Month: June 2014

Freeing the Narcissist Within

Geodesic Dome

Post-college my resume read like a good-grief of odd jobs: military journalist, medical librarian, college instructor, book packer, mill worker, business owner, technical writer, software documentation manager, marketing manager, marketing director. If I could have thrown in gold prospector and hobo, I would have been Jack London.

Between and during those jobs, I always worked on creative projects, mostly writing and cartooning and, like many writers and artists, all of it in my spare time.

While at work, in addition to doing my regular job, I’d also be doing what’s known in the computer industry as “background processing,” working out story problems in the garage of my mind and jotting down notes so I wouldn’t forget. If I happened to get mugged coming home from work, the unlucky guy would get scraps of paper and Post-it Notes with bits of dialogue, plot points, and partly developed scenes on them.

Not exactly stuff you can easily fence.

For a few years, after hours, I even tried standup comedy to get over my shyness and really sucked at it—the standup part, not the shyness. Comedy bits about attending the Hemlock Society’s Christmas Party (“Stay away from the punch”), and lines like “What do you say we go up to my place and exchange bilabial fricatives?” did not exactly kill in biker bars.

On the other hand, the tobacco smoke nearly killed me.

One night a member of a successful improv group complained to me that she couldn’t write or tell jokes. In fact, she confessed to knowing only one joke and told it. She said: “I like my men like I like my ham—cured.”

I thought it sounded more like a cheesy pickup line than a joke, and used it as a jumping off point for my first play. When I was done writing it, I gave the play to my wife, Arlene, to read. She’s always my first and most honest critic.

“This play is about dating,” she said. “What the hell do you know about dating?”

Arlene was right, of course.


The Man Who Knew Diddly Squat


My name is Mark Saunders, and there’s a lot I can’t do. I can’t tune-up a car’s engine. I can’t cook, unless grilled cheese sandwiches count. I can’t run marathons. I can’t rewire a house or unclog a drain or put down floor tile or build a tree fort.

Or write software code.

I can’t sing. In fact, I had the early, sole distinction of being banished from the seventh grade choir in Holy Family Catholic School, Citrus Heights, California. Look it up.

I’m not allowed near the family bank account.

Both physics and technology baffle me. I can’t understand how a Boeing 747 weighing 900,000 pounds when fully-loaded can stay in the air. I once saw a poster of the insides of a computer; the intricate pattern of a motherboard made my head spin. I felt nauseous and had to sit down.

I currently live in the central highlands of Mexico, and I can barely speak Spanish. In short, if I starred in a Hitchcock movie it would be titled “The Man Who Knew Diddly Squat.”

A rotund Rod Steiger look-alike in a police uniform stares at Diddly. The cop chews on a toothpick. Spits it out. Hikes up his pants. Beat.

What do they call you down there?

They call me Mr. Squat.

What I can do, however, is talk about humor, because that’s the one link that’s connected me from childhood until now. And that’s what I plan to do in this blog, sharing everything from brief essays to tips on writing humor to samples of my gag cartoons to the occasional funny quote from someone else.

For instance, here’s one of my cartoons:

And I’ll share quotes like this:

“In elementary school, in case of fire you have to line up quietly in a single file line from smallest to tallest. What is the logic? Do tall people burn slower?”
Warren Hutcherson

Stick around. We’ll have fun.