The old saying goes, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard”. That is one hundred percent true, which you may not realize until you actually try and be funny.. While I think that the supernatural and humor are a natural pair, it can be trickier to balance than you might imagine going in.
For one thing, almost nothing is more personal than humor. What you find funny and what I find funny varies wildly, and you need to look no further than the television to confirm this. Many people enjoy the top rated comedies, or whatever sitcom you can find on your TV at this moment, and odds are if you turn it on right this second you'll be greeted by a sitcom in syndication (or an infomercial, which is its own kind of comedy). A lot of people find Modern Family or Family Guy hysterical, and yet there are almost as many who would rather poke hot needles in their eyes than suffer through an episode. It's not only content – it's style and taste (or lack thereof), timing, a dozen different things. Where you might dislike certain kinds of horror, there's less variation within that dislike. It usually just comes down to genre with horror – you might dislike gorn (also known as torture porn) but like slasher films, or vice versa, or maybe you like it all, but hate CGI. As personal as scares are, there's something about humor that makes it much more unique and revealing.
If that's where the problems ended, you could color me a happy writer. But of course it's not as simple as that. Beyond the problem of humor being highly subjective, there's the problem of balance. There has to be a happy medium between the humor and the horror. For instance, if the horror is too violent or, well, horrible, you throw the reader right out of the scene, and there's just no way to laugh. One way to handle that is through being vague about the violence, or approaching it as slapstick, but that's easier to do on film. I'll point you to the fabulous “hand fight” scene of Evil Dead II. Almost impossible to capture on the page, but hilarious on screen. At the same time, if you make everything a joke, there's no stakes, and therefore no horror. You've made a children's story with bad words.
Since I'm writing a comedy horror series, I find myself thinking about these things a lot. Horror – and certainly the paranormal offshoot of it – is a natural for comedy. And yet juggling all these things – the amount of violence, the type of humor, how you frame a scene – can feel a little overwhelming. Am I hitting the target, or am I missing it entirely? Is it funny, or is it just kind of weird? Is my editor going to kill me? Okay, to be honest, no matter what genre I'm writing in, I assume my editor's going to kill me. I give them so much work to do, I should praise them all here and now for being wonderful, patient people. (I do appreciate you, I hope you know that, and I'm not going out of my way to give you work. It just seems that way.)
I wanted to end this little bit of meandering by giving you tips, but truth be told, I would like to hear from you. What do you, as a reader, feel about horror comedy? Do you like it? Hate it? Is it too tricky to pull off? If you're a writer, have you dabbled in the genre? Even if you haven't written in horror/comedy, I'd just love to hear from the comedy writers.