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:
THE BIG JEWEL
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.
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
McSWEENEY'S INTERNET TENDENCY
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 WALKER'S SITE
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.
YANKEE POT ROAST
Oh yeah, Yankee Pot Roast. A crockpot of satire and humor that used to be updated daily. They might resume making regular posts someday.
DAVE'S POLITICAL SATIRE
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".
THE STRAIGHT DOPE
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.
BREAK THE CHAIN
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
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".
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
"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".
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
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
*Especially if you are Miguel
Cardoso. Like all writers, composers and narcissists, I Google my own name once
in a while. How about you?
2008 by David Jaggard.
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