Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Death by Cookie

I remember once when I was a teenager, I was sitting at a table across from my best friend Brian and we were demolishing … as only a couple of teenaged boys can … a plate of enormous chocolate chip cookies.  And when I say enormous, I mean cookies about the size of my credit card debt.
“Bet you can’t get a whole cookie in your mouth,” he challenged.
Ah, a dare.    “Oh, yeah?” I retorted, and without thinking I jammed an entire cookie in my mouth.
His eyes widened, in admiration … and hopefully … shock and awe.  Then his eyes narrowed, and he quickly stuffed one in his mouth.  Because this is what guys do.  Dumbness and dumbness repeated.
So we leveled a look at each other over the table like Clint Eastwood and a bad guy. 
Then I tried to bite down on the cookie.  But couldn’t. It was wedged too far in my mouth.  I tried to break the cookie in half with my tongue.  It … the cookie … was too thick.  Frantically I tried to poke a finger in my mouth to break the cookie’s clutch.
Nothing.  There was no room for my finger.  I grabbed a shoehorn … no, I didn’t … but I wish there had been one.  I looked up and saw that Brian was having the same problem.  His mouth was stretched out like a hammerhead shark with a mouth full of tennis racquet.
Then I started laughing. Not much of a laugh, mind you.  More like a choked, gargling sound like what a gum chewing turkey might make.  Brian saw me laughing, and the wave of laughter carried him away.  He dissolved in silent laughter, tears of mirth leaking from his eyes.  He crumpled and fell to the floor.  I wasn’t far behind.
Laughing, not dying.  But if I was going to die, there are worse ways to go than dying while laughing.
Until this moment I had never understood the phrase, ‘rolling on the floor laughing.’  Anyway, when God invented enzymes and acids and stuff to break down foods in our mouths and stomach, I doubt if He did so with figuring it would save me from a cookie some day.  
When I write, I write what makes me laugh.  Manic dialogue, ridiculous situations and a frenetic pace.  Things that are funny because they are true, or funny because they are unexpected.  
I draw upon techniques that the great comedians have gleamed over the years.  Like the observational humor of the late, great George Carlin, “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster is a maniac?”  Or misdirection, a favorite technique of Steven Wright, “I bought some batteries, but they weren’t included.  So I had to buy them again.”
My first attempt at writing a book was a horror demon book and my second was a kidnapping book.  Neither saw the light of day or of one of those really bright moon-lit nights or even the muted glow of a night light.  Then one day I bonked my elbow on something which reminded me that I had a funny bone.  What’s more fun to read than fun stuff, things that make you chuckle, laugh or snort your Dr. Pepper? 
So as long as I can avoid death by cookie (you know, like a sudden cookie avalanche, or stumbling into a vat of cookie dough that sucks me down like quicksand, or the Cookie Monster crawls out from under my bed to devour me like a Norm-Oreo cookie), I'm gonna keep writing humor. 

(Norm Cowie is the founder of the Humor Writers of America and author of seven humor books.)

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