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on October 14, 2011
I'm a fan of humor anthologies and have a collection that includes books by E.B. White, Gene Shalit, and many more. This is the best because it was assembled by one of the funniest guys around, Andy Borowitz, the first winner of the National Press Club's award for comedy and the guy behind the Borowitz Report, the most hilarious tweet feed there is. I grabbed my copy as soon as it arrived yesterday and read for an hour, enjoying old favorites and finding new favorites. Borowitz begins with Twain but instead of the usual jumping frog or whitewashed fence he makes an unexpected but absolutely perfect and timely choice with Twain's declaration of his candidacy for President. I was delighted to see George Ade, Charles Portis, Frank Sullivan, and Peter DeVries included -- for different reasons, all four have been neglected and all four merit thoughtful reconsideration. Their selections are also superbly chosen. I was even more delighted to find that Orchid Thief author Susan Orlean could be so funny, to see many of my current favorites like Sloane Crosley and David Rakoff and Wanda Sykes, and to be introduced to authors who are new to me like Jenny Allen and Henry Beard and Larry Wilmore. Dave Barry's discussion of men, women, and relationships and Bernie Mac's description of African-American funerals are priceless. The piece by Donald Barthelme on the questionnaire about writers and drinking and the Molly Ivins about Texas politics, "the finest form of free entertainment ever invented" are among my favorites because they show how the simple recitation of actual facts can be funnier than anything you could exaggerate or make up. This book is a treasure trove of laughter and an ideal gift for anyone who needs to be cheered up or refreshed, which these means just about everyone you know.
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on December 29, 2011
I wish I could write half as well as these writers. To convey the subject and the story in such a way that makes the reader laugh out loud is a talent that is unique among writers. Great humorous fiction, great comedic films and comedians are often under rated and under appreciated. Don't get me wrong, we love our comedians and those who make us laugh. We do not, however, take them seriously. I think this is very wrong. What could be more important than to have a daily laugh that makes our sides hurt or even a laugh that makes one pees one's self a little? Wouldn't having Stephen Colbert for president have been a great thing? We really should have statues erected of all the court jesters of all time and not these stodgy old mounted warriors with swords and such. Thanks to Andy Borowitz you have created a new, go to book, for me when I need a reminder that there is hope for humanity. :^)
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on October 17, 2011
I pre-ordered a copy of this book for one reason only: I wanted to support Andy Borowitz who has provided me with so many laughs on so many days that I thought the least I could do in return is to buy his book. I simply don't know how Andy's daily emails can be funny every damn day. He never misses.

So on the book. This is a delightful collection of all sorts of writers and many are topical, modern, diverse and also laugh out loud funny. Not "funny" the way something you read in English Lit in 8th grade was supposed be be funny but wasn't. Really laugh out loud at a funny movie funny. Who couldn't laugh at Wanda Sykes, for example?

The other thing I like about this book is that each author gets about five or six pages so you don't have to commit to reading an hour at a time. You can pick up the book as the coffee is brewing and get a good laugh. Plus, you can just skip around and read the selections in any order.

I will add (seriously) that this book would be a perfect holiday present for all those hard-to-buy for people on your shopping list, including sullen teenagers, old grand-dads, faux intellectuals, real intellectuals -- anyone. Buy a dozen or so and your shopping will be done.

In short, we all need a break. We all need a laugh, and this is just the book to help us do so. Great job, Andy!
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on December 28, 2011
Just as the Holy Bible reflects the mentality of society during the Bronze Age in which it was written, so likewise, does The 50 Funniest American Writers reflect the American Century, and I think that this book should replace the Bible as a source of comfort and inspiration to us all. And just as every home always had at least one Bible handy, even if no one there could read, everyone should have at least one copy of this book -- even if you can't read.

Just as there were once squabbles over what Scripture should be included in the Bible (I'm partial to 2 Machabees and don't think it's been given a fair shake), one could argue that George Ade should instead be represented here by "The Joys of Single Blessedness" or "The Waist-Band That Was Taut Up To The Moment It Gave Way," or that H. L. Mencken's recollection of press agent "A. Toxen Worm" (whom he claimed was a real person) would've been the better choice.

The 50 Funniest is analogous to The New American Standard Bible or even the Book of Mormon, as it includes recent selections, which is nice, because you can now read those pieces you once skipped over in The New Yawkeh.

Although, if you have been keeping up with the weekly Shouts & Murmurs, and if you already have The Onion bookmarked, or if you are more interested in writers of the past, there are better collections than this. A Sub-Treasury of American Humor by Mr. & Mrs. E. B. White is better because it's a thicker book, and so is The Best of Modern Humor edited by Mordecai Richler. However, this collection by Borowitz has two things to recommend it over those volumes.

One, you owe it to Andy to buy it, because he's been sending you The Borowitz Report for free (guilt!), and two, it's so cheap!

