Sorry, We Can’t Use Funny by Barry Parham

Author Barry Parham

Not long ago, I wrote a book. I didn’t mean to – I had to. Somehow, I had managed to snub a minor deity, and I had to set things right.

I knew I didn’t have what it takes to write a novel. I’m missing a few essentials: a plot, a plan, intimacy with a bunch of interesting characters, vocabulary, discipline, talent.

No, I wanted to write something less dramatic, something more useless, something that lets me get away with gross grammatical gaffes like, for example, the previous paragraph. I wanted to write a weekly commentary and then find some newspaper to carry it, so I could get out of the numbing habit of actually working.

And so, for a while, I tried writing stuff and contacting newspapers all across America. But the newspapers kept telling me to get out of the way so they could finish dying.

So it didn’t go well, and now I focus on writing other things: online columns, long parole violation rationalizations, extended grocery shopping lists. Everywhere I go, people ask, “Where do you come up with ideas?” (Well, not everywhere. My parents ask. A close friend, who reads my stuff and worries, asks. And, for some reason, this weird guy who’s always curled up outside the door at the grocery, deep in conversation with invisible minor deities.)

But the answer is simple. When trolling for ideas, I have several things working in my favor:

• My TV has an ‘on’ button.

• I haven’t bothered with actual facts since the Nixon Administration.

• I have constant access to Earth, known throughout the Milky Way as “That Weird Blue Planet With All Those Gods.”

Did you know that, on parts of our planet, people have to keep up with some 300 million deities? That’s some serious specialization. Imagine trying to remember who handles what, whose bell is whose, which candle is which. Undoubtedly, somebody’s bound to get snubbed somewhere.

And I still couldn’t find any takers in the print media, maybe because I had inadvertently intoned to the wrong minor deity. Maybe I had lit a candle to the deity in charge of Car & Driver, Holiday Editions, Back-Issues Only. With a staff directory of 300 million, it’s easy to end up in the wrong cubicle.

When the newspapers responded at all, responses ranged from “No thanks” to “Nice stuff, but we’re broke” to “I write all our humor, thank you” to “We only use local writers, but if you move to Bean Blister, Idaho, call me!” to my very favorite: “Sorry, we can’t use funny.”

Then, one day, I read an article that suggested something new: Why not pay buckets of money to publish a book, and then include a free copy when you contact comatose, near-death newspapers? That way, you’ll not only be snubbed – you’ll be broke, too!

Hard to argue with logic like that.

So I wrote a book. Bad idea. Because then I wanted to sell the book. How hard could that be, right?

Time passed. Sales inchwormed along. I remember the day when I cracked the ceiling – the day that my stories and I earned our very first dollar. Top o’ the world, Ma! I immediately broke out a picture of a bottle of champagne. I lit a little candle to the minor deity in charge of Online Paperback Books, 250 Pages Or Less, Sales Of Exactly One Dollar (minor deity #12,615,411, if you’re wondering). I opened a magazine to a photo of rich people, and stared at them, memorizing faces for future reference. I stared for so long that I developed an ocular tic, and had to schedule with the eye doctor.

According to the online “sales rank,” my little book was the 256,609th most popular book in America, just ahead of “How I Lost 50 Pounds And Partial Eyesight By Eating Pictures Of Food” and just behind “Harry Potter And The Curse Of A Whole Bunch Of Snubbed Minor Deities.”

And I plan to start writing another book as soon as my eyesight returns to normal. I’m just back from the eye doctor and I’m so dilated right now, I may go into labor.

By the way, here’s the working title for new book: The ‘I Didn’t Snub My Ex-Wife’s Minor Deities, But If I Had, Here’s How I Would Have Done It’ Diet.

The perfect gift! Order your 300 million copies today!


Barry Parham is a recovering software freelancer and the author of humor columns, essays and short stories. He is a music fanatic and a 1981 honors graduate of the University of Georgia. Writing awards and recognitions earned by Parham include taking First Place in the November 2009 Writer’s Circle Competition, First Prize in the March 2012 writing contest at, and a plug by the official website of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. His work also appeared in the 2011 national humor anthology, My Funny Valentine. Learn more about Barry from his Amazon author page.

[This article is an edited version of a piece that was included in Barry Parham’s second book, Sorry, We Can’t Use Funny, available at Amazon. It was provided by the author and used here with his consent.]

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14 thoughts on “Sorry, We Can’t Use Funny by Barry Parham”

  1. This guy's brilliant, hilarious, and good looking. Barry isn't too bad himself. His writing rocked me, from the first time I saw it in a humorpress contest. I was thrilled when I got the chance to meet Barry recently. I'm a big fan, although the police couldn't pin those stalking charges on me.

    1. Thanks, Karla. I would never dream of challenging your analysis, given your reputation as a first-rate artist, and the fact that you have a bulldozer operator's license.

  2. Humour is a special gift – or is it curse? – from the gods and I fear you are incurable Barry Parham 🙂

    Thanks for giving me a belly laugh to go with my first coffee of the day 😀

  3. Newspapers will suck the humor right out of anything alive–good thing you decided on writing books. Wish you lots of luck!

  4. "But the newspapers kept telling me to get out of the way so they could finish dying." Keep going back to this and losing my @#$%. I love perfect comic timing. Great article, Barry.

  5. Thank you for this, and keep making words, Barry. I laughed my butt off all the way through "The Middle Age of Aquarius" and I'm looking forward to more. People are funny about humor. Several publishing types told me that comedy doesn't sell. Fie on them…

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