Sunday, April 15, 2007


By Mathilde Madden

Sex is a staple of comedy, from vicars and tarts to the filthiest 'blue' comics, from seaside postcards to the rather lovely Boyce and Statham and their dubious relationship in the Channel Four sitcom Green Wing. But how about going the other way (missus?) – how about comedy in erotica?

I used to be funny.
I used to be a stand up comic. I made a lot of jokes about sex. I had jokes about breast implants, jokes about male sexuality. I had a joke about fisting. (Get me drunk and I'll probably tell it.)

And actually, writing erotica and writing or performing comedy are very similar. In both case you are using nothing but words to create a physical reaction in your audience. You can never be sure if you've got it right. You can only do what you find funny or hot, but the way your audience react will soon let you know if you've hit the spot; be it the funny bone or somewhere lower down.

I think comedy and comic writing, if it's a skill you have, can be really useful tools in erotica and erotic romance. I'll explain here how I use them and how I think they can enhance the book. And you can chip in at the end and let me know if I've got it right.

Funny Boys
So the heroine and the hero finally fall into bed. Passion is rising. After 150 pages of bickering and unrequitedness and angst and conflict they're finally going to do it. And it's *hilarious*.

Yeah. So, I know. Sexy and funny don't always mix.

But a lot of women say the main thing they look for in a guy is a good sense of humour. So forget tall dark and handsome – for a really sexy hero give him a few good lines.

Actually though, why not make him gorgeous *and* sexy.

David in my book Equal Opportunities is a good example. He's a great looking guy. He's also in a wheelchair and, a lot of the time, he's pretty pissed off about that. But whiny self-pity isn't really attractive in a hero, even if - like David - they have lot to feel sorry about. So I gave David a strong sense of humour and a sardonic voice that could poke fun at his own problems without making them trivial.

In my second novel, Mad About the Boy, my heroine Sophie is torn between her long time boyfriend Rex and male escort Mark. Mark is absolutely gorgeous, and Rex, well, Rex is lanky with bright orange hair. But Rex is way sexier than Mark because Rex is, just, well, Rex.


Rex parades into my sitting room, right on time, carrying a huge stack of dirty magazines.

'I have presents,' he says, answering my yet-to-be-asked-question, 'sleazy presents.' And the magazines drop from his arms onto my stripped floorboards, sliding over each other glossily, like a sort of naked-man-slick.

I pick up the nearest one. It's called Boy Time and it looks like a gay porno. 'Rex,' I say, brightly, turning the shiny prettiness over and over in my hands, 'do you have something to tell me?'

Rex laughs, shaking his head cheerily. 'Sadly not – I was still heterosexual last time I checked. But you know, if I had turned to the dark-side in the last twenty four hours, I so would tell you by throwing a pile of gay porn across your front room.'


Funny Heroines
There is some debate about whether funny women are sexy. I've never had any complaints, but some female comics used to say it stopped them getting dates. But in erotic romance having a funny heroine can give her a sassy quality that means she doesn't take herself too seriously. In a book like my novel Peep Show, where the heroine is doing some fairly unethical things (spying on gay men having sex, using a photo of her own super-hot boyfriend so she can chat up gay guys online), giving her a sense of humour about them stops it all getting too seedy.

Here's a short example. Our heroine Imogen's take on her online beau Dark Knight's reaction to the photographs she sends him of her hot boyfriend Christian.


To say Dark Knight loved the Crouching Christian, Hidden Nothing pictures is a massive understatement – he practically proposed when he saw them. Although, sometimes he's not the most articulate rampant cyber dominant in the world, especially when faced with this level of tongue tying eye candy, so his praise was mostly restricted to the words: 'You are one hot pup', repeated in various combinations.


Funny Stories
Sometimes comedy can be more than just a character. Sometimes a whole erotic story can be comical. In the upcoming Wicked Words collection Sex in Public, my story – Lust for Glory - is pretty much a comic romp. Albeit a romp through a world of glory holes and getting crushes on the men from Lost. But this is quite definitely a comic story as much as an erotic one.

It's from the heroine Lou's point of view and, as with Peep Show, the heroine needs a sassy voice because of some rather unethical behaviour (you'll have to read the story to find out just what) but this is the closest I've written to out and out erotic farce. And I like it.


Gracie says, 'Do any of you lot want to earn some extra spending money this weekend?'

Gracie runs her own sort of company. Sort of. It's basically a catering company, but she likes to pretend they do events management and party planning as well. They don't. They reheat vol-u-vents and serve champagne. And it's not really even a proper company because Gracie's family are utterly loaded and the entire organisation is being propped up by the generous handouts her family keep giving her (supposedly to avoid paying inheritance tax).

I don't like working for Gracie at the weekend. For any number of reasons borne of both laziness and class warring principle, but she does pay pretty well and I've been a bit trigger happy on EBay lately - my last credit card bill was just a piece of paper with the words 'Oh-my-fucking-god' written on it.

'Front of house?' I ask, because wafting around topping up champagne glasses is slightly better than unloading and reloading a dishwasher in an ancient kitchen.

Gracie winces. 'Front for Willy or Markie, back for you, Lou.'

'What? Why?'

'Um, well, it's kind of a men only kind of party.' Gracie says and makes such a weird face that you would actually think that she couldn't possibly conceive of why a group of men would want to have a private party with no women around. Her. Her who is sitting here next to Mark and William. William with his hand down the front of Mark's trousers


Funny Business
I was going to say here that I don't always write funny. But I do actually usually tend to get a little joke or funny line in somewhere. A recent story I wrote I thought was pretty straight until a crit partner told me how much he liked the little jokey line about the Christmas present. (I'll tell you where you can find that joke as soon as it's confirmed.)

