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Mirth of a Nation: The Best Contemporary Humor Paperback – February 2, 2000

3.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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"A Child's First Book of Trump"
A timely new parody from best-selling author and comedian Michael Ian Black. Learn more | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mirth of a Nation is a collection of short humor pieces compiled by the Thurber House, which is a very dry way of describing a very funny book. Mirth is, at long last, a truly perfect humor-browser's read, for everything--everything--is presented with a wry wink. The book opens with Dave Eggers's guidelines for submitting work to the Thurber House ("Before undertaking the typing, straightening, and mailing of your submission, please do us the small favor of washing your hands. Please.") and closes with Al Franken's refreshingly mean-spirited index ("Luntz, Frank, likelihood of his immediately turning to index and looking up his name, 48"). In between is a hilarious collection of both new and previously published pieces. Targets range from contemporary issues (Chris Harris, tackling the UFO phenomenon in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Little Green Men": "If their object is stealth, why must they employ colored, blinking lights on the outside of their spacecraft? Is it alien Christmastime?") to the biblical, as in Ian Frazier's marvelous "Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Principles; Lamentations of the Father" ("Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.") The book is so funny, in fact, that it would be a pity to give away any more punch lines. Grab a copy and see for yourself. --Ali Davis

From Publishers Weekly

The audio medium is probably the best way to absorb this collection of comic pieces written by American humorists. The vignettes, which range from the hokey to the truly jocular, receive the royal treatment by seasoned actors Roberts and Essman. Other performers, notably Plimpton and Rakoff, add spunk and pizzazz to what might otherwise be dry, vaguely spirited essays. Rakoff gives a cynical and hilarious performance of his own "All Happy Families...," about a neurotic dude whose New Year's resolution is to explore "more natural avenues to happiness" (e.g., by eating four packages a day of Robert's American Gourmet Gingko Biloba Rings). Essman's reading of Carina Chocano's "The Self-Help Hot Line" is appropriately saccharine, while Roberts's delivery of Bruce McCall's "Who Wants to Keep His Job" is matter-of-fact. All the pieces were anthologized in either Mirth of a Nation and More Mirth of a Nation, and some originally appeared in the New York Times magazine, Tropic magazine, Salon.com, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the New Yorker and other publications. While some tracks are bound to be replayed for friends more than others, this is overall a valuable and well-performed collection.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; 1 edition (February 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060953217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060953218
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,081,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have a simple test for any book that purports to be funny: Will it make me laugh out loud? Something that simply causes the corners of my mouth to turn up in a smile won't do the job. This collection of humorous essays, however--- brightly contemporary,impressively varied, occasionally political--- met the test handsomely. This is an anthology, and not every piece succeeds; Christopher Buckley's brittle faux-sophistication, for example, left this reader with a hollow feeling; he's too determined to impress; he seems to try too hard. For the most part, however, the pieces in this collection are dependably funny. Ian Frazier's collection of rules for children--- expressed in the high rhetoric of the King James Bible--- not only made me laugh out loud; I woke up my wife and read the piece aloud to her, with tears of mirth running down my cheeks; she laughed out loud, too. This collection is not only well worth the price; it will cheer you up for days, and bring you back to read the short pieces again and again.
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Format: Paperback
With about 140 pieces from dozens of contributors, this humor anthology is a mixed bag. For me, some of the essays and parodies fell flat. Yet enough were truly hysterical to sustain me and keep me turning those pages. Among my favorites: Jon Stewart's "Pen Pals" and "The Last Supper, or The Dead Waiter"; Garry Trudeau's "I Am a Tip-Top Starlet" and "To Our Valued Customers"; Al Franken's "Index";Zev Borow's "A Graceland for Adolf"; Mark O'Donnell's "TV Guide, Soon"; Bill Scheft's "The All-Purpose Concession Speech"; and P. J. O'Rourke's "Memoir Essay."
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By A Customer on February 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I got this for a friend's birthday, and had a hard time parting with it. When I get a copy for myself, I'm getting two, so I can give another one away. Nearly everything in here is dead-on funny. I had to call my sister and read some of it aloud, because I couldn't just keep on laughing to myself all afternoon, but she couldn't make out much of what I was saying through the laughter. The collection of McCourt memoir parodies still makes me laugh a week later -- Shlomo McCourt, Frances Mayle McCourt... The news quizzes, eh, not so funny. Otherwise, loved it.
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Format: Paperback
Many humor anthologies are very hit and miss, and they also tend to be very much a "boys only" club. Mirth of a Nation is of the best I've ever seen, both in terms of quality and in including an good representation of women humorists. Michael J. Rosen has done an excellent job in compiling humorists such as Fran Lebowitz, Dave Barry, Mark O'Donnell, Jon Stewart, David Sedaris, Colleen Werthman, Patricia Marx and Henry Alford, just to name a few. This anthology would make a wonderful gift for just about anyone in any age group (it is pretty much "clean humor"). Treat yourself with it at any time, but especially if you are going to be on a plane,train, or subway. I hope they have many sequels!
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Format: Paperback
Humor books are usually miscellaneous hodge-podges of "something for everybody." This one is not. It's a sustained compilation of great writing. Writing by very talented people who are variously smart-alec, smart-assed. and just plain smart. That's the one thing that's similiar about all the pieces: they're just very well done. After that, there's a huge range, from Sedaris's hilariously scatching review of kiddie theatrical productions to Garry Trudeau's re-re-retranslating of a Madonna interview back and forth from Russian. There are as many expected players--Ian Frazier, Fran Lebowitz, Dave Barry, P.J. O'Rourke with terrific pieces--as there are surprises and newer names. Favorites? Howard Mohr (who worked with Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion for years), John Updike doing a parody about J. Edgar Hoover cross-dressing. David Ives, the brilliant playwright, giving a culinary history through philosophers. Even the index, by Al Franken, shows that Mirth of a Nation is serious about being funny, from cover to cover. I have the second volume, More Mirth of a Nation, and, believe it or not, it's even better. Thirds, anyone? I gather from their website it will be out in 2004. Can't wait.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While the quantity of material in the book should provide some humor for most everyone, I found much of the material to be dated and lacking in a sense of funny. Many of the selections are based on social commentary, but again, the humorous aspect is lacking, even taking into account the different eras or generations.

Then again, comedy may be like cheesecake, Chinese restaurants or bagels: everyone has their own favorite, and someone else's favorite may not be to your liking.
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By A Customer on February 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a hilarious compendium of short humor writing by the funniest authors around today. Perfect subway, bedtime, or bathroom reading.
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