By Neta Fudim, Claudia Keurdjekian, Thomas Leclaire, Anthony Sciola, Alex Mukwende
When one thinks of humour in literature, they usually envision cliché jokes and anecdotes. However, by reading the writer digest article, we have come to realize that humour is sometimes achieved by simply surprising the readers. According to reader’s digest, “(…) while we think of comedy in terms of exaggeration or fabrication, effective humor can be just as much about creative misdirection—engaging readers by taking them someplace they don’t expect to go(…).” Metaphors and similes are also a powerful tool in creating good humour. Lethem often does this through Lionel’s tics. Using word-play with similar words or sounds is also a technique we observed in the novel. One example of this is during the stake-out when Frank is talking to Lionel:
““(…) You get Gilbert, get back in the car, get ready to follow. You got it?”
Get, get, get, GOT! Said my brain. Duck, duck, duck, GOOSE!” (Lethem, 8)
Novel Now suggests “Writing humour successfully relies on things like timing, vocabulary, tone and even the length of sentences. It may take more effort than any other type of writing, but it is crucial that it looks effortless.” Indeed, in Motherless Brooklyn all the jokes are subtly weaved into the dialogue. One moment that we all found funny was when Lionel was telling his octopus joke to Minna:
Guy gets nervous, comes over to the bar says to the octopus-Accupush! Reactapus!--says to the octopus, fuckit, says gonna fuckit—says “What’s the matter? Can’t you play it?’ And the octopus says ‘Play it? If I can figure out how to get it’s pajamas off, I’m gonna fuck it!” (Lethem, 27)
This is funny because the octopus thought the bagpipes were “octapipes” (Lethem, 26) and his tics were giving away the punchline.