Accounting | The Profession

Accountants are funnier than morticians, author says

Donald Roper is not your typical accountant, as his self-inspired satirical tale about a nerdy number-cruncher shows

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People having a good laugh in an office meetingAccountants are often stereotyped as boring. Not so according to Donald Roper, a retired CPA, who says humour was one of his personal trademarks during his career. (Getty Images)  

CPA Donald Roper spent 40 years as an accountant, collecting dozens of jokes poking fun at the profession along the way.

“People tell me I’m funny, and I take that as a compliment,” says Roper, a retired CPA and author of A Totally Accountant Person: A Certified Number Crunching Nutcase!

While the pseudo-fictional narrator of his book, Bob Roberts, typifies the stereotypical accountant—boring, socially awkward and number-obsessed—the Vancouver-based author says humour was one of his personal trademarks during his 40-year career, most of which he spent working as an internal auditor for a mining company.

“When you’re an auditor, people think you’re out to get them, or you’re spying on them, trying to find out if they did something wrong,” says Roper. “But if you can develop a relationship and let them know you’re there for their benefit, if you can use a bit of humour along the way, it makes it more enjoyable for everyone.”

Overcoming popularly held stereotypes is part of the job for modern accountants. Pop culture portrayals in movies and books continue to perpetuate the myth of the detail-oriented dullard. But, like Roper, it’s not hard to find professional accountants who defy unimaginative expectations by developing non-numerical talents—in sports and entertainment, for example.

Roper started writing humorous essays about the life of an accountant in the ’90s. As he says in his book’s introduction, he was inspired by something Mark Breslin, the famed Canadian co-founder of Yuk Yuk’s comedy clubs, said about accountants.

“Accountants are not known for their great sense of humour. I’d take morticians first,” said Breslin. [See Funny Business, an interview with Neha Kohli, a CPA and comedian]

Roper believed the statement was far from true and set about proving himself more amusing than a mortician by writing down the funny ideas he had while on flights to visit international mines. After he retired in 2016, he began transforming the snippets into a book-length narrative.

In an embellished version of his real life, Roper satirizes the stereotype by taking it the extreme. The book charts a life lived according to the numbers—and nothing else. The story follows Roberts’ life, from birth to college to earning his CPA designation, then through his marriage to another accountant and finally ends with his admission to heaven.

“After more than 40 years as a professional accountant, I am now considered to be a fully depreciated accountant, or in other words, an accountant with no residual value and no remaining useful life; i.e. a “write-off,” the book reads as Bob nears the end of his professional life.

A Totally Accountant Person became available in electronic and print form on Amazon in October, hitting the number two spot in the Satire category (paperback). But, true to the number-cruncher stereotype, the author is waiting for more data before deciding whether to write and self-publish another book.

“If the numbers are good,” he says, “I’ll look at doing another.”