Writing humour: The Infernal Cafe

Among the aspects I like about writing humour — besides the offers of sexual favours (although most people usually say “no thank you) — is taking an idea and pushing it to an absurd level.

Take my latest radio piece. I wanted to do something Halloween-themed and thought, “What would Satan have to say about Halloween?” I started working this out in my head. But you know what? Satan isn’t funny. Can’t tell a decent joke AT ALL! Plus, how would I do the voice of Satan? Would he sound like me? Or would I electronically modify it?

Which is when I thought, what if Satan spoke and sounded like Stuart McLean? Genius!

Now, here’s where things get tricky. For humour to work, it takes more than just the absurd and the jarring dissonance of the normal against the ridiculous. To some extent, the audience needs to be in on the joke. And nowhere is this more the case than in satire or parody. Stuart McLean as Satan is only funny if you know who Stuart McLean is.

So I’ll tell you: Stuart McLean is the host of CBC Radio’s “The Vinyl Cafe.” He’s a superb entertainer who has built a huge following across the country with his touring shows that combine music and stories, mostly centred around perpetually bewildered Dave, owner of the Vinyl Cafe, whose motto is, “We May Not Be Big, But We’re Small.”

The thing about McLean is that his style is incredibly idiosyncratic. He reads in a halting, sing-song voice that both calls for and defies imitation.

Here’s a sample:

Explaining all this, as on other occasions, makes me realize how Canadian my writing can be, how often I refer to politics or cultural icons that just don’t make sense beyond the borders of Canada. I don’t apologize for it; this is who I am. But when it takes this long to explain what I’m talking about, it kind of sucks the life out of the humour, don’t it?

So, for what it’s worth, and mostly for my fellow Canadians, here’s my parody. Happy Halloween, everyone.

This originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway” on October 29, 2013. They added spooky sound effects and everything!


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Canada and/or Quebec, Holidays, Turn that radio on!, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Writing humour: The Infernal Cafe

  1. Letizia says:

    I love hearing how your mind works, Ross. You always have me shaking my head with a smile on my face.

  2. Elyse says:

    What a hilarious idea.

  3. Ned's Blog says:

    I always pictured Satan sounding like Donald Trump for some reason. Maybe it’s just the “You’re Fired” thing all the time. Or the horns he hides with his horrible combover.

  4. Yes, he could be Satan. So could Henry Gibson. So could Garrison Keillor. I don’t know Stuart, but — thanks to you — I now hear him as Satan. Should he be pleased? (By the way, do you know Henry Gibson?)

  5. denmother says:

    I’m glad Stuart McLean isn’t Satan! He’s not, right?

  6. pinklightsabre says:

    I played not nine seconds of this on my laptop and my wife ID’d him. “He’s Canadian, has a show on NPR.”

  7. List of X says:

    I’m not familiar with Stuart MacLean, but your Satan sounds like he’s taking with some Southern US accent.

  8. breezyk says:

    hahaha this is awesome. A) I love Stuart MacLean B) I love your Canadianness c) i feel the same way when I write sometimes- I wish it was more cross-culturally relevant d) “I found my pumpkin pattern on Pinterest” is DEFINITELY the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      A) Me too. I’ve seen him live three times, once here in my own town! He kind of dances when he reads. It’s cool.
      B) Me too also.
      C) Screw ’em! Nah, just kidding. Think of it as forging the Canadian identity.
      D) That might be my favourite line in the piece.

  9. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    That’s perfect. Perfect. Who said Satan has to sound like Orson Welles? I love your version. I’d probably invite that Satan over for a glass of wine and some appetizers.

  10. Sure, leave me out because I wasn’t lucky enough to have been born in Regina. NICE GOING ROSEMARY… Just kidding…maybe- whaaaaa….
    OK – I’ve got a hold of myself.

  11. colemining says:

    Stuart is a National Treasure- I eagerly anticipate the Xmas show every year. I think he’d make a highly amusing Lord of the Flies. This might just be my favourite Hallowe’en post ever.

  12. I have no idea who Stuart McClean is (said the lousy American) but I’m sure this is a delightful piece!

  13. Kylie says:


    You’ve restored the spirit of Halloween.

    (Also, it’s interesting to read about the process, but don’t give away all your secrets.)

  14. ksbeth says:

    wonderful ross, and even i got it. if that is any sort of litmus test.

  15. benzeknees says:

    Back when we lived in the bush of NW Ont. I used to love Vinyl Cafe!

  16. javaj240 says:

    He kind of reminds me of Jimmy Stewart. As everyonen knows, Jimmy Stewart could NEVER be Satan!

  17. javaj240 says:

    BTW, LOVE Wilco!

  18. Pingback: Fantasise about chastity | Cool lady blog

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