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I have been looking for good humor sites on the Web for some time.  So far I have only found a few that meet my simple but stringent criteria: literate and entertaining.  Here are my links so far:
This is a satire site edited by the talented and hilarious Kurt Luchs, who is also a regular contributor to McSweeney's and what some people call "The O-publication" ("O" for "overrated"). New content is posted every Wednesday.



My devotion to light verse is a matter of public record. Also, my fondness for bleeding-heart, knee-jerk, left-wing Bush-bashing, when tastefully done, knows no bounds. Moreover, I have to confess to a weakness for websites by other people named David. So one can easily understand why I like Nightquill, featuring David Smith's brilliant humorous poetry about current events. Don't neglect to browse the archives.



For Limerick lovers only: Phil Graham is, as far as I know, the world's most prolific, fanatic limerick writer. He puts up at least one new five-liner every (expletive usually not deleted) day. Much (but not all) of his content is lewd and rude, the way we limerick lovers love it.


The cyber-cousin of McSweeney's the literary quarterly, this is hands down the most consistently funny satire site I have ever found. Updated every non-holiday weekday. 

Sarah writes a semi-regular column on McSweeney's called Sarah Walker Shows You How that I find hilarious. Her site has links to her other articles, her book, etc.

Oh yeah, Yankee Pot Roast. A crockpot of satire and humor that used to be updated daily. They might resume making regular posts someday.

David Martin is a prolifically funny guy who gets around on the web. He has stuff on The Big Jewel and Demockeracy and is the author of a book entitled "My Friend W". No idea what that could be about. This site is his repository of political satire pieces that didn't get picked up by other publishers.

Jamie Leo is a graphic artist (and playwright and poet and a lot of things) and this is his professional site. It's not a humor site per se but a lot of his infectious sense of humor comes through in the work. Also, I just really like the look of his main page with the links to all the subsections. Check out the "Illustrations".

Cecil Adams writes this syndicated column for the Chicago Reader.  The premise is that readers send in questions about anything and he answers them, working in more than a few wisecracks in the process.  Cecil is a fount of knowledge, some of it useful (I roach-proofed my apartment forever at a cost of about $3 thanks to information found in one of his columns -- details available on request).

When I was a kid, I had three or four "pen pals" at various times, to each of whom I wrote exactly one letter and from each of whom I received exactly one letter. So the never-met-in-real-life-correspondent genre looked kind of grim for me until the advent of the Internet. Karen Wise posted what I thought was a sharp and funny list on McSweeney's and I sent her a message and we have exchanged lots of messages since then. Including one almost a year ago (italics mine) in which I promised to give her a link to her blog, which she describes as "sort of a mish-mash of wordplay, recipes, movie/book reviews, parenting tales and lame political rants." She is also often entertaining, especially about language and usage. And I am also often a jerk for not keeping my promises until ten months later.

This is not a humor site but it is very entertaining, not to mention informative. It indexes and explains spams and e-mail chain letters of all types, telling the truth about virus hoaxes, urban legends, pyramid schemes, well-intentioned but futile petitions, supposedly true inspirational stories, etc., etc.  Next time you get a spurious-sounding virus warning or a "glurge", check it out here first before passing it along. And whatever you do, don't fall for the old Nigerian bank transfer scam.

Another great site for urban legends is




This is a list of books that have met the serious literary criterion that I have found them to be a scream.  Please note that in compiling this list I am trying to avoid the obvious.  You do not need me to tell you that Dave Barry and Scott Adams are funny. Please also note that my goal here is to plug my personal favorites, not to compile a comprehensive list of every wag who ever owned a typewriter. If you notice any glaring omissions, feel free to e-mail me and contribute to the page.*  Be sure to put the word "hilarious" in the subject of your message to get past my spam filter.

Let's start with some classics. The great humor writers of the earlier 20th century include S.J. Perelman and Robert Benchley, and I recommend any of their books. Likewise the later 20th century writers Fran Lebowitz, Woody Allen (yes, books) and Peter De Vries. For Mordecai Richler and P.J. O'Rourke I will pick specific titles: "Stick Your Neck Out" (aka "The Incomparable Atuk") for Richler and "Holidays in Hell" by O'Rourke. When I was a kid I loved Jack Douglas, especially "My Brother Was an Only Child" and "Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver."

And now a non-classic: Ed McClanahan hasn't written nearly enough for my liking. He has one very entertaining book, "The Natural Man".

Bill Bryson is probably the world's funniest breathing writer.  Plus, he grew up in Iowa, like me. I envy Bill Bryson. Here's how he writes his books: he goes someplace, nothing much in particular happens, then he shoots his mouth off about it and the result is hilarious. The best are his travel books: "Neither Here Nor There" about Europe, "The Lost Continent" about the United States, "Notes from a Small Island" about Great Britain and "In a Sunburned Country" about Australia.  Also a wonderful read, and full of cool facts to amaze your friends, is "Made in America". (Example: how did the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony communicate with Squanto the friendly native? The answer -- no kidding -- is that Squanto spoke English).

OK, I take it back, Bill Bryson is not the world's funniest breathing writer.  Ian Frazier is.  Read "Coyote vs Acme" or "Dating Your Mom".  He also writes excellent serious stuff, in particular "Great Plains".

Also Roy Blount Jr.  The man is funny.  He is also the editor of an anthology of Southern humor which is worth a browse.

Calvin Trillin is another of today's great funny writers who, like Ian Frazier, also fields first-rate serious journalism.  I recommend any of his books, but especially "Too Soon to Tell" and his food writing in "The Tummy Trilogy".

