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So I’m in a creative writing class here in higher education world.  I’ve been asking the professor of this course about writing comedy so she suggested I attempt humor in the ‘special’ (fewer guidelines) assignment we had coming up, using our English: Creative Writing 203 class as the targeted audience (sounds like I’m selling Cool Whip) because, and I gesturingly quote, knowing your audience is the key to unlocking the vault where you will find the keys to comedic writing.

Highlighting the dysfunction of our class and other classes I’ve been in, I threw some words together. I incorporated dialogue and employed the ever-useful third person…you know what, just read it:

 

Shattuck Room 306

The ritual taking of attendance reminded some of the college students of middle school while others relished the chance to report their presence. As the professor called out the last few names on the roster, side conversations died down, notebooks were opened, ink levels checked and silenced phones were stashed where their screens were still visible.

“Jillian?”

“Here, Jill please.”

“Sorry, Jill. Jill, Jill, Jill…Catherine?”

“Catie.”

“Catie! Right, I have that written right here…hm, Naoogee Shwa…?”

“Megan, you can call me Megan.”

“Megan? Are you sure? I-”

“Yes.”

“Ok, and, lastly, Rachel, Rachel? Rachel is right next to me. Hi Rachel, hello, ok today we are talking about our descriptions of a stranger. You all followed some unsuspecting Jane or John Doe for fifteen minutes and wrote a real physical description and then you put this person into your own story – Yes? Question?”

The owner of a pink velour sweatsuit, a girl sitting across the table from the professor, held one flat palm in the air, elbow resting on the table. She frowned, scanning a piece of paper as she spoke, “Yes, um, I’m sorry, I don’t understand, I don’t know who those people are, I didn’t know we had to do this on a certain person, I don’t know who John Doe is. It didn’t say anything about that on the assignment sheet…”

The professor, Dr. Alba, nearly hid her smile, “Ok, no, my fault, I’ve clearly been watching too much SVU. Forget about what I just said, it’s just what’s on the sheet. Ok, now I’m passing around a stack of grading rubrics. Please take one and use it to grade the paper of the person to your left, so pass your own paper to the right. Everyone get it?”

The still-warm pile of photocopies shrank as it was passed around the table, murmurs echoed, “Wait, am I passing mine to you?”

“No, I think I’m giving you the paper from the person two seats to my left and then taking yours and crawling under the table to put it in the lap of the person directly across from me…right?”

Dr. Alba intervened, “Guys, are we playing telephone here? What’s going on, just pass your own paper to the right. And you should’ve gotten the pile of rubric that’s going around…everyone have that?”

“I didn’t get that…”

“Yeaa…I think this is it.”

“No, I still need that.”

“What’s a rubric?”

“The pile’s gone.”

A bird perched on the windowsill shivered in the wind and watched the people in the room shuffle through and spread around all of their white sheets, wondering if they had, in fact, lost their minds.

The professor, chin on her hand, opened her mouth to speak, then closed it along with her eyes.

Just as the thought of pulling the fire alarm to end this misery passed through a few people’s minds, someone cheerfully shouted, “Got it! Here’s the pile, I was sitting on it, oops.

Summoning all of the patience she had saved for waiting in line to receive her complementary Winter Scent candle, Dr. Alba calmly addressed the class, “Please, now, take a moment to read your neighbor’s paper and fill out the rubric.”

Ten minutes later.

“Is everyone all set? Ok, Alice, why don’t you start us off.”

Alice resembled a shrew. No one really knew what a shrew looked like, but everyone came to the conclusion on their own that she was very shrew-like. That, and her last name was Shrew.

With her eyebrows trying to reunite with her head hair, Alice began her editorial critique, “Well, first off, plot development. The paper I read only has six sentences and I’m pretty sure we had a 1000 word minimum, so there isn’t much to work with but, anyway, she talks about a milkman and some sort of carnival ride operator going scuba diving at the Guinness factory…I don’t really get some of the imagery there… I was supposed to circle clichés, right? Well here I circled ‘the night was black as a crow as the crow flies’, which is actually my favorite line because it is so poetic and cryptic-”

Dr. Alba had not been listening. She was captivated with a dash of horrified watching Tara slowly wave her hand in the direction of Lucy who had zoned out staring at Tara’s chin. Both the professor and Lucy were brought back to the classroom when Pita interrupted Alice to ask a clarifying question.

“Sorry, may I just ask, how are we supposed to know if we are using a cliché?”

Everyone silently turned to face the professor.

“That, Pita, is a great question to ask. Good question. It is definitely hard for non-native speaker, but-”

“I’m from Colorado.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t know why- well to answer your question, a cliché is a phrase that has been so hackneyed, or overused, that it is almost meaningless. It’s all about captivating your reader!”

Rachel’s hand shot up, “Oh!”

“Yes, Rachel.”

“Oh, that reminded me, in my paper I, oh what was it, I’m sorry I forgot where I was going with that.”

The professor clasped her hands. “Ok. Alice please go on.”

“I’m done, professor.”

Some people heard Dr. Alba mutter “me too” under her breath before she announced, “Now, we are going to switch it up, enough of this rubric business. I’d like everyone to put their head down on the table. Heads down, everyone, go ahead. With your eyes closed, imagine the story you just read, your neighbor’s story… and, now, um…. pick a character from that story to, oh, to enter your own story that you wrote. Ok?”

The bird was still on the sill. He saw the people with their heads on the table except for one, who slowly tiptoed out of the room.

 

                                                                                  cheese.

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