Issue 20 (2021): Laughter

Funny, Not Funny

Q: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb? A: That’s not funny. Which is funny, right? Or not. The relationship between women and humour—and laughter and comedy and even smiling—is complicated.


My mother always covers her mouth when she laughs. Once I showed her / what I thought was a great photo, and she said, “Oh, my teeth.” / Scientists document our rhythmic breaths and vocalizations. / It isn’t always a joke....

Somebody Get a Wig

To work in comedy is many things: / exciting / hilarious / exhilarating / difficult / good wigs / late nights / loud bars / free beers / never stable / full of gossip / endless hours writing sketches / only to have them forgotten....


So outta the blue, the woman starts, well, aging. One day she’s out for a long run, uphill both ways, with zero stretching or anti-inflammatories. Next day she wakes up and her bedside table is covered with pill bottles and cross-stitch....

The Music of Laughter

And so this madness from my mummy went on. Music. Laughter. Singing. Two months later, I came home from school and heard a familiar tune I could not place. My mom looked up at me with her smile and said, “I am playing ‘Like Virginia.’”


dangling icicles glitter in the sun / droplets swell, cling, quiver and finally free fall / splattering, disappearing into wet pavement / letting go – I take myself less seriously now / cracking up always feels better....


You dropped “crazed” from the second description. Aaah, he’s just a guy, you know, who could be having a bad day, you know, he needs our understanding, you know, why don’t we look at this from his point of view?

Good Game

“Offside!” Four wheezes. There’s no offside in Indoors, everyone thinks, everyone knows, but Four insists. Four believes. She storms down the field, a petulant child with fallen arches and roots that need touching up.

Smiling Is Not Professional

I examine the wrinkles around my eyes and mouth. I have developed some pretty significant laugh lines. I see them as signs of resistance. I have somehow managed to keep laughing, even when I’ve been told that I shouldn’t.

Go for Gold, Audrey Pham

As a shy person, one of the greatest salves I’ve found is to give my jokes to characters, and have those characters played by actors who are not me. What a joy, what a thrill, and what a relief to have these actors go out there....

The Mess

I’m tired. / Tired of the words / crunching underfoot, cheerios / smushed into the carpet, never / devolving to earth. / Of climbing over / boxes of disconnected words / belonging once to poems, essays, / fiction and non, / rumbled-jumbled....

Delivering the Tragic

When I wrapped up and stepped off stage to applause, two producers I’d never met booked me for paid shows on the spot. Then a swarm of people approached me to tell me their own stories of doctors and misdiagnosis.


I love to see an audience of poets chuckling and hooting. I love to see the look on newcomers’ faces: “Poetry has sure changed since high school.” But humorous poems need just as many revisions as sonnets, sestinas, or free verse.

Instructions for Lucretia

Take a spoonful of sugar for the hiccups / Dash his brains into his mouth / Map the stretch marks on your thighs / Stay grounded by looking up / Inhale the sky / Avoid long speeches / Call your mother, talk about the day you were born....

Two Yahoo! Poems

The animal is a sign of a need, surely— / one that we’re too frightened / to say out loud. / Not a need to hold each other, / necessarily. Not the need of weak-willed men / to tell someone when to sit or fetch. / Perhaps it is a need to know....


I wish laughter were / the last thing to go / but it goes / before hearing, / before thought, / before breath, / this bubbling thing, this spasm, / this wriggling fish, / half muscle, half air, / that flops out of us, / with a hook in its flesh....

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