That's another similarity with the Bible, because you can always steal a Bible from any hotel or motel room. Can't get any cheaper than that! I've obtained dozens in this manner, and one is propping-up a corner of my washing machine against the sloping basement floor. You apostates may scoff if you wish, but my clothes actually do come out cleaner (especially the whites) since using the Bible. I may add The 50 Funniest American Writers to the other corner to completely overcome ring-around-the-collar.
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on October 17, 2011
A wonderful and entertaining look at humerous writers' works. Also, it showed me the evolution of humor through the ages. Yes, as one of the reviewers here put it, as time goes on humor becomes more vulger. But, as I see it, that is part of the over-all history. Some of the writers' pieces are incredibly timely (Twain for President). As a lover of humor, I was very pleased that most of the writings were those that I had never seen. I admit that I did Google a few of the authors, which in some instances provided even more laughs. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to LOL.
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on November 29, 2011
Asked why he seemed to focus on conservatives, Borowitz borrowed a line from Willy Sutton. Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, and he replied that where the money was. Borowitz goes where the comedy is, and today, that is the GOP.

It appears from the four one-star ratings that four Republicans took the time to bash the book.

Last, a quote from Karl Rove, Bush's Brain: "As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing."
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VINE VOICEon December 9, 2011
Because Mark Twain, The Onion, and Andy Borowitz always make me laugh, I preordered this book. My only regret is that I didn't order two: my companion has been laughing up a storm every time he opens this anthology, and I'm still waiting for my turn.
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Reading through this collection of humor pieces, I wasn't surprised to see that a great many of the writers had been published in The New Yorker. Most of the pieces in this book are humorous in the droll sort of way that New Yorker pieces are. You don't laugh out loud; rather you're more apt to note how clever the writer is.

Most of the fifty pieces are from writers long dead, even the more contemporary pieces from writers like George Carlin and Molly Ivins. Of the living writers, most were born before 1960 (not that there's anything wrong with that!). Other humorists, like Garrison Keillor, I've always appreciated more in person or onscreen than in print.

I did enjoy being introduced to a few writers I didn't know. I think my favorite piece was Ian Frazier's "Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father," a takeoff of the obscure laws in the biblical book of Deuteronomy. A close second was Larry Wilmore's "If Not an Apology, at Least a 'My Bad'," a hilarious list of ways an American president could apologize for slavery. And, of course, Dave Barry is always a fan favorite. To appreciate the book, I think you just have to adjust your expectation of what "funny" means.
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on July 1, 2013
I love humor writing, especially in the form of short stories and essays. This book covers a great many writers in the genre and has some wonderful selections. Naturally, humor is a subjective art form, so what is funny to some isn't to others. Most of the stories I found to be very funny. Others had me scratching my head a bit - but I've seen those same selections in other anthologies, so perhaps you'll laugh at them more than I would. Regardless, I'm glad I have the book in my collection, and I'll definitely be reading them again and again. The book itself is very attractive. Great book jacket, nice binding, excellent paper quality and type. A good choice as a gift.
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on November 5, 2011
I'm generally fairly scattershot when it comes to the manner in which I approach a typical anthology: I'll thumb through, choose selections at reckless random, set it aside for months, perhaps pick it up later, and likely completely forget about the 44% I never managed to get to. Dust ultimately collects, as dust is wont to do.

I've long been deeply amused by damn near EVERYTHING that Mr. Borowitz has to say (whether it be in The New Yorker, via Twitter, or on his masterfully produced satirical website (, and I was intrigued by the notion of perusing the work of writers that HE considers to rank among the country's most amusing, past and present. I decided, what the hell, worst-case scenario? One more anthology, one more potential dust-collector...

This book will NOT be receiving the 56%-read solution, just to be cast aside like so much stultifying yard-sale fodder. As a matter of fact, my original copy is currently in the hands of a third grateful reader. And I'm maintaining a bit of a wait-list.

THIS book is one of the most well-considered, thoughtfully-ordered, skillfully-constructed collections I can recall chancing into. In addition, as I read it cover-to-cover in the order Mr. Borowitz plainly intended (well played, Andy!), I laughed aloud often enough to leave my eyes significantly tear-swollen, and hard enough to prompt a fair ache in my sides.

Beginning with Mark Twain's 'A Presidential Candidate' (stunning in its latter-day prescience) and finishing with Larry Wilmore's 'If Not an Apology, at Least a "My Bad"' (a drolly hysterical examination of ways "white guilt" might be more effectively expiated), the collection presents some of my favorite writers (Davids Rakoff & Sedaris, Dorothy Parker, Calvin Trillin...) along with a few that were less familiar to me (as if I'm unsophisticated enough to list them - ha!). The progression from story to story, as aforementioned, feels adroitly manicured without coming off as affected, and neither satire-fatigue nor comic-habituation ever threaten to set in. It's rare that I feel "approaching-the-book's-end-remorse" when tearing through a digest such as this, but as I neared the final four pieces, I discovered that I'd slowed my pace as if to somehow extend the book by just a few pages more... High praise, indeed, for a compilatory effort, in my opinion.

Bottom line: This book is consistently hilarious, brilliantly constructed and worth every moment invested in enjoying it. I'd normally hesitate in waxing so trite, but THIS one is an absolute must-read.
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