Guest Chick Lillian Bell: Why Write Funny?

This week, the Chicks welcome Lillian Bell, author of the Funeral Parlor mysteries. Lillian is giving away a signed copy of her latest book, IF THE COFFIN FITS, to one super-lucky commenter! Take it away, Lillian!

I love to laugh. I’m not sure there’s anything that can turn everything around for me faster than a big belly laugh. Laughter has gotten me through a lot of very bad times, maybe even more bad times than denial has and I am like Cleopatra, baby. I am the Queen of Denial.

My family uses laughter to release tension all the time. We can’t help ourselves. The second something awful happens, we start to crack jokes. The more awful the thing is, the worse the jokes are. It’s why we’ve gotten kicked out of so many ICUs and Emergency Department bays. It’s also why we’ve held onto the shreds of our sanity from time to time.

Jokes – and humor in general – tend to work because they defy expectations. There’s the set-up where a pattern is established, then a twist that surprises us which is the punchline or payoff. There’s a build-up of tension and then a release. (BTW, Hannah Gadsby talks about this – and a bunch of other things – brilliantly in her special, Nanette. If you haven’t seen it, go do it now. I’ll wait.) If we laugh at the same things, we have a bond. I know I’ve made friends by catching someone else’s eye just as we both found something amusing. It’s that moment when you wordlessly say to someone, do you see this the way I see it? Is it as ridiculous and absurd as I think it is? If that person feels the same way you do, you know you share at least a bit of worldview.

Because humor is often found by defying expectations, it’s a great way to point out problems. If you’re making people look at things in new and uncomfortable ways, though, it helps to make them laugh while they’re doing it. It’s part of why satire is such a great way of pointing out issues with the status quo. When you do it with a laugh, it makes it a little easier to take. Yeah, everything’s still terrible, but at least we’re smiling. On top of that, there’s some research that points to laughter releasing endorphins, those feel-good chemicals we get from exercise and sex and hot peppers. We get a little reward when we laugh at ourselves.

All of these things contribute to why I write funny books (or at least try to) like my Funeral Parlor Mystery series. I’m a bit of a people-pleaser. I like making people happy. If giving them something to laugh at can make their day a little better, I’m all for it. I also try to get at least a few messages across here and there. I tend to write about rebuilding after emotional catastrophe. I can show someone a path to do that while rewarding them with some endorphins at the same time.

When we read fiction, in general, we step into someone else’s shoes. It’s an opportunity to see the world in a new way and maybe come to understand someone different than us. Maybe that understanding will bleed into real life and lead someone to show a little extra compassion for someone else or connect with someone else by sharing laughter. From there, maybe we can learn something about each other and open our hearts a bit more to the world.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, my family tends to laugh inappropriately a lot. One of the worst times was at my father’s funeral. One of my sisters had her arm around my shoulder as we sat listening to the other sister eulogize our dad. When she removed her arm to go up and speak, her bracelet caught on my hair and she yanked my head over to the side as if I was a puppet on a string. Luckily, when you drop your face into your hands and your shoulders heave at a funeral, everyone thinks you’re crying. It was everything I could do not to do one of those awful snort-laughs.


About the book:

Funeral director Desiree Turner deals with death by natural causes all the time. Death by unnatural causes? Not so much. Yet, she and her boyfriend Nate have heard some not-so-dear things about the recently departed. A suspicious remark by the late Frank Fiore’s daughters sparks some concern. And when Violet Daugherty faints behind the wheel of her car, Desiree suspects she’s got a front seat to murder.

Desiree can’t help but look into Violet’s untimely end, but soon after, rumors begin to spread that she’s accusing her clients of murder, which quickly spurs a mass cancellation and Desiree is on the verge of going out of business. What began as an effort to do due diligence for her client turns into a wild goose chase for Violet’s murderer. Desiree must find her proof before everything she works for is lost. But that’s easier said than done, because while everyone else in town is looking to take their business elsewhere, the killer sets sights directly upon Desiree.

Now it’s up to Desiree to find the murderer before she becomes the next body her funeral parlor serves.

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About the author:

Lillian Bell is the author of the Funeral Parlor Mysteries published by Crooked Lane Books. She also writes as Eileen Rendahl, Kristi Abbott, and Eileen Carr.

She was born in Dayton, Ohio, but moved when she was four and only remembers that she was born across the street from Baskin-Robbins. Lillian remembers anything that has to do with ice cream. Or chocolate. Or champagne.

She has had many jobs and lived in many cities and feels unbelievably lucky to be where she is now and to be doing what she’s doing.

Visit her website to learn more about Lillian Bell and her books.


Do you laugh inappropriately? What’s your worst/best story? Share in comments for a chance to win a signed copy of IF THE COFFIN FITS!

49 thoughts on “Guest Chick Lillian Bell: Why Write Funny?

  1. Oh my goodness, I do laugh at the most inappropriate times! I do not have a small, quiet laugh, so this can be problematic at times! Church, weddings, movies, etc. I’ve done it all! We won’t even talk about my sneezing and its window-shattering volume! That, too, seems to happen when least expected!
    Thank you for sharing your story and the chance to win your book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Lillian — thanks for hanging out with the Chicks today! Sisters are perfect partners in crime, and instigators of inappropriate laughter, aren’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to say I think my sister Marian is probably the worst instigator of them all. The unfunny things that she’s made me laugh at are legion. Plus she has this really sweet face so I’m the one who always gets in trouble!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the fires that ravaged Santa Rosa, where my family lives, and burned many houses, including my brother’s. And we were cracking some jokes about it the same day. Some were too easy since yesterday is also Mom’s birthday. Clearly, the candles on her cake got out of hand.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thanks for this wonderful–and spot on–post, Lillian! I was just saying the other day that I I’m not a big fan of stories–be they novels, movies, TV shows, whatever–unless they include humor. Even the darkest, saddest stories require some humor, to my mind, because that is the human way–we always find a way to laugh, even in the darkest times. Which is why I thought The Sopranos was so much better than Goodfellas.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you for this post, Lillian. I love a good laugh in a book. I am told I am funny, but when I write it, it always falls flat. Writing funny is such an art!
    Whenever I am scared, I start cracking jokes. Like the dc sniper time. Making jokes every time we saw a white van, because it was the only way to not hibernate until it was over.
    The chauffeur (the man who drives me because you don’t want to be on the road if I’m behind the wheel) said something funny the other day and I snorted! Hadn’t done that in years. “OMG, you just snorted!” he screamed. My response? “Be proud you said something worth a snort!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha! Snort-worthy! That’s a whole new classification.

