Some Books of Dry Humor, Old and New

shelved under Humor and Fiction

Have you ever been the person who tells the deadpan joke no one else gets? Well, all of these authors know how you feel. They're amazing at crafting those lines that take you a second to get (maybe a quick re-read) but then you'll laugh out loud. The plots are fantastic; the one-liners brilliant. I wouldn't read them in the library: you'll get shushed too much. But don't let this deter you from diving right in: they're prolific writers, so after these books, there are plenty more to entertain you.


The Rising Gorge: America's Master Humorist Takes on Everything from Monomania to Ernest Hemingway

by S. J. Perelman

A genius at finding the absurd in everyday life, this collection of stories by Perelman is like a 1950's Seinfeld season. Even while being humble, he's hilarious: the man once said about himself "Before they made S. J. Perelman, they broke the mold." These stories, such as 'The Importance of Healing Earnest' and 'Eine Kleine Mothmusik', are taken from Perelman's many magazine jobs, mostly the New Yorker (although he also wrote such brilliance as the Marx Brothers' 'Horse Feathers' and 'Monkey Business'). I challenge you not to start reading these aloud to others.


The First Rumpole Omnibus

by John Mortimer

The first of the Rumpole collections by John Mortimer, there are plenty more stories about this defender of the criminal classes to quench your thirst after this. Written by a British barrister, these humorous tales are intimately familiar with the British legal system. In the beginning, they were based off of the television series Rumpole of the Bailey, but don't let that dissuade you. This harrumphing, rule-breaking barrister is even funnier on paper. When he isn't being controlled by Hilda, "She Who Must Be Obeyed", he's taking any client he likes, regardless of criminal affiliation (in fact, he rather likes them) or getting into trouble in the courtroom by being, let us say, overly enthusiastic. As you will be when you read this book.


The Gun Seller

by Hugh Laurie

Most people will pick up this book because they see Hugh Laurie's name on the cover. They don'tt know him as the genius behind 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie' or the BBC's Wodehouse adaption 'Jeeves and Wooster', which he and his partner Stephen Fry worked on together. In fact, Laurie cited Wodehouse as one of the references for this book. But it's not a copycat — it's much better than that. Laurie took the wittiness of Wodehouse and channeled it into a spy novel. It is both a parody and a dead on portrayal of the genre. Thomas Lang, the main character, is forced to defend himself and the classic 'Bond girl', Sarah Woolf. Full of twists and turns, with the bonus of witty banter, this is one of my favorite books.


The Thurber Carnival

by James Thurber

Thurber, along with Perelman, signified a golden age for the fiction department at the New Yorker. He wrote hilarious fictional memoirs and drew brilliant cartoons for them for over 20 years. Some of these were brilliant parodies of fables, others witty commentaries on the English language. His humor was so far reaching that there is now an award in his name (the Thurber Prize) for accomplishments in American humor. What else can I say about him? If you're still not convinced, check out one of his best known short stories.


The Most Of P.G. Wodehouse

by P.G. Wodehouse

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Wodehouse is the master of the genre. His unique brand of dry British humor inspired writers around the world, and his prolific career gives us plenty to pick from (96 books alone, not including musical comedies and short stories). I know it's at the end of the list, but start with this one. Start with this, and you won't be able to stop. I recommend staking out his section at the library because Wodehouse fans are avid readers and they'll snatch them off the shelf before you can say 'Right ho, Jeeves!' If not actually disgruntled, you'll be far from gruntled (that's a quotation, by the way).