Category Archives: Humor

Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul

I’m super-excited about this one. It’s a serious biography of the great comedian, critically acclaimed, which has been on my Amazon Wishlist since before it was even published. Today it’s $1.99 for Kindle. Patience pays dividends once again!

Richard Pryor released an autobiography in 1995, and it’s undoubtedly entertaining. But… there’s some question about the truthfulness of it. Pryor told many contradictory stories about his early days, and who knows which versions he included in the book?

A biography like this one excites me more. Here’s part of a review of the book: “Pryor has had the good fortune to fall into the hands of a writer with the smarts to understand both his greatness and his madness. Becoming Richard Pryor is a first-rate biography.”

I have no idea how long the book is going to remain at the reduced price, so I recommend buying it today, before midnight, Amazon Western Time. I did. And now it’s going straight to the front of the reading queue.

Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich

This is my latest Kindle acquisition: book #617. To tell you the truth I don’t know a whole lot about it. However, I concluded that I might like it because of the following:

  • Whenever I see a list of the funniest novels of the year, there’s almost always a Simon Rich entry. He must be doing something right.
  • This one appears to be a cringey, uncomfortable school story, and I’m always a sucker for the cringey, uncomfortable school stories.
  • The blurb at the top of the cover says “An enjoyable little dose of poisonous cynicism.” Yes! I’m in.

Plus, it didn’t hurt that the price is $2.99 for Kindle. I’m not sure if that’s the everyday price, or a temporary situation. But I snagged it. In fact, I snagged it for the second time. There’s a paperback version — with a different cover — kicking around here somewhere. I’m now re-buying books I already own, because I prefer reading on a Kindle.

You’ll notice that the novel has mixed reader reviews at Amazon. That would concern me, and probably dissuade me from buying it, if it were in a genre other than humor. You can always count on humorous fiction receiving too many negative reviews. I think it’s the people who are really good at math who have a problem with subtle comedy. It’s just a theory. Indeed, two of my favorite humor novels, A Confederacy of Dunces and The Dog of the South, receive an inordinate number of one-star reviews. How anyone could trash those true works o’ genius is a mystery to me. It’s gotta be the fucking mathematicians, right? I can think of no other explanation.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

I believe everybody who’s ever worked in a record store has read Nick Hornby’s debut novel, High Fidelity. It’s a very funny book about a group of guys who, you know, work in a record store. They have a lot of pop culture knowledge, and strong opinions. They argue and bicker and make Top 5 lists, which they then argue and bicker about. The main character’s girlfriend has just left him, and it upsets him greatly that her new boyfriend has a subpar record collection.

Hornby’s second novel is About a Boy, and it concerns a perpetual adolescent (sensing a theme?) who lives in London, dates as many women as possible, and generally lives like an adrift 22 year old hipster, even though he’s now 36.

Then he starts seeing a woman with a troubled 12 year old son, and our hero finds himself in the improbable position of being a role model. He tries to help the kid grow up, even though he hasn’t fully grown up himself. It’s unclear who the Boy in the title is referencing. It could go either way.

This second book is also very funny, and charming as well. It was made into a successful movie, and later a TV series that I never saw. I’m fairly sure it’s Hornby’s biggest selling novel, and basically made him a literary star. I read it a long time ago, right after High Fidelity, but plan to revisit both books soon.

About a Boy is $1.99 for Kindle today.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson has a website that’s not unlike my own West Virginia Surf Report. She writes about her life in a humorous way, and has a biting sense of humor that I appreciate. The big difference between her site and mine? Hers is about a million times more popular.

But that’s OK. She works harder, is probably funnier, and managed to strike a nerve with people. I applaud her achievements. I don’t really get jealous of other folks’ success, I just beat myself up for not getting there too. I repeat certain phrases like “You’re a walking, talking piece of shit. Why don’t you just throw yourself into a fucking canyon, loser?” Life-affirming mantras like that.

In any case, this is Jenny’s second book. Both are memoirs, and both are huge bestsellers. To be honest, I had a little trouble with the first one. I started to read it, and stopped. But I think the brain chemicals were just mixing in some unfortunate way that day; sometimes the chemicals are not my friend. People I know and admire assure me the book is both hilarious and great. It remains on my Revisit Soon list.

And the second book is temporarily $3.99 for Kindle. I’m not sure if it’s a one-day thing, or what. But I’ve never seen the price this low, so snag it if you’re so inclined. I was all over it like a cheetah on a birdwatcher.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

mosquitolandThis is my latest Kindle acquisition: book #615 on the device. Previously, it had been residing on my Amazon Wishlist for many months, because, I believe, I read an article that listed it as one of the funniest novels of 2015. Beyond that, I don’t know much about it.

It’s described as a Young Adult book, which is fine by me. At this point in our history, YA should not scare away any not-so-young adult readers. There’s a lot of greatness under that heading. Don’t let snobbery or prejudice block you from greatness.

Plus, there’s a School Library Journal review of the book on the Amazon page that suggests that some of the humor is insensitive. Yes! Insensitive and inappropriate humor is, needless to say, a big-time positive.

And there’s this blurb, which sealed the deal for me: “…reminiscent of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off if done by John Hughes with Jack Kerouac.”

But, the real reason I finally pulled the trigger on it was price, of course. All roads lead to cheapness. Yesterday, as I was scrolling through my outrageously bloated Wishlist, I noticed the price on the Kindle version had been reduced (temporarily, I’m sure) to $1.99. It’s still there, as I type.

And that’s the secret: do the research, try to identify all the good books, put them on your Wishlist, and wait for a temporary price-drop. It’s how a person ends up with 615 amazing books on their Kindle. Well, that and a light dusting of mental problems.

