Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hey, What's So Funny? by Alan Orloff, Guest Blogger

I'm honored to welcome Alan Orloff back as he celebrates the release of Killer Routine, the first novel in the Last Laff mystery series. His debut mystery, Diamonds for the Dead, came out last April and was nominated for the Best First Novel Agatha Award.

There's a good reason for that. Diamonds for the Dead is an excellent mystery. I'm really looking forward to the Last Laff series as well.


Hey, What’s So Funny? by Alan Orloff, Guest Blogger

Thanks, Pat, for inviting me to your blog today. It’s always a pleasure to visit!

I was never the class clown. I was the guy who sat in the very back of the classroom, doing crossword puzzles while the instructor lectured. I was a “don’t speak until spoken to” kind of guy. I preferred it that way.

In smaller groups, of people I knew well, I was a little more outgoing. And I usually went for the one-liners. I didn’t always succeed, but my first instinct was (and still is, usually) to try to come up with something funny/witty/clever to say. I tend to shy away from true, raw emotions, I guess.

Which is fine by me.

So how did I end up writing a series featuring a stand-up comic?

I’ve always loved a good laugh. I still remember when I snuck into a midnight comedy show at a Catskills resort (cliché, huh?) and heard a comic named Joey Villa. I laughed until I cried (what? I was about fifteen—everything remotely dirty seemed funny to me). The next day, my ribs ached.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed watching all types of comedians. Had I ever thought about getting up on stage and giving it a try myself? No, not really. The closest I got was delivering a roast-type toast at my brother’s wedding (I killed it, by the way).

However, now that I’ve written about a stand-up comic, I had the harebrained idea that I should get on stage to see what it felt like first-hand. You know, immersion research. So I set out to write a little routine (a KILLER ROUTINE, wink, wink), suitable for an open mic night. At least one where everyone is really, really drunk.

Of course, I don’t know if I’ll have the guts to actually follow through with it. I’m not sure I could bear to stand in front of thirty (or more) people expecting me to make them laugh.

Although I do admire the guts of stand-up comics, my desire to write about them goes deeper than that. I want my protagonist to be more than just a funny face. I want him to have some depth. I believe there’s a fine line between tragedy and comedy, and there always has been, especially for many of the most famous, and influential, comics. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, and many others had their share of flare-ups and flame-outs (literally, in Pryor’s case).

That’s the mother lode I wanted to mine.

Make no mistake, the books in The Last Laff mystery series are not light, funny stories. They are suspenseful mysteries (at least I hope so!) with humor running throughout (at least I hope so!). After all, the books are set in the comedy club world.

Hey, did you hear the one about…?


The first book in Alan Orloff’s Last Laff Mystery series, Killer Routine, is now available at your favorite booksellers and on-line. For more information about Alan and his books, please visit his website. Alan blogs at A Million Blogging Monkeys, tweets as @AlanOrloff, and appears on Facebook, also as Alan Orloff. I think he's trying to tell us something.

Alan, thanks again for paying us this most welcome return visit. Let's do it again next year?


Jan Morrison said...

Oh Alan - this sounds great! I think stand up is the hardest gig in the world. In no other way are people so exposed - no role to hide behind, your own material - usually riffs on your own pathetic or killer life. I look forward to reading this.
Patricia - I put a link to your post about clickable signatures on Arlee's comments for those entering the A-Z. Hope people read it and use it!
Jan Morrison

LiliTufel said...

I'm so glad I found this post! I'm married to one of the funniest people I've ever met. My hubby wanted to be a stand up comedian. He's always watching stand ups and taking me to the improv. There is definitely a fine line between tragedy and comedy. Your book sounds very interesting.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Jan -- I agree. Stand-up comedy would be really hard, but I sure love being in the audience. Love improv, too.

Good morning, Lili. Thanks for visiting us this morning. Tell you husband it's never too late. There are open mic nights everywhere (then come back and tell us how he did).

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

I've waited a year for this book. I' going to need it after A-Z.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Mary -- ah, yes. A to Z. I really must get some of those posts written. :)

Anonymous said...

Pat - Thanks so much for hosting Alan.

Alan - You've put your finger on something so essential: characters with depth. There is such a fine line between comedy and tragedy and not to acknowledge that darker side leads, I think, to shallower, flatter characters.

Alan Orloff said...

Jan - Thanks! I've got a pretty thick skin (I'm a writer, after all), but I don't think I handle being on stage, trying to be funny (and failing).

Lili - Well, your husband has at least one fan. If he does make it on stage, be sure to sit in the front row and laugh--real loud!

Pat - You are so right. It's NEVER too late!

Mary - Thanks for your patience! It seems like I've been waiting a while for this book to come out, too!

Margot - Ah, that fine line. A bonanza for the writer!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I can cut up in small groups, but not brave enough to do it on stage.

Talli Roland said...

Great post, Patricia and Alan! I too admire the bravery of stand-ups. There's a weekly feature in London's TimeOut called 'The Night I Died', written by stand-ups. It makes me cringe every time.

Edna Pontillo said...

Looking forward to reading your book, Alan. Thanks, Pat for the intro!

David Orloff said...

As Alan's brother I will attest to it being a killer toast. Alan is being modest. He is very funny. I actually did stand up comedy as I am a very outspoken person. Afterwards, I could not speak in front of a group for a year. When I review the tapes I still think I am funny but the audience does not change their opinion. Sorry Alan, I guess I should have said, "I think you are very funny."

Alan Orloff said...

Alex - I think you nailed it: There's a difference between being funny with your buds, and being funny to strangers. Big, big difference.

Talli - I'm convinced that comics have some mutant DNA (in a good way, of course :) ).

Edna - Thanks. I'm looking forward to having you read my book :)

David (if that is your real name) - Your routine was funny. Seriously. You just must have had a bad audience.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Margot, Alex, Talli, and Edna -- thanks for stopping by today. I guess I'll be seeing some of you tomorrow for the letter "A"?

And David, thanks to you for letting us get a glimpse of the supportive Orloff brother relationship. Was Alan in the audience to cheer you on? Your experience pretty much convinces me to stay off stage. But have you thought about sharing your moment on YouTube? :)

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks so much for inviting me to guest blog today. Always a pleasure meeting your blog readers!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Alan, I appreciate you appearances so much. You are welcome to guest post any time you want.