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  • Writer's pictureJim Pfiffer

I Started Writing this column a year ago!

A humor column by jim pfiffer, elmira, ny

A year ago, this week, I began posting this weekly humor column.

It’s been a fun ride, after retiring from writing a twice-weekly humor column for the Elmira Star-Gazette -- Motto: “Yes, our news is two days old, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s wrong.”

I hope you have enjoyed my musings. If not, that’s cool. Not everyone shares my disturbed sense of humor. I hold no ill regard for people who think that my writing “bites the big one.” But, if I run into you in public, I’m going to sock you a big one.

Ha! Not really. That was an example of my sharp, sarcastic humor. I would never accost a critic. Unless he/she/other was small and had their back to me.

Ha. Ha. See, I did it again. I’m a riot. You never know when I’m going to get silly like that. Often, I don’t know. Sometimes, while writing, I get into “The Zone,” and the column comes to life, takes over and writes itself.

(This is the Column speaking: “I have to take over to stop him when he goes all Jack “The Shining” Nicholson and writes some creepy shit. He’s not typing with a ‘full keyboard,’ if you catch my drift.”)

This marks my 53rd weekly Facebook column, thanks to my friend and local Realtor, J.D. Isles, who suggested I start columnizing again, and do it on his Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page. My column also appears on several other sites, including this one.

Hidden Landmarks is a collection of Twin Tiers-related history and content that is, without a doubt, the greatest Facebook page ever. (J.D. said I had to write that, or he would stop running my posts.)

(Column speaking: See what I mean about his loose grip on reality? He’s publicly dissin’ J.D., even though J.D. reads this column. Idiot.)

I like to laugh. It makes it easier to accept all the embarrassing things I do.

I was born with the ability to see humor where others cannot.

(Column speaking: “All he has to do is look in a mirror.”)

I use humor to highlight life’s absurdities. My “laugh-so-I-don’t-cry” philosophy goes back to 1990 when I began writing my Star-Gazette humor columns. By the time I retired in 2008, I had penned more than 3,000 columns.

Many of my columns are controversial and irk some readers. But, like they say, “controversy sells,” and “controversy” is my middle name.

(Column speaking: “No, his middle name is ‘Garbage,’ because that’s where most of his columns end up. Yes, he had a loyal core group of readers, but they gradually disappeared as they were picked up on arrest warrants.)

I get my column ideas from observing people, life and myself. All three generate silos full of idiotic and “I can’t believe it” column fodder.

I use a laptop to turn that silage into entertaining wit. I write most every day, starting on Mondays, when I decide on a topic, craft and outline, and develop a theme.

If I’m unfamiliar with the topic, I research it. Or make it up, if I’m in a hurry. I write several hours a day, usually in the morning, sometimes at home, and sometimes at the library where I sit in the “humor and satire” section hoping some of it will osmose into my prose.

(Column speaking: “Bullshit! He goes to the library to plagiarize from REAL humorists.” What a liar.)

Throughout the week, I tinker with the column as it speculates in the back of my mind. I add, subtract and rewrite it a dozen times or more, culling deadwood and polishing the prose until it glows, or at least reflects a relatively sane sense of comedy.

It’s difficult to self-edit because humor depends on a surprise punchline. That’s why a joke is funny the first time you hear it. After that, you know the ending. The more you hear the joke the more tiresome it becomes.

It’s the same when editing my column. By the second and third time I’ve read it, the punchlines are punched out. I’m careful when editing so that I don’t remove the good lines, because I no longer find them funny.

I also don’t let anyone read my column before I post it, because their suggestions, criticisms and disgust could influence my editing. You regular readers share my sense of humor. What someone else may find objectionable, you find hilarious.

(Column speaking: “I wouldn’t be proud of that if I were you.”)

When I’m confident the column is done, I let it sit for a few hours and then go back and cut it by at least 10%. Most writers write too much. There’s always fat to trim.

By Friday, I email my column to my editor, a good friend and talented scholar of the English language. Her name is Marilyn. She weeds out my misspellings, punctuation problems and grammatical garbage. I worry that she may develop chronic headaches from all her “I can’t believe he wrote that,” head shaking.

I get the edited version by Saturday afternoon, and it’s posted by 7 a.m. Sunday.

You readers take it from there.

Thanks for your support, comments, good humor and realization that life is too important to take seriously and is much more fun when you laugh at yourself.

(Column speaking: “I wrote that ending. Pretty good, huh? The author’s version was a childish ranting, whining and pouting temper tantrum about how readers don’t ‘understand’ his humor and how hard it is to write every week. It was pitiful. Made me just want to puke.)

Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on theJim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley and many pets, and is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper. Contact him at


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