Humor Genre Study

Genre Study March 4, 2014


Funny books set the expectation high that it will be funny. Humor is a very individual thing and “voice” and perspective of author makes a big difference. Genre crossover including travel (Bryson) and memoir can include many humorous elements. Some performers can translate their humor to printed word and others cannot.


When WIll Jesus Bring the Porkchops by George Carlin – everyone abandoned it. Carlin’s gifts as a standup did not translate to the printed word. Seemed like a very lightly edited transcription and was not meant to be read. Remarkably unpleasant.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron – Audio is read by author. Seemed like it would be easy to relate to if reader can relate to Ephron’s age, class and NY setting). Younger readers found it hard to relate to and actually kind of sad. Others found it charming but very few laugh out loud moments. Other readers read it as Ephron poking fun at herself and not intended to be taken too seriously.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris – Smartly observed but not terribly funny. Sad and depressing. In audio, those that were read out loud in front of a live audience were much funnier and allowed reader to be more empathetic. Graphic and edgy.

Similarities – short essays, somewhat autobiographical, includes dark content, raw and emotional, all in the entertainment business


Paddle your own canoe: one man’s principles for delicious living by Nick Offerman – Semi-autobiographical, woodworker with mistrust of the government. Author portrays similar character on the TV show Parks & Recreation. Some advice. Light and entertaining.

Born standing up : a comic’s life by Steve Martin – Audio is read by the author. Autobiography. Tells about his difficult childhood.

I was told there’d be cake by Sloane Crosley – Jewish girl who grows up in Westchester and moves to NY. Relatable (20-something trying to make it in her first job), sarcastic, strong female voice. Very funny.

Quite enough of Calvin Trillin : forty years of funny stuff by Calvin Trillin (also wrote About Alice, his tribute to his wife who died of cancer). Dry and funny. New York liberal. Thoughtful, political, well-written.

Bossypants by Tina Fey – Dry, witty, sarcastic. Funny moments but it did drag on. Audio is read by the author and that is great.

Sister mother husband dog, etc. by Delia Ephron – Nora’s sister and she has very similar voice. Very autobiographical, sad and some anecdotal humor. Good companion read to Ephron.

Why animals sleep so close to the road : and other lies I tell my children by Susan Konig –  Tale of a mother of three young kids who leaves NY for life in the ‘burbs.

Still foolin’ ’em : where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where the hell are my keys? by Billy Crystal is very funny, autobiographical and audio includes many great impersonations of famous people. A little bit too much about his fabulous life.

Thurber’s dogs : a collection of the master’s dogs, written and drawn, real and imaginary by James Thurber. (1955) Essays from 20th century about dogs from his life as well as fantastical tales. Fun, sweet, nostalgic, opinionated. Illustrated, anecdotal, humorous and informative.

Our hearts were young and gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough (1942) – Delightfully funny memoir. Exuberant and youthful.

The book of snobs, by John, duke of Bedford, in collaboration with George Mikes. Nicholas Bentley drew the pictures (1965) First of nobility to charge admission to his abbey and received grief because of it. Chapters on clothing, names, dinner parties, etc. May appeal to those enjoying Downton Abbey. Self-mocking. Delightful, ironic, epigrammatic.

The egg and I by Betty MacDonald (1945)  About a woman who marries an older man and starts an egg farm. Written in the 1940s. Dated with racial stereotypes. Made it into a movie and introduced the world to Ma and Pa Kettle. Funny, autobiographical.

Piece by piece by Calvin Trillin – Better on audio, essays, read by author who is likeable. Delivery is dry and dead pan. Dead pan, wry and literate.

How to be a stand-up comic by Richard Belzer, Larry Charles, and Rick Newman (1998) Very funny, easy to read with pictures. Informational (although out of date). Parody.

Coop : a year of poultry, pigs, and parenting by Michael Perry (author of Population 465) Author moves to his wife’s defunct family farm and attempts to build a coop. If you like small towns and country living, and find humor in taking care of farm animals, this might be for you. More poignant than laugh-out-loud funny.

Adulting : how to become a grown-up in 468 easy(ish) steps by Kelly Williams Brown – Written by 20-something and would be helpful for that age group. Advice given in a very funny away. Amusing.


Fiction humor is very dialogue based, mad cap, unexpected (sometimes)

Non-fiction more intentional and often autobiographical with a shorter essay type form



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