Friday, August 31, 2007

Brave enough to diss Oprah’s fame, funny enough to grace a Starbucks® cup: meet Judy Gruen

Read a message from author Judy Gruen and smiles are inevitable. “Can’t decide whether to stay friends with a size two woman who won’t eat a carrot because of its high-carb content?” she wrote. Gruen’s keen sense of humor is making her latest book, ‘The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement,’ increasingly popular. Her wit has also earned one of her quips a spot on 5 million Starbucks® cups. How did this author manage to succeed at publishing humor, arguably the most difficult category of writing? Part of the reason may lie in her genes.

“I’m fairly certain I inherited my paternal grandfather’s sense of humor,” she says. “He loved nothing more than to make people laugh, to tell jokes, and play practical jokes on people—though I don’t put antacids on the table in homes where I’ve been invited for dinner.”

As a young child Gruen could always make her family laugh by imitating Kathryn Kuhlman, one of the early televangelists who claimed to heal the lame and cure the blind. Gruen recalls, “Kathryn and the newly healed would laugh and cry and walk together, shouting “Hallelujah!”

Gruen says she also “did a pretty good Nixon, at least for a 10-year-old.” She says her impression of the beleaguered president “cracked up my Mom in particular.” But then, says the lively author, “As my mother, she was obliged to laugh.”

Years later, Gruen began to write freelance essays—“funny ones.” She says she sold them, much to her delight. “I had no idea what a tricky path I was setting for myself at the time. I just wrote what struck me as most compelling and worthy of satirizing.”

Her humor often stemmed from topical items in the news. “I still think the funniest things I’ve ever written were more reporting than anything else. You just can’t make up stuff as hilarious as educators banning “tag” and Paris Hilton brandishing a Bible (upside down) to display her remorse over having to write the word “socialite” on a resume.”

She is serious about her humor, at least from a crafting standpoint. “I still want to improve the quality of my work all the time; I never tire of setting a goal of making my next column better than the last. It’s the most fun challenge I know of, much more fun than dieting.”

Gruen has sometimes touched a nerve with fans of those she writes about. She wrote an essay called “Oprah’s Memo to God.” That notorious essay is in her new book.

“I skewered her vast fame and influence,” Gruen says of the daytime diva. “I thought my computer would nearly burn up from the livid emails I received from Oprah fans, MANY OF WHICH WERE WRITTEN IN CAPITAL LETTERS SO I REALIZED HOW UNFUNNY I REALLY WAS.”

An award-winning author of three books, Gruen has published widely in magazines and newspapers like Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Day, the Chicago Tribune, Family Circle and the Los Angeles Times. She writes a popular column ‘Off my Noodle.’

A veteran speaker at venues like the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Gruen will speak at American Jewish University in Los Angeles on Sunday, November 11. Those who attend are guaranteed many smiles from the lady famous for quips like, “A woman’s home is her hassle.”

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