Category Archives: humor

2016: The Year of David Sedaris

Some time in 2016 I decided that I needed to switch from history to something funny. I think it was around the time the New York Islanders were knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So! I decided to give David Sedaris another shot. I originally read When You Are Engulfed In Flames by Sedaris back in 2010. I didn’t find it that funny at the time, but I said, “Maybe I’m missing something,” and the comedy selection on Overdrive leaves a bit to be desired. Unless I’m a big Stephanie Plum fan, there wasn’t as much choice as I would have hoped, so I gave Sedaris another go.

I’m glad I did. Listening to Sedaris read his own stories made a huge difference to me. They were witty, sharp, dark, and that’s kind of my style, so I got a lot of mileage out of them.

I listened to five books by David Sedaris in 2016:

1. Holidays on Ice
2. When You Are Engulfed in Flames
3. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
4. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls
5. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

And one book edited by David Sedaris:

Children Playing Before A Statue of Hercules.

Forget about Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. It was an abridged production, it wasn’t that funny, and I only remember one of the essays which featured a (strained?) relationship between two sisters that I related to a little too well.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Sedaris writes essays about things in his everyday life and they frequently feature his life partner, Hugh, and his family. The aforementioned essays are frequently humorous but sometimes serious and usually dark, which doesn’t always bother me until you realize these are real people he’s talking about and you hope that Sedaris is taking a bit of dramatic license.

Long story short, Sedaris writes essays. All the books had their particularly bright spots, but Holidays on Ice was probably my favorite of these books, and my favorite essay in it was “The SantaLand Diaries” where Sedaris chronicles his time playing an elf in SantaLand in Macy’s Department Store one Christmas season. Having worked in retail over Christmas, it was striking how similar Sedaris’s recollections were to my own, minus the elf costume. It seems people are awful everywhere, which is sort of a comfort. It’s not just happening to YOU, it’s happening to EVERYONE.

Other highlights from Holidays on Ice included “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!” (chronicling Mrs. Dunbar’s descent into madness brought on by, among other things, her husband’s infidelity, the prostitute stepdaughter she is forced to take in, and her own drug addicted daughter’s pregnancy out of wedlock) and “Dinah The Christmas Whore” (in which Sedaris goes with his sister, Lisa, to rescue an abused prostitute from domestic violence on Christmas Eve).

My favorite essay, however, did not appear in Holidays on Ice but in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and was called “Six to Eight Black Men,” which was about Santa in the Dutch traditions (and other cultural differences).

I don’t really do it justice here because, well, I can’t. It made me laugh til I cried. So I’ll let Sedaris read you the story himself.

The Funny Thing Is…

It took me way too long to read this book.

I read it on my kindle, because I use my kindle when I’m doing cardio (elliptical, stationary bike, whatever) if I’m not catching up on TV (OMG I WATCH SO MANY ‘CRIMINAL MINDS’ RERUNS). And I brought it with me on vacation. And it STILL took me forever.

The thing about Ellen Degeneres’s The Funny Thing Is… is that it wasn’t very funny.

Don’t get me wrong, it had some chuckle worthy moments, and I like Ellen a lot (and my sister is obsessed with Ellen, so I’d be afraid not to like her). I could even hear her voice reading most of the book, but I just didn’t think it was THAT funny.

Maybe I need to see her face, because so much of comedy isn’t spoken, but this book wouldn’t be as funny as I hoped. There were some chuckle moments. The weekend brunch part? The talking butterfly daydream? hahahaha. But a lot of the book just…fell flat.

What I do like about Ellen, that often goes unmentioned but that I do like, and continues here in The Funny Thing Is… is that she can be funny without being mean. Don’t misunderstand me, I find that being mean can be very funny. Take for example, Tosh.0. I know that’s not a book, but it’s the best example I have of what I’m talking about. Tosh.0 can be hysterically funny, but it is incredibly mean spirited. Mean comedy gets tired after awhile. It’s incredibly repetitive, but also (in my opinion) the laziest form of comedy, and it shows if you watch it enough. It’s easy to make fun of people. If making fun of people was all there is to comedy, we could all do comedy. I’ve never seen Daniel Tosh live, so I can’t speak to his standup, but his TV show is definitely that.

Ellen doesn’t just make fun of people endlessly, she makes real life funny. It’s true. Why in hell can I not open a pair of scissors without a pair of scissors but can pop open a lightbulb no problem? These are the sorts of real life, every day mundane things that Ellen can highlight and make hysterical and does a fantastic job with. She’s to be admired in this way, because finding the funny in routine things is much harder than making fun of people, at least in my opinion.

But overall, it was only an okay read. It was chuckle worthy, but not laugh out loud hilarious.

The funniest books I’ve ever read are by Dave Barry. They’re called Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs and Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States. Those books had me hysterically laughing…even in public. Consequently, I compare all “funny” books to them. If I’m not laughing in a public place and unable to stop myself, the book may be amusing but it wasn’t funny.

So I guess that’s where I’m at with The Funny Thing Is…. It was amusing but it wasn’t LOL-worthy. Ellen is a great entertainer and I wouldn’t mind reading her other books, but if given the opportunity, I’d rather see her live/watch her show.

Meme: 10 Books That Have Stuck With You

This meme is going around on Facebook, and I thought I’d share my list here.

In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and do not think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just books that have affected you in some way.

01. All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
02. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
03. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
04. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
05. Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
06. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
07. Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs – Dave Barry
08. And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
09. Rebecca – Daphne DuMaurier
10. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

Alternate ‘Game of Thrones’ House Mottoes

My friends and I were discussing Game of Thrones (books and TV show).

For some reason, I find the series – books and TV show – a lot funnier than I think they’re meant to be. So much of it is so deadpan, I just laugh.

My friend was complaining about the Starks who, while being the only “good guys” in the series, are too dumb to survive. “Honor before reason,” as he said.

So I started coming up with alternate house mottoes.

House Stark: Honor Before Reason (not entirely my idea)
House Baratheon: Sibling Rivalry Gone Awry
House Targaryen: Incest – Bad For Dogs, Worse For People
House Lannister: We Barely Like Each Other…Except Jaime. We All Like Him
House Greyjoy: Our Last Male Heir Got Himself Castrated
House Tyrell: Pretty And Prickly (alternate alternate motto: Every Rose Has Its Thorns)
House Bolton: We’re Sadists
House Tully: Just Edmure And A Zombie
House Frey: We Lack Originality And Foresight

Fun stuff. I can’t stop giggling, but I don’t know if it’s because these are actually funny of it’s because it’s the middle of the night, I’m tired, and I just think they’re funny.

On one more ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ note: popuptee.com is selling some pretty awesome shirts of various houses – Stark, Baratheon, Greyjoy, Lannister, and Targaryen – for only $12.99 + free shipping. Other shirts include a White Walkers shirt, a Night’s Watch shirt, and a “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die” Cersei quote shirt. Hurry though! There’s only about 38 hours left before the sale is over and they won’t be available anymore!

I bought a Stark shirt and a Baratheon shirt for myself, as well as a Lannister shirt as a gift for a friend of mine. I like them a lot. I sort of want to see if when I put on the Stark shirt I am killed instantly (just struck by lightning or hit by a truck), and I like the Baratheons a lot for no reason I can actually give you. Robert was one of my favorite characters, but I have no idea why. He just seemed so cuddly when he wasn’t raging at Cersei or talking about killing Targaryens.

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