Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ha ha ha ha, life is real; OR: a review of Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

I used to think I would grow up to be a funny person. Spoiler alert: I didn't. Instead, I grew up to be a person who appreciates funniness, which sounds kind of similar but is actually in no way the same.

Occasionally my hopeful past self looks at my disappointing present self and is, well, disappointed. But it can't be helped. The world needs both funny people and funny appreciators. If we were all funny, in a way none of us would be. We wouldn’t be impressed by the funny ones because funniness would be in no way unique, and no one would get any money by being funny. It'd be like paying people for breathing, which is stupid because you really only seem special for being able to breathe after you stop doing it.

Which brings me to Hyperbole and a Half, which I just finished last week and which was the perfect bittersweet happy/sad read to bring me into the new year. It’s the sort of thing you finish and think, “Yes, I could’ve written this,” – and not in the “I have the skills” kind of way (because I don’t), but in the “Oh that resonated with me in a way that made me laugh and also hurt a little bit.”

I always feel like there's a thin line between comedy and tragedy, and someone else somewhere must have said that because I remember hearing it and realising that's exactly what I think every time I enjoy something funny. The best kind of humour is, I think, about people trying to be people. We can be entertained by people trying to be people because, although humanness is our natural form, it doesn't actually come that naturally to most of us. If I watch Parks and Recreation (which could be described as a happy character comedy) when I’m on my own, I will end up crying at least once, usually more often, per twenty minute episode. And I think this is because, even though everything is compacted and exaggerated (it’s comedy, after all), it’s just so human.

That's how I feel about Hyperbole and a Half. It’s so human! And it explores aspects of being human (mostly depression, insecurity, poor adulting, and weird pets) that are highly relatable. If you’re not familiar with Allie Brosh’s work, check out her blog. I could explain things to you but it’s like when people feel compelled to retell Carl Barron jokes: they are only funny if they are coming out of the mouth of a weird little bald guy with strange diction. So just visit the blog (be warned: both the blog and the book contain some swears) and explore her bizarrely endearing comic strip essays. If you are already a friend of the blog, then why haven’t you read the book already?

You have no excuse.

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