I was invited to consider the merits of fantasy and reality for the mind probing HowTheLightGetsIn festival and have erred on reality...
I am interested in the 'everywoman'. The person who obverses truthfully and yet doesn't consider herself to be central to the stage. When I'm out now on the literary festival circuit - actually signing my book and looking into the eyes of folk who amazingly want to buy a copy - I see a mirror in the reader. I see a twinkle. I see empowerment and a lack of stress. Reality comedy offers a release. Fantasy in comedy or elsewhere even, takes more work.
I like the sneaky passive aggression I have used to write a story inside a book - plundering the slights, the malfunctions of my brain and the farcical nature of life. I have discovered from the readers who turn up at the festivals - that this offers them a connection. They like this kind of comedy. They report there is a relief and connection with a perceived authentic voice. Perhaps this is more immediate than the stretch required to enter an entirely made up world of fantasy or indeed satire- where parody and invention sit hand in hand - as worthy and as translatable as that can be.
The reason so many quote from E M Forster's modus operandi - only connect - is that it works. Connecting is the mainstay of all communication. A direct hit of recognition will elicit laughter. And although fantasy fiction may activate another muscle in the brain - it may not elicit laughter quite so adroitly. The funny person mocks the world we live in. This, in my view, is so that unfunny people can be made to feel safe. What is uncomfortable can be made comfortable.
Funny performers have the gift of timing but reality based content is needed as well - to nail the laughter. Does satire and fantasy lead us to the same comedy induced sneeze of a reaction? It might rouse a smirk but there's no surprise at the end, no gift of finding the punchline or joy as you slowly build to it. Worthy commentary has its place, and is also necessary - but can it ever be as funny? Parody is so close to the literal, - it invites the reader to observe rather than recognise a common condition.
Authors who mock the common experience as well as themselves unify us. And all at once, we are not alone. Result. Admittedly, intellectual flossing is very satisfying for the highbrow - I'm happy to state the obvious. That I do not enter this camp. I root myself strongly as the outsider looking in, I embrace the hysteria of being alive and conjure characters that I have really met and tell stories from this cosier base. My only goal was that people who read my book might actually laugh out loud when reading it on the tube. Two people have reported this has occurred which is more than enough of a result- that observation in reality is a fun way to go out - on a high.
Losing It by Helen Lederer is available now
Helen will be speaking at HowTheLightGetsIn, the world's largest philosophy and music festival, running from 21 May - 31 May in association with The Huffington Post UK.