Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In the Coop with David Lubar

It's hard not to like a guy who writes about teen misfits with super freaky powers.

It's even tougher not to be excessively fond of a guy who writes about
alien devices that can turn you into Elvis Presley or Queen Victoria.

But it's absolutely impossible not to love a guy who writes about weenies of
various sorts.

Hence, we chicks adore
David Lubar. Keep reading and join the fan club!

How do you know when what you write is funny?
I have an immediate urge to share it with anyone who has the misfortune of being nearby. This is especially the case with small things – one liners or bits of dialogue that I become sort of like a yapping lap dog as I chase my wife down and start chanting, “Read my blog. Read it now. Please. Right now.” It’s much harder to get someone to drop everything and immediately read a whole novel. I suspect my comic sense has also been honed by exposing myself to huge quantities of humor. I’ll always opt for a funny book, or movie, over a sad one. I watch a lot of standup comedy, and try never to miss Jon Stewart. I’ve also done enough reading aloud to get a sense for what works. There’s no tougher audience than 7th graders.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?
I think the main thing to keep in mind is the audience. A stunningly funny passage that requires the reader to be familiar with Henry Mancini, the classical Aztec language, and the exact caloric content of a guava might work fine with a MENSA member, but is going to die on contact when offered to a teen. I should also point out that while there are times when I set out to write something funny, such as when I’m writing a short humor piece, a blog post, or my VOYA column, most of the time I just write, and I have no idea whether any particular scene will be funny, dramatic, horrifying, beautiful, or all of the above. I’ve never sat down with the intention of writing a funny novel. Maybe that’s why the comic and dramatic intertwine in my works. Don Gallo recently asked me for a funny story for his next anthology. I started out with something light, but the plot took a major twist into darkness, and ended up being the most intense story I’ve ever written.

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?
Into trouble on a daily basis. There is this constant flow of puns running through my brain, and I sometimes can’t resist the urge to share them. Being funny probably got me out of some trouble in college because many of my professors found me at least mildly amusing and tended to cut me a break in any sort of borderline situation.

What are some of your favorite funny books?
All of Douglas Adams books, any of Donald Westlake’s humorous novels, The Portable Dorothy Parker (if you feel an instant urge to Spoonerize that title, I feel your pain), The Far Side, P. J. O’Rourke’s books, Chris Crutcher’s King of the Mild Frontier, Joan Bauer’s Rules of the Road, all of Jean Shepherd, James Thurber, and Bruce Coville, to name a few.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?
Dunk. I set it at a place I love – the Jersey shore. If I could also work in the dunk tank, that would be perfect. I’d have them buying hacksaws to get through the bars. Humor can be so wonderfully lethal.

Who do you like more, The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?
While I’m definitely able to enjoy the Stooges, I love the Marx Brothers. They are brilliant in so many ways, from wordplay and slapstick humor to elaborate comic setups and stunningly absurd or surreal situations. Each of the brothers contributed in a special and unique way. While Groucho stands out from the group, I always thought Karl was under-appreciated.

What was your best Halloween costume?
The best idea I ever had was for me and my wife to dress up as Atari joysticks (this was back in the early 1980’s, when I was working as a game designer). Unfortunately, I’m not very good with cardboard. And even if I was good, I doubt it’s possible to make a joystick costume that actually allows the wearer to sit. Since we wore the costumes to a party, that was a bit of a problem. My best costume as a kid was a skull, based on instructions from Famous Monsters of Filmland’s Monster Makeup Book.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?
Stand-up comic. Or the guy who gets to arrest tailgaiters.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch. Pick your winner.
Clowns are evil and they are unafraid to fight dirty. The mime goes down in the first ten seconds. Except for his eyes, which remain on the clown’s fingertips, like weepy olives.

Funniest dead person you’d like to meet?
Dennis Miller. I know that, technically, he might appear to still be alive. But the comic part of him seems to have died. If I met it, maybe I could convince it to recapture his body and exorcise the humorless, conservative demon that is controlling it. As for someone who is dead in all senses of the word, and probably making the most of it, that would have to be Charles Addams.

You’ve written about Lawn Weenies and Road Weenies. What kind of weenies can your readers look forward to next?
In September, kids will be able to warm up to Campfire Weenies. I’m pretty excited about this collection. Along with the usual creepy and funny stories, I have a couple sort of mystical ones that popped up out of nowhere. But the title story is definitely a funny one. Especially if you’ve ever encountered Girl Scout songs. I even have a story that explains why clowns are so creepy.


MotherReader said...

I love this interview, especially the part about him chasing people down to share the funny bit. I do that when I write on my blog. My husband is very indulgent about it.

Anonymous said...

I love David Lubar. Love, love, love his humor. And I really miss being able to read his ideas and comments which he used to share on the AOL writer's boards.
So nice to hear he has a BLOG. I must find time to take a look at it.
And I'm constantly booktalking his books to kids for fun summer reading.
-librarian, writer, mom

(hmmm, no strange letters to reproduce to enable my comments to be added. Wonder if this is going to work. hmmm.)

Lisa Yee said...

Weepy olives? EEeeeuuuewwww, I can't stop thinking about that now.

Other than that, great interview!

Anonymous said...

Y'know, FART is funny no matter what your IQ.

Anonymous said...

i love all your books, they are amazing. the work a genius. True talents and hidden talents are awsome, by far my fayvorite books out there. thank you for your amazing pieces of literature.