The hunt continues!

Attempting Normal by Marc Maron

MaronI discovered Marc Maron about five years ago, when I was trolling for new podcasts to add  to my “work iPod.” Back then I listened for about 10 hours per day, five days per week, and was ripping through an enormous amount of material.

One of the first Maron podcasts I heard was his infamous encounter with Gallagher, which was episode 145. As I type this, he’s up to 673 episodes, and I’ve listened to them all. Except for one, which I turned off in disgust: his interview with the pretentious-cock lead singer of Radiohead. Oh my god!

In any case, I’ve become a Maron fan. He’s a longtime stand-up comic, and interviews “creatives” (comics, actors, writers, musicians) on his bi-weekly podcast. He also has a very funny situation comedy on IFC, that’s successfully worked its way into my bloodstream. I was just watching it last night, laughing my ass off.

And this morning I noticed his memoir is temporarily reduced to $1.99 for Kindle. I own it, of course, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I do not hesitate, however, recommending it. Snag the thing, before the price goes back to twelve bucks, or whatever. The man has had his share of adventures.

Monty Python Speaks: The Complete Oral History of Monty Python by David Morgan

PythonI’m not a huge fan of “oral histories.” I’ve certainly read some good ones, like the MTV book, but I generally prefer a more traditional approach.

However… this is about Monty Python, and the surviving members cooperate. So, it earned a place on my Amazon Wishlist. It feels like I know a lot about this stuff, and yet there’s much, much more I don’t know. Ya know?

A cousin introduced me to Monty Python, way back in 7th grade. It was impossibly silly and absurd, and sometimes there was nudity! I became fully-invested, as did many other people I knew. We’d never seen anything like it. At the time, comedy on American TV meant Alice or Maude. Monty Python felt like it was being beamed in from a distant, far-cooler planet.

This morning, while scrolling through the ol’ Wishlist, I noticed that Monty Python Speaks! is temporarily 99 cents for Kindle. Oh, hell yes. My cursor was a blur to the Buy Now button. And my massive reading backlog continues to grow. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

DC Trip by Sara Benincasa

DC TripI knew nothing about this book or its author, but it was recommended to me by a creepy Amazon algorithm that seems to know what I’m thinking, my moods, and all about that terrible thing in August of 1979 with the beanbag chair, etc.

I liked the cover, and the $1.99 price was right in my wheelhouse. But it was this customer review that sealed the deal for me:

This book was seriously hilarious. I hope they make it into a movie and somehow make the movie as good as the book. D.C. Trip is full of horrible teenage girls, underage drinking, accidental drug use, public bathroom BJs, many f-words, and all kinds of inappropriate behavior, which is part of what makes it so good. It made me wish I was a teenager again so I could get in the kind of trouble that makes a great story to tell the grandkids but doesn’t do any lasting damage.

Sounded like my kind of thing! And at two bucks… sign me up. I just started reading it last night, and was alone in my silent living room laughing my ass off. Like a mental patient. I’m only about 15% into it, but can already recommend this one. It’s well-written, hilarious, and kinda filthy. Perfect!

Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

shit-my-dad-says_coverBack when I was writing my “shitty jobs” memoir, chasing a mainstream publishing contract and making myself even crazier than usual, my agent suggested I read a few similar books to see how others have approached the process. Loving the idea of taking a break from the endless rewrite chore, I took her up on it.

However, one of her suggestions was Shit My Dad Says. Seriously? I had an attitude about that book, and the author in general. I had to begrudgingly admit he was a funny writer, but his whole shtick bugged me. Ya know? He became world famous after opening a Twitter account and posting the supposed random “shit” his dad said around the house.

I believed it was all fake. I mean, it was pretty interesting how his dad apparently walked around mumbling his hilarity in less-than-140 character bursts. How convenient. A lot of it was funny, sure. But, it felt like a gimmick to me. The fact that I was struggling, and this dude was flying high had nothing to do with my attitude. I’m certain of it. Nothing at all.

But, I read the book, and loved it. It’s genuinely funny, and warm. There’s a lot of heart in this thing, and plenty of laughs. It’s the story of Halpern moving back in with his aging father, after years of being on his own. It’s really good, and his dad seems like a wonderful man. I was wrong, OK? Sheesh. I’m only flesh and blood here… Today the book is priced at $1.99 for Kindle, as is its follow-up, I Suck At Girls. Both are recommended.

The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh

choirboysI read this book at least twice when I was in Junior High School. At the time I thought (knew!) it was the most subversive and audacious thing ever written. I simply couldn’t believe it existed.

It’s a novel about a bunch of disgruntled and frustrated cops in current-day (1970s) Los Angeles who get together after hours for hard-drinking bitching sessions, which they have dubbed “choir practice.”

I loved it when I was 14 because the characters were hilarious in a way I’d never experienced before. Nobody I’d known talked that way, Well, kids did… kinda-sorta. But this was taken to a whole new level. The cops’ opinions were outrageous, and expressed in ways that had me crying with laughter. And their creative use of profanity was nothing short of art.

And the cool thing about it? It was a bestselling novel, available for purchase right there at the Kroger checkout. So, I could carry around what must be the wildest, most amazing thing ever created, and nobody would even question it. It felt like I was pulling the world’s biggest scam. I’m not kidding, this book — along with MAD magazine and National Lampoon — helped warp me forever.

I haven’t read it in 35 years, but I downloaded it to my Kindle today, since it’s priced at $1.99. It’ll be interesting to see what I think of it now. My memory tells me it’s something that would NEVER be published in 2015; there’s something to offend every special interest group known to man inside this book. At least I hope I’m not disappointed, and find out I have it wrong.