Humor in Books, and Other Places, Too! An Interview with Peat Long

KRRL- What is the last thing that literally made you laugh out loud?


PL- Hmm. Hmm! This question probably shouldn't be so hard. I think I laughed at the predictability of me going out to the shop for one thing and coming back with a totally different set of things earlier; I think I laughed at something in Cowboy Bebop. I know I laughed at Avatar: The Last Airbender's The Warriors of Kyoshi episode though. There's something about the glee Suki and Sokka have in each other's comeuppance that gets me every time.

KRRL- What kinds of things do you usually find to be funny?


PL- Most things! The world is inherently funny. I have a particular soft spot though for spectacular insults (The Thick of It is fantastic here - "as useless as a marzipan dildo" to pick one), pratfalls and other acts of comic physical violence, and people being exasperated by others bad behaviour. They can't take it lying down though, which means it oftens marries well with said comic physical violence. The amount of times Lana shoots Archer in Archer because he's being an insufferable baby is a great example of both. I don't have the most sophisticated sense of humour, I'm afraid to say...

KRRL- Name a few books that have made you laugh.


PL- Discworld. Pratchett's Discworld can give me incurable giggles that go on for minutes. I'm trying to think which book I'd say is funniest. Maybe The Hogfather and Interesting Times, because they both feature people doing tasks they are completely unsuited for. Other books and series that have made me laugh have been Joe Abercrombie's The First Law, Leigh Bardugo's King of Scars, Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth... oh! And Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds. Few fantasy authors executed a long joke just like Hughart.

KRRL- I haven't heard of Bridge of Birds, but I'm intrigued!


PL- "My surname is Li and my personal name is Kao, and there is a slight flaw in my character"...

Bridge of Birds is a mystery/fairy tale retelling/adventure set in a mythic version of Ancient China, and it is wickedly funny, often with the emphasis on wicked. The flaw in Master Li's character is he knows it's fun to do bad things. That's why he, an elderly genius, has taken to being a detective in the hopes of staving off boredom. It's also why he's the only detective who'll help Number Ten Ox when the children of his village are poisoned. Some of Master Li's methods for finding the truth, or just a little more money to keep investigating, are just a little dodgy. But they're often ridiculous. I think my favourite one is when seeking to punish a murderer, he very elaborately goads them into fainting in outrage.

Right down a well.


KRRL- How do you incorporate humor into your writing/blogging?


PL- Sometimes I go for overtly comic article ideas. What Wing Sauce flavour would each Game of Thrones character be? What football chants would crowds sing for various characters? What's the funniest book title you can get by swapping one word out for bone? (the most cursed one I found came from Narnia). But a lot of the time it's about just trying to slip a few pieces of humour in here and there. I find blogging doesn't always work great for overt jokes, so it's more about presenting things from the book in a way where you hope people empathise with the ridiculousness, and share the humour with you.


KRRL- Is there anything off-limits in comedy?

PL- I don't think so. There's quite a few things where you're not going to make friends making jokes about them, but that doesn't make them off limits. Humour is a way of testing taboos and venting a build up of dark emotions is much as anything, and how can there be limits when that's happening?

KRRL- I hadn't heard it put quite like that, yet. I like that.


On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being dead serious, and 10 being non-stop jokes) what is the level of humor you usually prefer to read?


PL- Ooh. Tricky one. I mean, I love it at both ends of the spectrum when it's done well. But I think I'm looking for a 6 or so? I love the funny. But the funny is at its best when it's cut with drama, sadness, all that good stuff. It puts it into more contrast, gives it more weight. Allows you to pull more surprises.

KRRL- What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you?


PL- Honestly? The time I was at the train station on the way back from school and a pigeon shat on my head. One of the kids there was creased up laughing - not a lad I was that friendly with - and said "I'm sorry, but it's really funny". And all I could think was "yeah, fair enough".


KRRL- A bird shitting on someone's head is always funny. Sorry...


What is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen/heard/read/written?


PL- Hmm.

Bill Bailey - U2 Failure - Part Troll - YouTube This. I actually saw him do this live and it was just perfect. I mean, there's a hundred other things I can pick, but this will never be a bad choice.


KRRL- That is hilarious! Not a bad choice at all!


While teetering on the razor’s edge of the all-consuming void, is humor the best tool we have to fight the existential dread of a finite and bewildering existence?


PL- The best tool? I reckon complete non-attachment, or powerful religious faith, or being too busy to care about it are all probably better. But most of us aren't wired that way, are we? Simply not caring, or not believing in the finiteness, are better, but for everybody else, there's laughter.


KRRL- Good point! Religious fervor, or laughter... I think you're totally right, but I'm going with laughter.


What projects do you have out in the world, and where can we find them?


PL- So far it's just the blog at Peat Long's Blog – My ramblings on Fantasy, Writing, and Anything Else I Like (wordpress.com) - but I'm hoping to get some stuff out there soon!