They always tell you to start with a joke.
Tara Conte, senior English major and longtime fiction writer and poet, takes these words to heart every time she sits down in front of her laptop.
“I write about things that I think are funny,” Conte, who is also director of the College Union Board, said. “I write about things that I hope other people will find just as funny as I do.”
Conte started out writing short stories while she was in grade school, and continued to entertain the hobby until she reached college. When she arrived at the College, she entered the creative writing minor and found herself more inclined to write because of classes such as Catie Rosemurgy’s ‘Writing Communities.’
The short stories that Conte penned as a kid evolved into poetry and prose that hedged on social commentary with a humorous slant. Conte has written about everything from the beloved Bob Barker and his game show “The Price is Right” to the home shopping channel QVC.
“My writing isn’t pure comedy; I always like to leave the reader something more behind the jokes, something they can take away from the story,” Conte said. “Yes, it’s partly social commentary, but my stories are really about the unique characters.
“I’m not saying something is wrong or right,” Conte continued. “I write about ‘The Price is Right’ because I watch (the show). I write about QVC because I love QVC. I like to poke fun at both society and myself.”
Conte will be reading at the Student Reading Series tonight at 8:30 p.m. in the New Library auditorium. One of the poems she will be presenting is titled “Over.”
“(‘Over’) is about a woman who is obsessed with ‘The Price is Right’ all her life and finally makes it on to the Contestant’s Row,” Conte said. “She overbids on a Hi-C juice box and the rest of the poem has to do with the ramifications of the overbid on her life.”
While writing about topics like “The Price is Right” and daytime talk show host Maury Povich might seem trivial to some, Conte sees humor and knowledge in these seemingly inane subjects.
“I’m motivated by the little, inconsequential things in my own life,” Conte said. “(I’m motivated) by anything funny or interesting that can reveal something about my personality and what I think is funny.”
Despite her notable talent and penchant for witty writing, Conte does not have her heart set on being published after college.
“I want to go to graduate school for arts management,” Conte said. “I’d love to work behind the scenes. I’m really into music, and I would like to open my own performing arts venue.”
Conte’s appreciation for music has played a minor hand in her writing. She listed David Gray and Damien Rice as two of her favorite artists, describing them as two of today’s best lyricists.
“I’m just so jealous of what they can do as artists, as musicians, as lyricists,” Conte said. “I don’t know if I’ve necessarily been inspired by a certain lyric, but I have found that certain artists are more effective in relation to certain topics.”
Conte’s peculiar cocktail of humor, satire and commentary is definitely worth more than a casual glance. If you’re at all interested by one down-to-earth girl’s take on some of pop culture’s most overlooked areas, then you should make an appearance at the Student Reading Series tonight. Conte will make you laugh, but she’ll also trick you into thinking. Therein lies the ultimate punch line.