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Humor > Whatever happened to dark comedy?

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message 1: by M. (new)

M. Trevelean (mtrevelean) | 18 comments In this day and age when edgy comedy seems to be the soup du jour, when everything from Frankie Boyle to Family Guy are blazing a populist trail, why is it that dark comedy still struggles to make an impact in the book charts? Thoughts?


message 2: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 182 comments Are you thinking of any author in particular whom you think should be doing better? Neil Gaiman (for example) uses dark humour in his books, but I suppose isn't generally known as a 'comic' author (though there is Good Omens).


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I truly hope dark comedy gains more followers in the literary community. I appreciate all genres, but a darkly comedic story (be it fiction or non-fiction) is always delightful! Certainly, I hope the book I just published will someday be classified in this unique category. :)


message 4: by M. (new)

M. Trevelean (mtrevelean) | 18 comments Think of dark comedy in the context of wider popular culture, something with a satirical edge, something that pushes the boundaries, I can think of TV / Film as being a great exponent of dark comedy in recent history, anything from 'Brass Eye' and 'The Thick of it' to stand-up comics like Frankie Boyle or Jimmy Carr. My point is that there is clearly an audience out there for it but I can't remember the last time there was a hit book in this genre. Even if you look at the demographics there is a heavy slant towards fantasy, romance, sci-fi but not a lot of really good comedic fiction.


message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim Chaseley (jimchaseley) | 21 comments I've written a sci-fi novel that has humour as its basis. I don't think I can call the humour dark, exactly, though. Perhaps "grey". It's a bit grim in places, toilet humour in some parts and barracks room style banter in other places. But it's definitely not light and breezy in its humour.

Humorous sci-fi seems to be a pretty tough sell. It certainly drove me to self-publification pretty quickly.

But, you can see how desperate the sate of affairs in the humour genre is, when I can get into the UK Fiction > Humour category on Amazon at rank 55 with just 8 sales in a day!

I wouldn't say my book was laugh out loud funny, but it does tend to make people let out the odd chuckle, or they find they're smiling...sometimes through a slight grimace!

Before writing that sci-fi, I wrote half of a historical fiction humour book about two wannabe knights set during the English/French 100 years war. I went mad and sent it as a work in progress to a bunch of agents, all of whom gave me great feedback about the writing and the "many funny moments"...whilst rejecting it us unsellable. That was 6 years ago, and I don't think much has changed since, from personal experience.


message 6: by L.E. (new)

L.E. Fitzpatrick (l_e_fitzpatrick) | 60 comments I live Dark Comedy - I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. Obviously it impacts my writing, but also my every day life.

Unfortunately it's a sense of humour I try to keep a lid on in case the wrong people take offence, but sometimes it just escapes and I can't do anything about it.

My philosophy "you've got to laugh." Of course my book deals with some pretty nasty things, which makes me wonder if I am the right person to tackle these, oh well too late now (which is another motto I seem cursed with).


message 7: by M. (new)

M. Trevelean (mtrevelean) | 18 comments "But, you can see how desperate the sate of affairs in the humour genre is, when I can get into the UK Fiction > Humour category on Amazon at rank 55 with just 8 sales in a day!"

That's exactly my case in point, where is the market for these books? Is it just a dearth of ideas, is the industry just not interested, or is there no market for it?


message 8: by Jim (new)

Jim Chaseley (jimchaseley) | 21 comments The market? I don't know. I'm finding it in dribs and drabs. I don't think 70 sales, in my first three weeks, of an offbeat sci-fi humour novel about a killer cyborg is bad. Especially when it's come from an unknown, debut author. I think it shows there is a market there! :) But yes, where are they?

I think most of my sales have come from polite pimping on the Amazon forums (UK). Maybe I shouldn't be answering though, because my book's "grey" humour...

Dearth of ideas? I'd be surprised if it was. So, so many authors, so many ideas across all genres. Its not all chick-lit and romance, is it? I think a lot of the new ideas are being driven the way I've gone, though. Self-published eBooks.

Industry not interested? By personal experience that's a big fat, "No, they are not". :(


message 9: by M. (new)

M. Trevelean (mtrevelean) | 18 comments Sorry Jim, I wasn't trying to belittle your achievements, those are some great numbers there.

I agree with you that the writers are out there and that there are some brilliant ideas. I also agree that the publishing industry is paralysed with fear over printing something other than 'the norm' (vampires, thrillers, romances, chick-lit etc).

