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Episode #105

Humor

Air date 7/21/12
Host: Gene Edward
Guest(s): Roy Blount Jr., Jill Conner Browne, Julia Reed

“How do you tell someone how to write funny?” asks host Gene Edward early in his interview with three Southern humorists. “It’s the way you eyeball the situation,” Julia Reed, a senior writer at Vogue, responds. Going from pathos that he can’t stand to humor that he can is Roy Blount Jr.s’ method. And Jill Conner Browne advises that if you’re struggling to write humor, you’re not funny.

Late in September, 2004, the quartet met at Hal and Mal’s Restaurant and Brewery in downtown Jackson to discuss what’s funny and why. They told stories of influential English teachers and early essays, and they looked at the language of the South. “The thing about Southern talk, says Blount, “is that it tends to physicalize things.” Then he illustrated his statement with true story about a cash register attendant who was sniffling. “It sounds as if you’re getting a cold,” he sympathized. “Oh, Lord. I hope not,” she replied. “I got one already.”

Reed says that Southerners thrive on laughter. She says, “I think we have a greater capacity to laugh at ourselves that people in any other part of the country.” Browne, who gained fame as THE Sweet Potato Queen, agrees. She developed her sense of humor as a child. “Daddy always taught us you either have to figure out how to make fun out of it or make fun of it.” She says she finds everything funny.

Browne recounts her beginnings as an author and as the Sweet Potato Queen, and both had to do with Hal and Mal’s. “I write because of Malcolm White,” she says, referring to her column in his underground paper, The Diddy Wah Diddy. Later, when he staged his first St. Paddy’s Day parade, she immediately proclaimed herself the Sweet Potato Queen. She and her court “put on some sort of green ball gown from Goodwill, anywhere,” and rode in the back of a pickup truck, smiling, waving and throwing sweet potatoes.

One of Browne’s columns caught the eye of Roy Blount, Jr. who included it in his Book of Southern Humor. That anthology is just one of the 19 books he’s authored. “I’ve written one of everything,” he says, including a biography. Blount remembers that he wrote his one novel “as a diary, and I had to make a lot of notes to myself.” It was as if he were writing a nonfiction piece. Although all the humorists agree that writing fiction is difficult, Browne is embarking upon a series of novels. Reed also hopes to expand to fiction someday.

Blount’s thirteenth book, Be Sweet: A Conditional Love Story, is a memoir in which he remembers his Mississippi-born mother. “Now you be sweet,” she would tell him when he was little. Compassion and kindness are a theme for Browne’s Sweet Potato Queen books, too. She says that her mentor, the late Willie Morris, said, “The essence of this is sweetness and you always need to come back at the end to that. And in fact, that’s what I do.” And Reed, in each of her essays, shows a genuine tenderness for the South.

Jill Conner Browne’s fourth book, The Sweet Potato Queens’ Field Guide to Men, was released in October, 2004. Julia Reed’s collection of hilarious and affectionate essays about life in the South, Queen of the Turtle Derby, was another 2004 publication. Roy Blount Jr.’s Book of Southern Humor, came out in 1994. His I Am the Cat, Don’t Forget That was released in November, 2004. Feet on the Street, Rambles Around New Orleans is scheduled for publication in February 2005.

 

Bibliography:

  • Crackers, 1980
  • One Fell Soup, 1982
  • What Men Don’t Tell Women, 1984
  • Not Exactly What I Had in Mind, 1985
  • It Grows on You, 1986
  • Soupsongs/Webster’s Ark, 1987
  • Now, Where Were We?, 1988
  • About Three Bricks Shy…And the Load Filled Up, 1989
  • First Hubby, 1990
  • Camels Are Easy, Comedy’s Hard, 1991
  • Roy Blount’s Book of Southern Humor, 1994
  • Be Sweet, 1998
  • If You Only Knew How Much I Smell You, 1998
  • I Am Puppy, Hear Me Yap, 2000
  • Am I Pig Enough for You Yet?, 2001
  • Robert E. Lee, 2003
  • I Am the Cat, Don't Forget That, 2004
  • Feet on the Street, Rambles Around New Orleans, will come out in Feb 2005
  • Long Time Leaving, Dispatches from Up South, 2007
  • Alphabet Juice, 2008
  • Hail, Hail, Euphoria!, 2010
  • Alphabetter Juice, 2011

Author Links:

Bibliography:

  • The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, 1999
  • God Save the Sweet Potato Queens, 2001
  • The Sweet Potato Queens’ Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner), 2003
  • The Sweet Potato Queens’ Field Guide to Men, 2004
  • The Sweet Potato Queens' Wedding Planner/Divorce Guide, 2005
  • The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel: Stuff We Didn't Actually Do, but Could Have, and May Yet, 2007
  • The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit, 2008
  • American Thighs: The Sweet Potato Queen's Guide to Preserving Your Assets, 2008

Author Links:

Bibliography:

  • Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena, 2004
  • The House on First Street, My New Orleans Story, 2007
  • Ham Biscuits Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties an Entertaining Life, 2009

Author Links:

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