It’s a bit of a joke that the Internet is chock-full of cat humor, but not all cat humor is created equal.
Angie Bailey—the creator of Catladyland and author of Texts From Mittens—has built an award-winning humor career out of the litter box. I talked to her about how cat humor isn’t just about cats, and what’s so funny about felines (and other animals).
Mark: What are your comedy and humor influences? What makes you laugh?
Angie: I've always enjoyed silly humor, and especially get a kick out of animals doing "people things." When I was a kid, my family and I used to sit around making up stories about the kinds of wild parties our cats would throw when we left the house. I'm a fan of the vintage Alfred Mainzer's "Dressed Cats" postcards. To me, those are hysterical.
I love to laugh and can't ever get enough of Monty Python, Christopher Guest mockumentaries, Airplane!, and Naked Gun.
For a couple of years, my best friend and I produced a web series. Season one was SNL-style sketches, and season two was a six-part mockumentary about a chicken daycare. We haven't done anything for a while, but it was fun.
Mark: How did you get started doing cat humor yourself? Did any particular cat inspire you?
Angie: In 2009 I started a humor blog that had general content. I wrote about my family, musings on pop culture, visits from a floating, 70's-era Barry Manilow head, and my cats. I noticed the cat-related posts were the most popular, and soon found myself in the world of cat blogging (it's a thing!). I eventually changed my blog's name from Eclectic Catladyland to Catladyland, and wrote exclusively about cats. Since then I've expanded to writing freelance cat humor for Catster.com and CatChannel.com. I also write for Catster magazine, which was originally Cat Fancy. I wrote two books: Texts from Mittens (originally a Catster.com column and now also its own site), and Whiskerslist: The Kitty Classifieds (a parody of cats and Craigslist). Whiskerslist is also a page-a-day calendar. I still write once or twice a week on my original blog (Catladyland.net) because I like to have a place to goof on my cats and ooh and ahh over their ridiculously adorable feet.
Mark: Aside from cuteness, what do you think makes animal humor funny? How do you go beyond just adorableness to humor? I have an inkling that anthropomorphizing is a big part of it. Also, I know my dog is always doing funny things. So is it a matter of directly capturing real-life funniness or transforming images and situations into humor?
Angie: Yes, anthropomorphizing is definitely a big part of what makes animal humor funny to me. Also, I find when I write about funny, everyday things my cats do, readers really respond. There's something about sharing a laugh over something we all "get," that makes the situation extra funny. For example, cat lovers know how felines are overly dramatic, so when I write about them acting like they're absolutely starving when they still have a partially full bowl of food, readers love it.
[Angie shared this graphic to illustrate that point.]
Cats also have this habit of thinking they're completely hidden, yet there's a tail or foot sticking out, totally outing them. Cats have this sense of dignity and superiority, and when that's compromised in any way, it's hysterical. This, of course, doesn't include harming cats in any way — just observing the natural ways they act. I think the aspect of connecting with those of like mind make pet humor, in general, funny.
To me, capturing real-life funniness and transforming images and situations into humor are equally funny, and I use both in my writing, sometimes at the same time. In Texts from Mittens, I definitely do that. Some people prefer one or the other type of humor, but I like a balance of both.
Mark: Do you have a favorite example of your own humor you'd like to share? Why is it your favorite (or a favorite)?
Angie: Here's a link to one of my favorite Mittens posts. I especially enjoy writing autocorrect mishaps, and this one still makes me laugh out loud.
Here's one of my favorite posts from Catster.com. It's old, but features the Mainzer postcards, which is why I love it so much.