      I know what you mean about funny being different on the page than in real life. I did a humor workshop a year or two ago and I made my funny sister (Marian referenced above) tell me stories so I could analyze what made them funny. Then I looked at ways to make that work on the page. They’re analogous, but not identical.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve had people, including my mom, get mad at me when I laugh at something most people cry or get angry about. It does help you deal with difficult situations sometimes. plus the fact that a smile or laugh will keep the wrinkles down and the muscle tone tighter frowns use more muscle and cause more wrinkles. Look in the mirror and see the difference between your smile or laugh and a frown.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love this. Yes, I have been known to laugh at inappropriate times. I can remember one work meeting where our department head was going on about something and the incredulous look on one of my coworker’s faces was just so funny I couldn’t help myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s never out of place in my life. Other people seem to feel differently. Not much I can do about it, though, right?


  8. On Monday we were at Publix getting my prescription filled. I live in Citrus County Fl., & we are under a mandatory evacuation due to hurricane Michael. Hubby & I were outside waiting on the bus when a woman walked by with a cart full of wine & Doritos. Turned to hubby & said “Well she’s ready for the storm”. Not much you can do about a hurricane but laugh. And, yes, we are fine.
    And who hasn’t been reading in public & just burst out laughing to find a bunch of strangers looking at you like you’re nuts?!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I listen to podcasts at the gym a lot. I’ve definitely ended up laughing out loud at something and not realizing exactly how out loud I’m being until I realize everyone’s staring at me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We got very lucky. We had some flooding, but, nothing to complain about. All thoughts are with PCB. It’s a truly special place. And I had just talked hubby into moving back there about 2 weeks ago. Asked him this morning & he’s still game. We met there & got married right on the beach outside Salty’s by the Sea where we worked.


  9. I think laughter is what gets us through this crazy world, so usually what other people might think is an inappropriate time to laugh is just exactly the right time to laugh! Thanks so much for joining us today! (Let’s get together and laugh inappropriately soon!). 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Laughter is always good. I am a pastor, so for me I have to reign it in at times when things go wrong! I love this series. Thanks for the chance to win!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I love funny cozies! And my most embarrassing uncontrollable laughter was when I was singing in a church quartet many years ago: my husband, me, and another married couple. It was a Sunday night, fortunately, so there weren’t so many people there! Their little son wouldn’t stay in the church nursery, so she had to hold him. She would start laughing, then I would, then she would, then I would. It was awful, and so embarrassing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laughter can be so infectious. I think it’s part of that shared experience thing, too. I might be able to stop laughing, but then I look over and see the other person cracking up and it makes me crack up all over again as I re-experience it all with them.


  12. My friend and I had gone to the theater to see a movie – I don’t remember the title. The movie had a scene in it where one could hear people crying in the theater. My friend and I burst out laughing in response to all the crying. Needless to say, the other patrons were not happy with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. After my younger sister passed I went back to her room to spend time with her. As I knelt beside her, the head of her bed started to rise. I looked at her and I swear she was smiling at me which cracked me up. She had gotten me one last time.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Congrats on the new title, Eileen! (I just bought one of your books, by the way.) Great post. And I have a terrible habit of “quietly” snorting/giggling like a 2 y.o. when someone says something extremely racy without realizing it and no one else notices (or they politely pretend not to).This happens during business and town hall meetings, cocktail parties, and sports broadcasts (hockey and football are the best). I know. Highly inappropriate. I think that’s what I find so hysterical.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll admit I have a reasonably dirty mind and I hear all those little unintended innuendoes. We have a friend who seems to always hear the same ones I do. He’ll catch my eye and mouth “that’s what she said.” Then I’m lost. I can’t maintain composure. And thanks for buying a book! I hope you enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. “Someday we’ll be able to laugh at this” might as well be my family’s motto. And that day usually comes sooner, rather than later. My siblings and I have joked that we can’t bring ourselves to trust people who can’t find humor in trying circumstances.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s hard because you realize they don’t share your world view at all! I do have a couple of acquaintances who are very literal and do not get my joking and riffing at all. They’re lovely people, but we just don’t get each other.


  16. When my Sister and I are together we are always laughing. Really stupid and funny stuff comes out of her mouth. It’s good to have someone to laugh with. Looking forward to reading your book.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Oh yes I do. The worst is I cannot control myself when people fall or get hurt. I remember I was at my best friend’s house and somehow she fell down her stairs. She landed right at my feet and was in some pain. I could not stop. I laughed so hard. Luckily she knew about my problem. I even laugh at the slippery wet floor signs they set up. That stick figure cracks me up, lol


    1. Oh! It’s good to have understanding friends. I have a friend with a thing for slapstick. The worst is when she falls, hurts herself, and then can’t stop laughing. Last time she actually broke her nose!


  18. I work at a pharmacy and laughing quite often is inappropriate. Too bad we are a bunch of crazy women who say crazy things quite often. I usually just hope that no one hears me snort!

    Liked by 1 person

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