about the spate of recent shootings in the United States, initially inspired to write it by the UCSB shooting wherein the shooter felt entitled to kill women because women had sexually rejected him. In that piece, I addressed the nonsensical and unintelligent remark made post-shooting by the Tea Party and Sarah Palin’s golden boy: Joe the Plumber, which was that one’s dead children don’t trump his right to bear arms. I wrote that “[t]he unclogger of feces-plugged toilet drains, feels he is entitled to own guns,” to which someone commented about how Joe’s stupidity has nothing to do with being a plumber. The person who made the comment is 100 percent right, but sadly missed my use of humor. Joe, who makes a living unclogging drains, was busy clogging the airwaves with his sound bite. There was a play on words in my statement, not an attack on his profession. Rather, my attack was on what he said.

My debut novel, Deathbed Dimes, I wrote about chauvinism confronted by women in law, women’s pursuit of work-life balance, and the zeitgeist of greed fueling estate litigation battles, all from a place of comicality. Please don’t interpret what I’m writing to mean that chauvinism is funny, or that people fighting over an inheritance is slapstick — neither are. However, if we stopped to look beyond the pale of the serious problems plaguing society, using humor not merely as a form of relief, but also instruction — as was done in Ancient Grecian times where political satire was employed to influence public opinion — and acknowledge the absurdity of the solemn, a shared language could emerge to resolve the grim issues of the day. Or, maybe that is the best joke I’ve written in a long time.

At the end of the day, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, how can we truly laugh at anything?

Naomi Elana Zener is a new writer with a fresh satirical voice. She’s the author of both Deathbed Dimes, which is available now, and satire short fiction, which is posted on her blog Satirical Mama. Her vociferous blogging has been read and appreciated by industry bigwigs such as Giller Prize winner Dr. Vincent Lam and New York Times best-selling author and journalist Paula Froelich. Naomi blogs for Huffington Post and her articles have been published by Erica Ehm’s Yummy Mummy Club. Naomi is also a practicing entertainment attorney and lives with her husband and two children in Toronto. She’s currently working on her sophomore novel. Follow her on Twitter: @satiricalmama