FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How come otherwise respectable publishers, which in past years have released deeply profound theological works and compelling, powerful fiction have agreed to publish your humor books?
The key is preparation and presentation. I carefully craft my proposal and, at just the right moment, leap out from behind the bookshelf and thrust my concept paper at the editor. As he jumps backward in alarm—and this is what I mean by preparation—I make sure I kind of steer him toward the top filing cabinet drawer that I opened earlier in the day. Editors become easily disoriented when they bang their head on a drawer, and you can usually get a contract out of them before they completely recover.
Um, you are a Christian writer, right?
Yes. Why do you ask?
Well, it’s just that you seem kind of, um, different than other Christian authors. A bit unorthodox, and a tad, uh, weird.
You are too kind. Seriously. I’m blushing.
Can you get serious for just a minute and explain what you hope to accomplish in your writing?
That’s exactly what my editor keeps asking! Are you in cahoots, or what? OK, lemme switch gears here and get all serious and professional. (Pause while Dave straightens his tie.) All right, I’m ready now.
I try to accomplish three things in my books. In no particular order, I try to tell the truth, teach a few serious concepts, and make people laugh so hard that they almost commit a hygienic lapse. I don’t just want them to laugh, I want them rolling on the floor, gasping for breath, and unable to speak.
I believe that when I make someone laugh, I give them a gift. Because sometimes life can be hard and scary and depressing. People really need to have laughter in their lives – and they especially need to laugh about the very things that can make us want to rip out our hair by the handfuls. Our kids. That thing our spouse does that bugs us. Our church family. Our job. Our lemon of a station wagon.
Don’t you run the risk of getting kind of sarcastic or even mean by writing humor?
That is a definite risk, which is why I try to very carefully guard against it. If you pick up one of my books you will immediately notice that virtually all the humor is at my expense. I am the butt of the jokes. Even when it seems like I am poking fun at someone else, it ends up with me looking like the oaf. I let my wife and kids review my material, and it has to pass muster with them or it does not get printed. I have read material by other people who seem to cross that line and make fun of others. I never find it funny, and I don’t want to do it. If you think I cross that line, please let me know. Seriously.
What did you mean when you say you are trying to "teach?"
One of the interesting dynamics of humor is that it makes people like you. Go back to the idea of giving a gift. When you make someone laugh, they can’t help but warm to you. That’s why speakers—even on serious topics—often open with a joke. The audience suddenly likes the speaker. Humor can also disarm resistance. I try to get people to the point where they are laughing and, perhaps unconsciously, liking me. And then I try to weave in serious themes about loyalty to your family, commitment to your spouse, the importance of communication, the love of God—you name it. Big themes.
I have been fascinated to find that readers who would never willingly pick up a serious Christian book about marriage, or the family, or God, are quite willing to peruse these themes if they are couched in the nonthreatening language of humor. This happens a lot. I recently read a review by an admittedly nonreligious person who just loved one of my books—and especially liked a chapter where I laid out, as clearly as I possibly could, the gospel as I best understand it. I was shocked. You may find that a neighbor or a friend who has not yet put their trust in God, and who would politely decline a book like Knowing God, is quite willing to read a "humor book" with a Christian theme.
You said you want to both "teach" and "tell the truth." How does "teaching" differ from "telling the truth"?
Well, they are related. When I say I want to teach, I mean I am trying to convey a specific truth or life lesson. When I say I want to tell the truth, it is more about being honest about my own life and struggles. In my fourth book, Stark Raving Dad (coming Summer 2002), I discuss the importance of consistency in relating to kids. I say that what I lack in consistency, I make up for in yelling. That is a frank confession that I do not have this parenting thing all dialed. People don’t want to have a finger shaken in their face. They want help, and they want truth, and they want it from someone who empathizes with them. They want honesty. They want you to tell the truth about our common struggles, and offer hope. And they also want some relief, some laughter.
Dave we are about out of space here, but I understand that your third book, Out on a Whim, answers the thorny and perplexing question about why the Holy Land is not actually blue like it shows on our Bible maps. Can you expand on that issue here?
No. Go buy the book. How am I ever going to get my obscenely large VISA bill paid off if I post all the good stuff on my Web site? Go forth and stimulate the economy.