The Snarky Sarcasm Chromosome

Nic Tatano

“Do I look like a clown to you? Do I amuse you?” Joe Pesci’s famous questions to Ray Liotta in the movie Goodfellas are valid when it comes to writing humor. Because there’s no real definition of what’s amusing and what isn’t.

As a writer of romantic comedies, I try to draw on the three things that have shaped my personality: I’m Italian, I’m from the New York City area, and I work in the television news business. For me, writing snarky, sarcastic characters is easy because I’m a snarky sarcastic character in real life. I can’t help it. Like Lady Gaga, I was born this way.

Growing up in a loud, sarcastic Italian family I learned early on that just about anything could bring on a snarky comment. If Mom overcooked something, Dad might say, “At least she didn’t burn the salad.” She’d get even if she caught him looking at his bald head in the mirror, with something like, “Hey, Mister Clean, it aint growin’ back.” During the Christmas family dinner my cousin gave it to the wealthier members of the clan. “Can whoever owns this garish Mercedes convertible move it? You’re blocking my Ford Pinto.”

Author Nic Tatano

And to a New Yorker, any simple question demands a smart-ass answer. Ask the average person for the time, he’ll tell you. Ask a New Yorker, and you’ll get an eye roll followed by, “What do I look like, Big Ben?” Of course there’s the classic response to, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”

The smart-ass chromosome is dominant in my heritage, like dark eyes and the habit of talking with your hands. And after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in snark from my family, I actually made it worse by going into journalism. I never realized I’d run into such dark, wicked newsroom humor that would offend millions of viewers if it ever hit the air. But it’s a defense mechanism; reporters deal with tragedy so much we have to lighten things up. So nothing is sacred, especially if Darwin is thinning the herd in a good way. A sleazy politician died? He’s either “taking a dirt nap” or “has reached room temperature”. An idiot who blew himself up in a meth lab explosion is a “crispy critter”. A press conference with a lot of reporters is a “gang bang”. Yes, we’re a genteel bunch.

So, is there a scientific formula for writing humor? Do I look like Stephen Hawking to you?

I don’t “try” to inject funny stuff into my books, because it comes naturally. Most of the stories I did as a reporter were features: those light, funny pieces you see at the end of the newscast (often known as “fluff”). Since I was used to writing fun facts, I figured I could write fun fiction. Anyway, what you read is basically an extension of my personality. They say every author puts a little bit of his or her own personality into a book; in my case it’s more than a little. Find the most snarky character in one of my books and it’s me. I simply change the name and the face (said face is always much more attractive than my own). And in my rom-coms I often undergo a literary sex change.

I love injecting accents and fun stereotypes into my work, and since I set everything in New York City, the possibilities are endless. Do people who aren’t from New York find the slang and accents amusing? Fuhgeddaboudit! Are youse guys kiddn’ me?

Then I add a dash of the people I grew up with in the old neighborhood. The Italian girl who slapped the back of your head if you tried to pull a fast one on her. “Do I have ‘stupid’ tattooed on my forehead?” The matchmaking Jewish mother. “You’re still single? You want I should fix you up with a nice girl?” The bookie who won’t give you an extension on what you owe. “Do I look like Citibank to you?”

If you’re a writer who is a normal person (not like me) and want to inject humor into your work, simply think about the characters in your life you found amusing. If you found them funny, chances are your readers will as well. Everyone knows those larger than life people who have the gift that is a sense of humor. And every location has its funny quirks; think about the local slang or traditions you find amusing.

So, back to the original question: Do I amuse you? It depends, because everyone’s definition of humor is different. Some people find my work hilarious, others don’t get it. And I get that.

Life’s funny that way, huh?

Wingman Girl

Wing Girl: [wing-gurl] noun
1. A young, single woman frequenting liquor-serving establishments who attracts then later repels eligible men that are eventually picked up by her friends.

2. The essential accessory for dating in Manhattan.

For years guys have cruised bars using the “wing man” as a divide and conquer weapon designed to liberate a gorgeous woman from her not-so-beautiful friend.

Meet Belinda Carson, Wing Girl.

She’s a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners investigative reporter fighting for truth, justice and higher ratings. But while her fame draws in the hotties, it’s unfortunate that you can’t buy a new personality at Bloomingdales!

Because up close and personal these unsuspecting suitors get fried by a snarky attitude that’s sharp enough to slice a stale bagel…

which leaves her grateful friends to swoop in for the delectable leftovers!

Only enough is enough – isn’t it time for Belinda to stop taking one for the team and land her own Mr Right?

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