Sooner or later the industry is going to have to start taking a chance again before it chokes to death on it's own fear.


message 10: by Jim (new)

Jim Chaseley (jimchaseley) | 21 comments Hah, don't worry M, I didn't take it that way in the slightest. I posted my numbers to be considered as potential evidence as to the existence of a market for humour that is, shall we say, not of the entirely clean variety? Being a newbie to the scene, I genuinely don't know if those numbers are good, and therefore prove or disprove the markets' existence.
(My figures are lower than I'd hoped for, but better than I'd feared!).

Surely, good stuff, whatever the genre will get noticed. Even if it comes with the dread disclaimer of "eventually".


message 11: by Steph (last edited Jun 07, 2012 02:37PM) (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 182 comments Perhaps 'dark comedy' as a genre doesn't work with books. Toby Frost's Space Captain Smith and sequels are set during a galactic war and there's much gratuitous violence, head-hunting aliens, bloody deaths, etc., which isn't the sort of setting you'd imagine for a comedy, yet they are very, very funny. It's the same with the Flashman books - again usually set during times of conflict - I admit I actually burst out laughing at the 'Valley of Death' scene in Flashman at the Charge, but the Crimean War was gruesome stuff. Is that dark comedy?


message 12: by Jim (new)

Jim Chaseley (jimchaseley) | 21 comments Sounds like it is to me Steph. I've been meaning to read Flashman for years!

Space Captain Smith sounds, from that description, like a slightly up-scaled version of mine (in terms of the darkness). Mine's got swearing, exploding cyborgs, brain-stealing aliens, knob-gags and a few bits of non-subtle violence but through it all the intention is to at least get a smirk out of you...


message 13: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Rainey (jennifer_rainey) | 65 comments I love dark comedy, and I use it frequently in my writing. However, I have been told by people that they don't read a lot of dark comedy because they want something lighter, fluffier in their reading in order to help them escape their problems in real life.

You know, the economy sucks, politics in the US are a black hole right now, the job market is bad... I wonder if part of the reason dark humor isn't selling at least at the moment is due to this. People want something fluffier. *shrug* I don't feel that way, obviously, but I have been told by many readers that they do.

Regardless, there is a market, however small, for dark humor. I think it's just more difficult to target for a variety of reasons.


message 14: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrilovescrows) | 13 comments I love dark humor. Many Bizarro books have that flavor to them.


message 15: by M. (new)

M. Trevelean (mtrevelean) | 18 comments Some interesting points. I think the current global climate actually makes dark comedy an increasingly viable genre. People want a laugh, they want to pick holes in a broken world, they want to see people worse off than them - Schadenfreude if you will. There is an avalanche of fluffy escapism out there to sate even the simplest of minds. A bit of satire wouldn't go a miss, particularly in these dark uncertain times.


message 16: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Rainey (jennifer_rainey) | 65 comments M. wrote: "Some interesting points. I think the current global climate actually makes dark comedy an increasingly viable genre. People want a laugh, they want to pick holes in a broken world, they want to see..."

See, that's the way I look at it! That's one reason I enjoy dark humor, but I'm constantly told by people that they're looking for something "lighter." *shrug* I guess it's helping me narrow my target audience, at least!


message 17: by M. (new)

M. Trevelean (mtrevelean) | 18 comments Absolutely Jennifer, I'm finding that, rather like trying to sell anything else, you need to know who to sell it to before you start. It's kind of the reason why I asked the original question because I know so many people who enjoy the darker side of comedy in other mediums yet the appetite within the book market is not as strong.

I think the only answer is that we're going to have to change the status quo.


message 18: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Burke | 34 comments I also love dark humor--Samuel Beckett is one of the funniest writers I've ever read. Elements of black humor always find their way into my books because that's my essential take on things. But to define a whole novel that way probably isn't going to do most writers any good. Most Americans grew up on sitcom humor that is lighter fare. The movies that are pure black comedy are mostly indie or cult things, which is another way to say "not that popular." A lot of times black humor is political, too, which is another thing that doesn't necessarily make it popular with Americans. I think the British are a lot more comfortable with black humor and they do it well. Some of the black comic movies I can think of ("Idiocracy") have a great premise but are a little hamhanded--it's a hard tone to sustain.


message 19: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 182 comments Rebecca wrote: "...I think the British are a lot more comfortable with black humor and they do it well..."

On behalf of my fellow Brits, compliment accepted! I think it's got something to do with the weather. Years of rainy childhood holidays at grim seaside towns does encourage a certain sense of humour.


message 20: by April (new)

April R (AprilPerkins) | 14 comments My book is full of dark humor. The irony of the life/death of the main charactor and the satyr of the other charactors crack me up sometimes. Eulogy of the Centurion by April R. Perkins


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