There are so many different kinds of humor: wit, slapstick, puns, jokes, and riddles to name a few. What we laugh at is deeply personal, and tells a lot about who we are and where we’re from. It astonishes me that my otherwise intelligent and spiritual husband finds the Three Stooges hilarious; as a kid, I memorized the “Who’s on First?” routine, because it brought a smile to my otherwise very serious dad; and I appreciate the fact that my husband feigns amusement when I tell a hysterically funny joke, and he just doesn’t get it. With this in mind, I’ve chosen a wide range of amusing books, in the hopes that each one will make someone guffaw or chuckle.
BLOWN COVERS: NEW YORKER COVERS YOU WERE NEVER MEANT TO SEE is definitely for the more sophisticated palate. Francoise Mouly has assembled a collection of drawings which were rejected for various reasons. They never made the coveted front spot on “The New Yorker,” by they’re all well thought out, and in many cases, really funny. Mouly also presents covers which have become iconic, including Barry Blitt’s “The Politics of Fear,” commonly known as “Fist Bump.” The Obamas are portrayed as many of the great unwashed seemed to perceive them. The First Lady is dressed as a black militant, complete with Angela Davis afro. The President is depicted in full Muslim attire. They touch knuckles while an American flag burns in the fireplace. Typical out-of-the-box cover from a magazine that prides itself on being at times outrageous, always clever and creative.
Nearly as irreverent, HOW NOT TO KILL YOUR BABY, by Jacob Sager Weinstein, takes on those self-help books which endeavor to make parenting foolproof. It’s vital, for example, to decide on a child’s name which will not induce mockery on the playground later in life. Always include in birth announcements the info that you are too poor to make kidnapping your child profitable, and that you own two very hungry Dobermans. There is a form included for all parents of children with whom you may be considering a play date. Very important, even though you will have carefully vetted them online in advance.
The companion book is, quite naturally, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOUR WIFE IS EXPANDING. Thomas Hill offers up a month-to- month schedule for fathers-to-be. Included are a guide for what not to give your wife; why you should never pick out maternity clothes; the debate over cloth diapers; and a list of updated baby names, including twitter hashtags. Would you plan on naming your little bundle of joy Kermette or Shemp? Think carefully before you answer.
What really goes through a man’s mind when he has a son? What if he can’t measure up? “Time” columnist Joel Stein contemplates just this in MAN MADE: A STUPID QUEST FOR MASCULINITY. In an effort to acquire skills he felt would be necessary to pass on to his boy, Stein went turkey hunting, took a shift with L.A. firefighters, drove a Lamborghini, went to army boot camp for three days, got into the ring with a professional fighter, rebuilt a house, experienced what it’s like to be a day trader, and asked his father-in-law for advice. Heavy stuff, dude.
Charlie Schroeder, on the other hand, just decided to join the world of historical reenactment, thereby becoming a MAN OF WAR, of sorts. His first foray was a doozie; he portrayed a Nazi at the Battle of Stalingrad, as performed during a Colorado winter. Over the next fifteen months, Schroeder enmeshed himself in the strangely all-consuming world of those who seek to go back in time to battlefields from Rome to Vietnam. He found himself learning a great deal about history, and finding compassion, even affection, for the men with whom he “served.”
What else would comedian Jimmie Walker call his autobiography but DYN-O-MITE! In this memoir, written with Sal Manna, Walker discusses his rise to the top; he’s best remembered as the iconic TV character “J.J. Evans” on “Good Times.” At a young age, he found that making people laugh was his ticket out of the mean streets of the South Bronx. Walker started out playing small clubs, along with contemporaries Richard Pryor, David Brenner, and Freddie Prinze. He opened for Black Panther rallies, emceed for the Apollo, and went on Motown tours. When Walker got his big break, he found that the atmosphere on “Good Times” was a far cry from the close knit family that appeared on the screen. And having hired both Jay Leno and David Letterman to write jokes for him, Walker had a front row seat for the Late Night War; his account of that time period is one not heard before.
I trust that one or more of these books will appeal to your sense of humor. Remember, if we don’t laugh, the terrorists win.
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist and an avowed bibliophile. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle. www.michalljeffers.com