A dose of humour

“However, I was pleased to see that Feep was already attached to a victim – a little thin man with eyeglasses and a nervous expression. He was talking to the small, bespectacled stranger quite earnestly, and the stranger was listening. I didn’t recognise the fellow, but I felt sorry for him. It grieved me, to see that he had a bandage around his head, but it grieved me more to see the way Feep was talking to him. I knew what suffering he was going through.” – Stuporman by Robert Bloch

A dose of humour? Yeah, you read that right. As it were, the world is tough and rough. And what a better way to lighten it than to infuse it with a daily dose of humour? And writers who do so have a ready audience for their publications. Speaking from experience, that’s how I found myself reading, or seeking to read, more books from authors whose published works I had stumbled upon by accident. There was Mwangi Ruheni’s The Minister’s Daughter, this after coming from What a Life! V.S. Naipaul directed me to A House for Mr. Biswas after I had devoured Miguel Street in one sitting, I watched Psycho after reading Robert Bloch’s Stuporman… you catch the drift.

There are scenes in movies or excerpts from books that remain with you for many years. Then there are TV series you watch many times over. And I don’t mean Game of Thrones though it has its fair share of gore and blood. Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang… these two readily comes to mind. Why? The word play that contributes to their humour is immense. Which means that their dialogue is so funny you find yourself scouring the internet for a read of their scripts. Or watching a particular episode when you are all fudgy courtesy of writer’s block and you need a lifeline to beat the impending gloom that is an about to expire deadline.

So, what lessons can writers – and by extension, publishers – glean from the above? That you can never go wrong with humour, no matter how serious the subject matter you are writing about. Which is perhaps why those serious (and dry) government reports rarely get read (except by ministry officials who skim through as they are required to read them or the PhD student doing research). But what if they were to do things slightly differently? Say, among all those hard to digest facts and figures about the nascent oil industry, they were to include boxed observations from the local populace where the oil was first discovered?

“I was out grazing the cattle when I noticed that one of the cows was missing. I left my youngest son, Leshomo, to look after the rest of the cattle when I went in search of Nampiyo, the missing cow. This Nampiyo, a very stubborn cow. Anywhere, after several minutes, I found her near a thicket. She was mooing in distress and that’s when I observed her tongue to be black. Apparently, she had been licking this black water that was leaking from the ground.

Amazed as I had never seen such kind of water before, I called Leshomo to go and fetch Ole Misayo. I was worried that Nampiyo would give us black milk in the evening after drinking the black water. Anyway, when Ole Misayo came, he laughed at me and said that the black water was oil. I have now sent Leshomo to school so that he can now learn these things.”

Now, that is one report I would read.