So, I guess I always write a little light hearted, but when I read, I like allsorts. In fact I love angst and buckets of gore and abject misery. But, for my writing that's just not my style.

Course there's funny and there's funny. Nothing in erotica is worse than an unintentionally funny sex scene. You know that thing about having people laughing *with* you rather than *at* you? Never more important in funny erotica.

So, tell me, do you like your heroes funny or brooding? Are funny heroines sassy or just smart arse? Do you like comic scenes in your erotica, or does it break the mood? Do you want to laugh and squirm?

Should good erotica laugh you into bed?

Tilly aka Mathilde Madden


Janine Ashbless said...

Sarcastic and witty has always been hugely attractive for me, ever since adolescent days watching Avon from Blake's Seven. Oooh... And if a certain novel ever sees the light of day I'll get the chance to introduce to you all a male character like that instead of my usual brooding angst-ridden killing-machine type.

I want you to tell us the fisting joke TONIGHT!

Got a train to catch...

Nikki Magennis said...

Oh, man, I love funny. I think it takes a great amount of skill and panache to carry it off, which you do brilliantly, Tilly. There's nothing better than erotica with a smile on its face.

And I think my favourite, favourite writing manages to mix funny-and-serious and make the whole story a wonderful mix.


- A man walks into a bar, and asks for a double entendre.
...So the barmaid gives him one.

Barabing! Kashhhhissssh!

Nikki H said...

I think humour can make a man incredibly sexy, even if he is not considered your 'traditional' stud. A good example of this, is the character, Dan Clifford, on Holby City. He's average-looking, but he has a wicked sense of humour and I just know that if I were working with him, I'd probably end up falling straight for his charms, because of it.

On the reverse, I think women can be funny too, but this can make some men look upon them as 'mates'. Someone they can let off steam with and be blokey. I say this from personal experience, though, so someone else might have a different take on it.

Good post, Tilly. Thought-provoking. Reminded me of some fun times...!

Portia Da Costa said...

I'd forgotten how cute Boyce looked in a nurse's frock!

kathrynoh said...

I don't know if funny women are sexy but if I'm reading I like my heroines funny. Nothing puts me off more than reading about a women who's too full of herself - might be a turn on for the guys but if I can't identify with her then it does nothing for me.

I think funny works in erotica if the laughs aren't about the sex - you can have funny people in funny situations but you want the sex to be full on steamy.

Nikki Magennis said...

this book has been on my wishlist for ages.

And weren't we talking about hoot island the other day?

Jeremy Edwards said...

I love it when writers season their erotica with wit. My own bio even states (and I believe everything I read in my bio) that I strive to combine the two. When I'm in the reader's chair, one of the best ways to engage me is to use a witty protag. And if the witty protag is female, watch me swoon.

Alison Tyler said...

Love this post, Tilly, and I wish I could see you do stand-up. I'm sure you're amazing! The clips you offered were delicious.

I learned early on that when doing erotic readings, you want to choose something funny. Heartfelt and moody bring everyone down. The first time I saw Thomas Roche read live, he chose this awesome story that was dark and fierce and funny as all get out, and the whole room exploded. It was about necrophilia. And yeah, I know, doesn't sound all that funny, but trust me...

I despise doing readings, but when I've read "To Lola With Love," a story in which a girl becomes jealous of her own cunt, the laughter in the room is seriously gratifying.

So, yeah, funny and sex often do mix.
Don't we all know that from experience?

Alison (who is trying to shake off the effects of drinking Mimosas all Sunday. And, not the plants, Kristina, the brunch beverages of orange juice + champagne!)

Kate Pearce said...

I believe they call Mimosa's Bucks Fizz over there, Alison!

I love dry witty heroes and heroines who wind them up. Even though my historicals are pretty dark and angsty, there's always a touch of wit in there buried deep. My contemporaries are funnier-I think-but not very funny.

I can't remember jokes I have one
Q-what is brown and sticky?
A-a stick

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

I certainly hope funny and erotic can mix, because that's what Teresa and I wrote in our latest book, which just got a full manuscript requested. (We pitched it to another editor who turned it down without reading it, saying she couldn't imagine how the two could mix.

But yes, I love the mix. It makes the characters seem more human than if they're always brooding and serious. Plus, laughter gives a great release that similar to a sexual release...right?

Madeline said...

I've been told that every character must have a sense of humour, because every human being has a sense of humour. I have an ex-inlaw that is the exception to the rule, but I get it. My characters tend to be witty, in that you-are-so-gorgeous-I-must-charm-your-pants-off manner. Banter, rather than jokes, I guess. I do see how humour helps your main character in 'Peep Show' keep from seeming to be seedy, Tilly. Interesting. In the real world people always tell me how funny I am and insist that I write funny books, etc. but my work is rarely funny. Of course, that's partly because I write erotica and until recently humour has NOT been allowed in erotica. Also, I think, because my humour comes from 'ain't life absurd' and that isn't erotic. Is it?
Kind of mourning the passing of Kurt Vonnegut - the very funny novelist who wrote great 'ain't life absurd' novels, with no sex in them... he was one of my big influences. Which may be why my work is often 'too zany'...
Thanks for the post, Tilly.

TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

Dayle beat me to talking of our new erotic comedy (no surprise since I was traveling home through a snowstorm yesterday).

Cat Scratch Fever wasn't meant to be a comedy, but we incorporated some humor there as well. The poor characters had to let off steam somehow in the pressure-cooker situation they were in (and sometimes they couldn't have sex to do so!)

The odd thing, in retrospect, is that one character who was intended as pure comic relief took on a life of her own and ended up a mix of comedy and...well, I'm not sure how to describe Valerie. (Force of nature cleverly disguised as a flake?)

jothemama said...

I love the picture on that book, nikki - Don't you love it when something's 'boob-clutchingly funny? :)