Charles Portis is one of my all-time big favorites.  He has two brilliant novels, "Norwood" and "The Dog of the South", both of which I have read multiple times.

Tibor Fischer is a young guy from Britain who has three wonderful novels out: "Under the Frog", "The Thought Gang" and "The Collector Collector" as well as a collection of short stories, "Don't Read This Book if You're Stupid".  He is exceedingly clever.  "The Thought Gang" has one of the greatest first paragraphs in English literature, and virtually every single sentence in "Under the Frog" contains a clever play on words or multiple reference.

Tom Drury has written two novels which, although not exactly comic, are dripping with hilarious dialogue and observations about life. These are two great reads: "The End of Vandalism" and "The Black Brook".

Garrison Keillor also writes short stories, in case you didn't know.  He is of course best-known for his radio work, but for years he has written short pieces for the New Yorker and other publications.  The collections "Happy To Be Here" and "We Are Still Married" are my favorites. Also, a parody of a famous poem in his more recent book "Love Me" put me into gasping, drooling, socially unacceptable hysterics, an experience I recommend for everyone.

Steve Martin also writes short pieces too, in case you didn't know that either.  You'd never suspect it from his films, but the stand-up guy knows how to sit down and write.  Some of his pieces ("Dear Amanda", for one) are like poetry.  The collection "Pure Drivel" contains that one and others.

OK, so it's a lot easier to get a book published when you've already attained celebrity status in another field. Another guy who turns out to write ace funny stuff is Ethan Coen, one-half of the film-directing brothers team. He has two books out that I know of, "Gates of Eden" (short stories, very entertaining) and "The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way" (poems, supremely diverting). His long selection of nasty limericks in the poetry collection was more or less directly the inspiration for my own limerick collection.

Tim Cahill is technically not a humor writer.  He's an outdoor sports writer, a guy who likes spelunking, rappelling, driving fast cars, drunken scuba diving for poisonous sea snakes, that kind of thing.  I put him on this list because every book of his I've read has had at least one line that has made me double over in hysteria.  My favorite is the one about driving the Pan-American highway from Tierra Del Fuego to Alaska, the book whose title I can't remember and I got it from the library so I can't just get up and go check.  You'll find it.

"Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons is an arch, sophisticated howl.  Many people list this as the funniest book they have ever read.

Talk about a humor columnist: J.B. Morton, under the pen-name "Beachcomber", wrote a 500-word funny column for the London Daily Express EVERY SINGLE DAY for FIFTY YEARS (try this at home).  And a lot of it was transcendental.  There are three anthologies of his collected columns: "The Most of Beachcomber", "The Bumper Beachcomber" and "Cram Me With Eels".

Max Shulman:
Unfortunately best known for originating the character of Dobie Gillis, Max Shulman was a brilliant and original humorist with a style like nobody else's.  My favorites of his are "The Zebra Derby", "The Feather Merchants", "Barefoot Boy with Cheek" and the shatteringly funny although unabashedly locker-roomish "Potatoes are Cheaper".

Ring Lardner:
Did you have to read "Haircut" in high school in that awful textbook called  (something like) "The Numbingly Bland American Short Story"?  I did too, and for that sole reason I shrugged off Ring Lardner for another 20 years.  Finally I read the rest of his stuff and the truth is that he is one of the greatest humorists the English language has ever known.  In my opinion his best is "The Big Town", a sort of novella, although many swear by "The Young Immigrunts".

Jerome K. Jerome:
He only wrote one good book, but oh what a great book: "Three Men in a Boat (not to mention the dog)".  I dare you to read this novel without looking at the original publication date and guess correctly to within 40 years when it was written.

Do I have to mention P.G. Wodehouse?  (Pronounced "Woodhouse", in case somebody stops you on the street to ask.)  All of his "Jeeves" books are a guaranteed hoot and rank among the finest, although of course by his own admission also the lightest, English writing ever written.  My favorite is "The Mating Season".

While we're at it, the Broadway Stories by Damon Runyon are worth a read if you never got around to it.  The entire oeuvre is in the present tense, except for one clause in "Romance in the Roaring Forties" ("the poor loogan she is marrying will never have enough dough to buy her such a rock...").   The danger is that you want to start talking that way yourself.

More recently there's David Sedaris. He is often screamingly funny but he can also be serious and provocative. I admire the guy's writing a lot and highly recommend his collections of short stories "Naked", "Barrel Fever" and "Me Talk Pretty One Day".

QOO reader Ian Morrison tipped me off to two good reads: Molly Ivins' book "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?", a collection of political columns (mostly, although it also contains an excellent essay on being a journalist), and Clive James' "Unreliable Memoirs" about his childhood in Sydney. The follow-up book by James, "Falling Towards England" is also thoroughly enjoyable.

Lastly, a long shot: If you read French, there are a number of detective novels by Frederic Dard (pen name: San Antonio) that are filled with uproarious asides that have nothing to do with the plot. Unfortunately, he also wrote a lot of potboilers. Here's how to pick a good San Antonio: try to find one whose publication date is as close to 1975 as possible (the mid-seventies were his funniest period) and flip through the pages. If you see lots of huge, long paragraphs in quotation marks it's a good one -- that means he's letting one of his characters go off on some delirious tangent and that's when he's at his best.

*Especially if you are Miguel Cardoso. Like all writers, composers and narcissists, I Google my own name once in a while. How about you?


Copyright 2008 by David Jaggard. 
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