a guest post by author Elisa Lorello
www.inkthinkerblog.com — One of the most famous Mary Tyler Moore episodes (and in sitcom history) was about the death of Chuckles the Clown. While at Chuckles’ funeral, Mary finds herself with a case of the giggles, which soon trickle into laughter. With every mention of Chuckles’ name, his TV shows, his characters, Mary’s attempts to stifle her laughter are futile until the reverend validates her laughter. At that moment, she bursts into tears.
When I planned to write Ordinary World, the sequel to Faking It (a romantic comedy), I had no idea that grief and loss were going to play such predominant roles. I knew Andi had to evolve from her insecurities about her body and her intimacy issues, but I didn’t know how upside down her world was going to be turned. How was I going to make it work? How was I going to provide the reader with a pleasurable reading experience when the very first chapter takes Andi to a funeral? How could the sequel to a romantic comedy be so heavy?
There had to be comedic elements to the story, I decided. Perhaps not as comical as Mary Tyler Moore and Chuckles the Clown, but I started with a visual element. Andi goes to the funeral, yes; but she’s dressed in a cocktail dress and delivers an ill-prepared eulogy. On her first day back to work, she spends the morning throwing mail across her office into the wastebasket. Her wit slowly returns, day by day. Thus, my novel wasn’t going to be a romantic comedy, but a “dramedy,” not unlike such television shows as M*A*S*H and The West Wing.
There’s nothing funny about losing a loved one, but comedy and humor, laughter especially, can be part of the grieving process. About twenty years ago, a childhood friend of my twin brother committed suicide. It had turned out that we had tickets to see Jay Leno (a popular stand-up comedian in those days) the same day as the funeral. At first, we weren’t going to go, afraid it would be disrespectful to the memory of my brother’s friend. But as the day progressed, we changed our minds and attended the show. We laughed incessantly throughout Leno’s performance. At one point during the drive home we grew quiet, and I knew we were thinking the same thing. We were thinking about our friend, and were saddened again as the reality of his death returned to us. I think we even felt a little guilty. But it was so good to go someplace else and laugh for two hours. We needed that. Our friend would have liked the show.
Comedy and death have something in common: regeneration. At the end of the day, life goes on. In the situation comedy, for example, the plot may be foiled, or everyone becomes friends again, and life goes on. We go on. And we always have a choice in how to respond to death, how to live our lives in spite of it.
We can even laugh a little.
Elisa Lorello was born and raised on Long Island, New York. In 1995, she moved to southeastern Massachusetts, where she attended University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth for both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Her career in rhetoric and composition studies began in 2000, and since then she has been teaching first-year writing at the university level. Currently, Elisa lives and teaches in North Carolina and is co-writing her third novel. She is happily single.
To learn more about Elisa and her other writing projects, please visit her blog “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Official Blog of Elisa Lorello at www.elisalorello.blogspot.com, or her official webpage at www.elisalorello.com. Ordinary World is currently available in print and ebook at Lulu.com, and at Amazon Kindle Store.
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