Funny Business

July 16th, 2010

What makes you laugh? Who makes you laugh?

When you think about it, locally, we seem to be suffering from a comedy deficit these days. Humor columns in Honolulu newspapers are now a thing of the past. We don't really have a homegrown version of the Daily Show or an Onion style parody of Hawaii news that I'm aware of.

While much has been made about the consolidation of TV news and the two daily papers, I think there is potentially more money in funny. I'd love to see some out-of-work newspaper people put together an page or do a Honolulu Weakly parody, for example. In Hollywood, many aspiring writers and filmmakers have gotten their big breaks by making shorts that spoof blockbusters or certain movie icons.

Being funny in print or on demand is actually pretty hard work. As a screenwriter, I've written comedies that prompted veteran Hollywood people to say they laughed out loud, which was rare for them. But when I was on the phone with one producer, she said: "I sense you're a funny person. Not that you've said anything funny while we've been talking." I felt like she was waiting for me to deliver witty banter on the spot. However, my best lines usually come to me when I'm in the bathroom or taking a shower. Oscar Wilde, I'm not.

I bring this up because we wanted to add more humor to our Career Changers TV show, so we got writer Charley Memminger to do some on-camera pieces for us. His first, airing on the current show, was about traveling to the Mainland for job interviews. His second, which will be in the August episode, is about his experiences with the unemployment office.

As it happens, Charley just received another national honor to go along with past awards he won for his Star-Bulletin column. He took third place in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2010 Contest in the humor division for newspapers with over 100,00 circulation. The judge was Mike Deupree, author and former columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Deupree wrote: "I was immediately receptive to Memminger's work because there is something intrinsically funny, at least to an Iowan, about somebody in Hawaii bitching about the weather."

Charley's reaction to the news was, well, typical Charley: "So I'm still the only national award-winning unemployed columnist in Hawaii."

To see him in his new gig as CCTV humor contributor, go to our website for daily viewing times on OC16.

BTW, am I the only one who thinks most of the comic strips in the Star-Advertiser are pretty lame and unfunny? (For wry, occasionally profane deconstructions of long-running comics, check out The Comics Curmudgeon.)

4 Responses to “Funny Business”

  1. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc:

    I stopped reading daily comic strips a kazillion years ago even though I used to work as a comedy writer too. Did an internship on one of NBC's sitcoms while at UCLA which led to paid gigs for the next two seasons. If our personal economic world hadn't blown up here in Hawai`i about then, I wonder where I'd be today. Back then, telecommuting and work conference calls were only available to a few people in high-tech industries which did not yet include the media.

    Does Charley have his own blog? I certainly wouldn't mind adding it to my Favorites list.

  2. Rich Figel:

    At the moment, Charley is perhaps the only writer I know who does NOT have a blog. I think it's difficult for professional writers to give away their talent and skills for free. You could say the internet has devalued the writer as a commodity.

  3. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc:

    Why isn't he writing for Civil Beat? I thought they paid their staff.

    I know a number of writers by reputation - not personally - who started writing fo'free and wound up being paid by on-line publications for their work. Of course, these folks are doing a wide range of political stuff, but somehow I feel that funny stuff would actually be easier to sell both to the website owners as well as to the readers.

  4. Rich Figel:

    Mmmm... think you'd have to ask John Temple at CB why they hired who they hired, and not others like Charley.

    The NY Times had an interesting article about journalism and trying to make money off blogging/online writing. Here's the link to "Putting a Price on Words" article.


    And therein lies the catch — for The Faster Times, for many similar start-ups and for the entire industry of media, old and new. No one seems to know how to value the product anymore. This isn’t a lament about declining standards of quality or the rude incursions of amateur bloggers. In fact, thanks to the Internet, people probably read more good journalism than ever. That’s precisely the problem: the sheer volume of words has overwhelmed a business model that was once based on scarcity and limited choice.