I think the hardest thing you can do as a writer is to try and make someone laugh. Crying isn’t too hard, and anger is even easier, but to get a chuckle out of someone, or even a little smile inside is super tough. I seem to have make a living out of being a ‘funny guy’ on stage, with some funny stuff on this blog and in my books, but primarily my writing is dark, intense and not very funny at all (I get a lot of mail about it making blokes cry though). I want to have more humour in the follow on to Cold Wars, as it will be needed to offset some pretty tough stuff, and know that I do have it in me to write something that is just pure comedy. For the last three years I’ve been working on and off on a funny project that will be published under a pen name Tungsten Ferrule called ‘Jesus on Everest’. Now Tungsten (real name Derrick) is a famous TV adventurer, Christian, family man, and ex member of the special forces - but one who has a dark side, and the book is the story of his life so far - sort of Flashman meets…. well anything written Bear Grylls. What’s funny about this character is that he is so wrapped in his own myth that he is oblivious to everything that is going around him, a sort of delusional and a little pathological sociopath.
But how can you make writing funny, after all what makes one person laugh just annoys another, or they just ‘don’t get it’? I wrote something a few weeks back about climbing the regular route on Fairview dome in Tuolumne Meadows with my girlfriend Vanessa and her mate Sinead in the style of Tungsten for the Irish Mountaineering club. I partly wrote it as a joke as it’s so over the top I found it funny, especially in these days of equality, where men have to be careful how they address their female climbing partners in their writing, not objectifying them, being patronising etc. I guess the whole tone of what’s below is in response to someone who took the use of a harmless text face ; ) in an email as being patronising and sexist. Of course it may not be funny at all.
“Please Andy” said Sinead, tears in her eyes, her weak hands griping at my clean white socks “- please lead the next pitch”. I looked down at her sad beautiful eyes, and those lips that begged to be kissed - oh those lips. “Yes - save Us polar bear” said another voice, breaking the grip of Sinead’s angelic beauty. It was Vanessa, her boyish arms still rapped around my waist, too scared to let go of the one solid object on the Regular route on Fairview, said by Bear Grylls to be perhaps the hardest route in North America. I looked down at Vanessa’s weak face but saw only her thick straw like hair, her face thrust in my groin looking for comfort. “Please” she mumbled, “we’ll die unless you lead the crux”. I looked back at Sinead - beautiful Sinead - then out into the distance, the sunny breeze blowing through my thick hair and thought it over.
A raven dropped down from above and landed on my outstretched arm. We nodded to one another, like brothers of the steep.
“Look ladies” I said as the raven flew away after snatching a mouse from Vanessa’s hair, “I don’t mind leading, but I’ve lead every pitch so far and I think it’s time you guys did one”. I felt Vanessa’s grip tighten, followed by a sob, then Sinead’s fingers slip down my bright white clean socks, finger tips dancing like Michael Flatley’s feet. “I’ll do anything if you’ll lead this pitch” she whispered. “Yes - I’ll cook paster for tea” butted in Vanessa, spoiling the moment - again - “I’ll even use boiling water like you like”.
I looked down at these two woman I loved, well I mainly looked at Sinead. “OK, I’ll lead it, but this is the last one” I warned, looking up at the crack above, so thin and steep it would be better to call it a ‘cra…’, so steep the next belay was actually lower than this one. Uncurling Vanessa’s scrawny arms I stepped up, ready to lead. “Do you need the rack” asked Sinead, suddenly afraid, holding up our single nut, all that was left after my 25 point equalised belay. “No Doll - you keep it” I said winking. “Do you want me to belay” asked Vanessa, holding up her nut tool with a confused look, trying to push the rope into its clip loop.
“You guys kill me” I said, and for a second they both looked sad, then we all burst out laughing, as un-belayed and naked apart from my chalk bag and brilliant white socks (sans rock boots) I pulled into the 5.5 crack and spun some signature Andy K magic… again!
A Snickers bar costs 60p. Were these words worth as much?
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Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.Follow @ Instagram