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The 50 Funniest American Writers*: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion Hardcover – October 13, 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Sublimely funny... This book is a treasure trove of laughter and an ideal gift for anyone who needs to be cheered up or refreshed, which these days means just about everyone you know."
- Nell Minow The Movie Mom


A New York Times Best Seller
-- The New York Times


Editor's Choice and Best Seller
-- Buffalo News


"Had me laughing out loud."
-- Jack Goodstein, Seattle Post-Intelligencer


"Surprisingly excellent. Anthologies of this sort rarely live up to their claims, but the selections here are a great representation of American humor from the last 100 years."
--Goodreads


"Sublimely funny. . . . This book is a treasure trove of laughter and an ideal gift for anyone who needs to be cheered up or refreshed, which these days means just about everyone you know."
-- Nell Minow, The Movie Mom

"An indispensable book for anyone who likes to laugh. A surprisingly satisfying and consistently funny collection that might be the best American humor anthology on the market." Grade: A.
-- Humor Lit Books Blog

"You NEED this book. It's hilarious fun."
-- R. L. Stine

From the Author

Does being funny get you girls?
Growing up in Ohio, I was convinced that it did. I got this from a source I took to be representative of all women: Playboy centerfolds. Every issue, the Playmate Data Sheet would, with astonishing consistency, indicate that Miss Whenever's turn-on was "a sense of humor." (Turn-off? "Phony people.") I vowed to be a hilarious sincere person who would have sex with lots of naked people named Brandi. 
I accepted this view of humor-as-pheromone despite mountains of real-world evidence to the contrary. At Shaker High, the girls mainly went for jocks whose idea of a witty retort was a wedgie. And if I had looked a little more closely at Playboy's monthly "Party Pics" feature, I might have noticed that the bunnies at Hef's Mansion gravitated towards the laps of people like Lee Majors, the star of "The Six Million Dollar Man" and not, to my knowledge, a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table.
What being funny got me, mostly, was a lot of free time. While the jocks were busy having tantric romps with cheerleaders, I kept myself occupied by reading Mark Twain, Woody Allen, and the many comic geniuses of The National Lampoon. Little did I know then that, over the course of a thousand dateless nights, a Library of America collection was being born. 
So, getting back to my original question: does being funny get you girls? No. It gets you to be the editor of a humor anthology.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America; 1St Edition edition (October 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598531077
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598531077
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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