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The Funny Man Paperback – September 25, 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“John Warner is an uncommonly funny and gifted writer who has managed to make the business of comedy actually funny, as opposed to the awful self-negating mess that it actually is (I may only be speaking from personal experience on this last point.) This book will make you laugh and think and laugh some more.”—Michael Ian Black

“John Warner's The Funny Man is a funny novel about a funny man who sticks his whole hand in his mouth in a funny way. But it's much more than that—a wise, rueful, surprisingly tender book about what happens when we get what we want, and then what happens when we keep on wanting things. A very American novel, in other words, a novel that reminds me of Walker Percy's and Saul Bellow's very American novels. I can think of no higher praise for a novel, and The Funny Man deserves it.”—Brock Clarke, author of Exley and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

"I'm not at all surprised that John Warner would invent the perfect Everyman for our age: a comic whose meteoric rise to fame is based on a stupid gimmick. Half first-person tell-all, half third-person takedown—a brilliant structure—The Funny Man is a whip-smart satire of celebrity culture. It is hysterical, and sad, and ultimately indicts us all. An excellent novel."—Jessica Francis Kane, author of The Report

“What people will do for fame never looked so bad, or conceivable. John Warner tips celebrity culture a few degrees toward the absurd, and out falls a human, dying from a joke. The Funny Man shows us what blooms in the shadows of the paparazzi’s flashbulbs—nothing pretty, but true and damn amusing.”—Rosecrans Baldwin, author of You Lost Me There

“An illuminating satire…a sharply focused lampoon of the escalating absurdity of the newest virulent strains of celebrity culture—as the story’s funny man straddles a deeply conflicted persona reminding us that comedy is after all, no joke.”—The Daily Beast

“Darkly funny.... [Warner] peppers his book with clever asides that themselves could serve as stand-up bits.... But these serve more as comic relief to the book’s provocative theme of being careful what you wish for.... The last third of the book is ambiguous, but serves as a meditation on therapy, the afterlife, and connecting with a kindred spirit. It works because like the rest of the novel, it’s the biting social commentary that Warner is going for, not wrapping things up in a bow.”—Splitsider

"America's favorite comedian is on trial for manslaughter, and 'the funny man''s lawyer, Barry, has a unique defense: not guilty by way of celebrity.... [An] equally sickening and humorous portrait of the celebrity as a delusional man."—Publisher's Weekly

“In his first novel, Warner skewers the culture of celebrity.... Not guilty by reason of celebrity (hey, it worked for Rob Lowe and Charlie Sheen). The funny man’s fall is precipitous, yet in the midst of it, he manages to find love again with (who else?) another celebrity ... a clever premise.”—Booklist

The Funny Man joins a short list of intelligent, dark comedies about self-loathing main characters whose success is built on the poor taste and/or low IQ of the American public. In so doing, Mr. Warner follows the path of authors like Chris Buckley and Randall Silvis, but he is darker than the former and funnier than the latter. Regardless of the company he keeps, The Funny Man puts John Warner among the most perceptive and edgy chroniclers of an increasingly coarse American culture.”—New York Journal of Books

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

John Warner is the managing editor of McSweeney's Internet Tendency. His book, My First Presidentiary: A Scrapbook of George W. Bush (with Kevin Guilfoile) was a number one Washington Post bestseller.  John is also the editor of three volumes of material culled from the website, Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans; Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists; and The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes. Warner teaches at Clemson University in South Carolina and is a consulting editor to the South Carolina Review.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press; Reprint edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616951648
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616951641
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,616,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on August 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As I love almost any darkly satirical take on the topic of show business, John Warner's "The Funny Man" held an instant allure even before I opened the cover. A wicked contemplation of celebrity culture in the modern age, the book fulfilled every major expectation. Set up in alternating chapters, the novel details a contemporary murder trial and the rise (and subsequent fall) of a notoriously famous comedian. A fictional memoir, of sorts, the book is oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny but also contains moments that are horrifically disturbing. Maybe certain aspects of the narrative are unsettling because they are simultaneously outlandish and also strangely believable. It's a fine line to walk, and Warner does it with great style. The story, however, pushes into a conclusion of metaphysical contemplation that was a little less successful for my taste. But still, anyone looking for an astute send-up of the entertainment world should find much to appreciate in "The Funny Man."

In the earliest moments of Warner's tome, you know that he is establishing an unrepentant anti-hero. The Funny Man (as he is always referred to) is not an evil man, but exists in the world of social awkwardness and complete self-involvement. Hey, but that seems perfect to compete in the narcissistic Hollywood milieu of fame and fortune. In an inspired bit of plotting, the central comedian has achieved enormous success for one particular stunt--he thrusts his entire hand in his mouth and does incomprehensible impressions. Wildly successful, and somewhat self-loathing, the Funny Man makes the most of this stunt comedy while despising what it has reduced his creative output to. Early chapters detailing the rise of the Funny Man and his family life are spot-on.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The protagonist of John Warner's The Funny Man isn't a bad guy, really. He's not an especially good guy either, although he'd like to be one, maybe, if it's not too much trouble and if someone would explain to him exactly how he should go about it.

Mostly he just wants to be funny, and he is. Then he becomes famous, which is something else he thought he wanted to be, but from the moment he hits the big time, the Funny Man is doomed. Like Jurgis Rudkus happily taking his first job in the slaughterhouses of Chicago, the Funny Man embraces his good fortune, and thereby enters a downward spiral of obscene wealth, overexposure, addiction, divorce, and worse.

Yet Warner makes the Funny Man's chaotic journey disarmingly entertaining. The Funny Man's perspective on his fate--we get both the first- and third-person versions--is keenly observed and sharply rendered (indeed, the Funny Man exhibits remarkably clear vision for someone who makes such bad decisions). True, the humor is not a warm-and-fuzzy kind of funny; it's not especially jolly, and if you've lost your faith in humanity this book may not restore it. But it does what the best humor should do: It braces the reader for the sting of uncomfortable and painful reality. And so the novel's exploration of suffering and atonement feels honest, and fresh, and astonishingly readable.

Warner invites readers to contemplate questions not often addressed in a comedic novel. Can the Funny Man be forgiven? Should he be? If he can't earn redemption, can he buy it instead? Whether the Funny Man achieves enlightenment or merely insanity is, ultimately, almost beside the point. What matters is that he takes the reader along with him all the way to the bitter, ludicrous end.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Funny Man is well-written, with many engaging elements, e.g. the dialogue between the narrator and his attorney Barry was always witty and entertaining. The story shifts between the past and the present, and I found the story of his trial (the present) more engaging. The details of the funny man's rise to fame (the past) were less engaging, and occasionally unbelievable (e.g., the reality show where people get punched in the face). The story takes a turn in the second half that (without spoiling anything) was interesting, but not especially compelling. On the other hand, there were many passages that had me completely absorbed. Warner is especially adept at creating great tension at key moments in the funny man's story. A worthwhile read.
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Format: Hardcover
The Funny Man by John Warner is an utterly original novel about a deeply flawed character (known only as the "funny man") in an even more deeply flawed world (the entertainment industry). I'm a sucker for anything that deconstructs the inane culture of celebrity, so that was an easy sell for me. But I was pleasantly surprised to also find a compelling story of personal ambition and struggle (and failure) within the sharp satire of our collective obsession with fame. As the title suggests, there's a lot of "funny" in the book, but it's matched by a wealth of pathos. The ending isn't what you expect--and it might not be what you want--but it's in perfect keeping with a plot that constantly surprises and engages. This is easily one of my favorite books of the year and I wholly recommend it to anyone who wants to read something fresh; something they haven't already read a thousand times before.
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