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May STC Chapter meeting: Buck Peterson’s humor

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Diane Boos

I woke up to the insistent yowling of my cat, Betsy, this morning. She wanted her snack and to be let out. All the while, I grumbled under my breath, mumble, grumble [censored for profanity], and interspersed with “Kill kitty.” If he hasn’t already, I’m sure Buck Peterson could use this item for another book. His Roadkill cookbooks are classics in the humor genre.

Humor Defined

Humor is different from comedy, although they are confused because both are designed to amuse people. Humor tends to be expressed in verbal and written forms that are plays on situations. Humor is a difficult medium that requires some knowledge and experience within the specialty area. Buck Peterson specializes in outdoors and food humor. Some types of humor are:

  • Regional, such as Southern humor that can be earthy.
  • Eastern and Western humor that tends to be sophisticated.
  • Ethnic, such as Jewish humor.

Comic Voice

Humor writers need to find their comic voice and combine it with their specialty area. When Buck saw some roadkill in his native Minnesota, he speculated about using it for food, hence The Original Road Kill Cookbook was born. He has been able to combine his love of the outdoors with his early 1980s experience writing food and wine articles for Playboy. As the market changed, he adapted his comic voice as a naturalist and cookbook humor to other outdoor topics.

Buck Peterson and Bellevue Community College’s Continuing Education are discussing a class about humor for the Publishing Institute. He gave prospective humor writers some hints for success. There are few magazines that hire humor writers. The New Yorker, paying $75 per article, is one of the few. If you want to break into the humor writing business, look for a professional editor to help you, not a friend or someone who likes you. Professional editors give honest appraisals of your work, while a friend might hedge on telling you the whole truth. On illustrators, Buck has worked with the same cartoonist. Cartoons have contributed to his books’ success.


Publishers and Editors

Publishers and editors require that you submit a proposal, which should be one page. The title is very important. Make it as catchy as possible such as Bologna on a Dog (as in the animal) or Manifold (as in car manifold) Destiny. He did hasten to say that this could backfire. He got a lot of flak about Eat a Pet Cookbook, which he didn’t write. Magazine or publishing editors want humor, but they want their brand of humor. Worse, they don’t define what that brand of humor is.

Buck had several suggestions for new humor writers besides developing your comic voice. Cultivate a strong relationship with your illustrator. Read humor, not just the current humorists, but also the classic humorists. Find a humor niche market. Currently, political humor is hot.

In conclusion, Buck Peterson is a successful humor writer as well as an entertaining storyteller. We, his captive audience, enjoyed the few hours spent together as he shared what it takes to be a successful humor writer.

Last modified 01-20-2006 14:37