Humor: Fiction & Non-Fiction (2017)

Seinfeldia: How a Show about Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Seinfeld, the show, truly needs no introduction: it has become so pervasive in our popular culture that readers readily understand what Armstrong means with her phrase “Seinfeldia”. This acclaimed show ran for nine seasons, from 1989-1998, heading the Nielsen ratings for several years, and nearing this top spot in five other years. The monetary value of Seinfeld is nearly incalculable:  it was the first show to earn more than $1 million a minute for advertising, made NBC a fortune, and its actors, and producers, very wealthy.

Armstrong describes how this groundbreaking show was created by comedians Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. She tells the stories behind the scenes, especially how the writers, and the cast, were urged to mine their own experiences for unique plot lines. She explores the unforgettable characters, the inside jokes and references that served to create the unique “Seinfeldian” world. 

The book is very well written, with an engaging, humorous style that suits Armstrong’s material well. Quick paced, this book will appeal not just to lovers of the show, but to those interested in television history, comedy and popular culture.

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History by John Ortved
SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld
Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library

Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum works as a bounty hunter for her bondsman cousin and employer Vinnie in Trenton, NJ. Helping Stephanie to bring in bail skippers is Lula, a former ‘ho and file clerk with a lot of “bodacious voluptuousness” and an attitude of “Say what?”

Rounding out the cast of characters is Joe Morelli, a Trenton plainclothes cop and Stephanie’s on and off boyfriend; Ranger, a “former Special Forces operative now turned businessman and security expert”; and Grandma Mazur, Stephanie’s maternal grandmother – think Sophia Petrillo, Estelle Getty’s character on The Golden Girls TV show. 

In this story, Stephanie will go after Larry Virgil, who hijacked an eighteen-wheeler full of bourbon and has now skipped his court appearance; work undercover at an ice cream factory to help Ranger out; and if that wasn’t enough she also has to keep tabs on Lula, who has started a new work side line; and of course, there’s always the trouble Grandma Mazur seems to get into. Along the way, you can count on a lot of laughs and at least one car being either blown up or set on fire! 

Although each book in the series can stand alone, I recommend starting from the beginning to fully experience the character development and dynamics not to mention all the crazy situations Stephanie and usually Lula find themselves in. 

One movie was made based on the book series, One for the Money (2012) starring Katherine Heigel as Ms. Plum. Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum #24) has an expected publication date of November 21, 2017.

Stephanie Plum, #1 – 22 by Janet Evanovich. The first one is One for the Money.
Kate Holly mysteries by Charlotte Hughes. The first one is What Looks Like Crazy.
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz. The first one is The Spellman Files. 

Sue Ketcham, B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library

Housebroken: Admissions of an Untidy Life by Laurie Notaro

In Notaro’s eleventh book about her life, she covers topics such as learning to make her own dresses because no one fits into designer clothes; her family and their holiday traditions; teaching her eight-year-old nephew to wipe his butt and the life lessons that can be learned at the waffle house; how to beat the “Kiss-Cam” at sporting events and how to get the neighbors you want while also discouraging them from keeping livestock, as well as various other topics one might encounter including what to do when there’s a Twinkie shortage.

Notaro’s humor abounds throughout the short essays and stays consistent until the last few essays which fall a little flat. Now in her 50s, her stories relate to the current time in her life with short flashbacks to her younger years and how she’s gotten to where she is today. Her husband makes frequent appearances as does her mother and the opinions she will have on the situations that Notaro gets herself into. Living in Eugene, Oregon for the past twenty years, she also talks about her experiences with the people there and how they differ from when she was growing up in Phoenix. Overall, this book has essays for all seasons and would work for someone looking to laugh out loud. With short essays, the book can be picked up and put down depending on time constraints and the essays can be read in any order as they don’t occur in a linear timeline. More for women because of the situations Notaro gets herself into, this book can also be enjoyed by men looking for insight into why women sometimes do the crazy things they do.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
Live Fast Die Hot by Jenny Mollen
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

How to Weep in Public by Jacqueline Novak

When Novak, a stand-up comedian, recognized that she was suffering from depression, she decided to write this book. She makes it clear that this is not a self-help book. She does not offer advice or solutions for combatting depression. She only hopes that this book may be a soft place to fall for other “depressos” — or, at the very least, act as a “small book-shaped headrest.” Novak describes, in uproariously humorous detail, how one actually embarks on the path to depression from the earliest age—a mental state that one can experience from birth, cultivate through young adulthood, and perfect in adult life. Novak ultimately professes that there is a beneficial way to “weep in public” — bending over at the waist and letting the tears drop perpendicularly, thereby avoiding puffiness of the face.

Reading Novak’s memoir is like witnessing a hilarious stand-up routine. At times, it is laugh-out-loud funny. Other times it can be bawdy and graphic, so it is not necessarily a read for those that may be offended by coarse language or narrative. It’s written in a conversational tone that is best taken in small doses, which the chapter-like format nicely facilitates — there’s a lot to digest.

True depression is not a laughing matter, but comedy often tackles the most serious of subjects providing a way to cope, a way to relate, and often a way to shed light on the shared situations that comprise the human condition.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Crash and Burn by Artie Lange
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library

Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt

Stand-up comedian and actor Patton Oswalt writes about his love of movies, including a list of every movie he watched in theaters from 5/20/95 to 5/20/99 while giving a behind-the-scenes look at life working at comedy clubs and seeing movies (to be prepared when the opportunity arises to direct a movie). 

This is not a laugh-out-loud book but a funny and loving book from the brain of a smart man who has a love and knowledge of movies.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
Keepers: The Greatest Films and Personal Favorites of a Moviegoing Lifetime by Richard Schickel

Kathy Carter, Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, Retired

Not Working by Lisa Owens

Twenty-something Claire has just quit her job in order to find herself and her passion.  Unfortunately, she has no idea how to find herself or what her passion might be.

Without work, she can’t get into a regular routine, so she does what she believes a good daughter/granddaughter/girlfriend would do. She visits her grandmother, offering to cook or clean. She cooks dinner for her boyfriend, a promising neurosurgeon, who doesn’t mind her not working, as long as she’s actively pursuing something. And since saying the wrong thing at a dinner party, she is consistently trying to repair the damage to her relationship with her mother, 

With the extra time on her hands, Claire tends to drink too much; she picks fights with her boyfriend, who has an abundantly good sense of humor and patience; she sees her friends, who don’t understand why she’s not working; and pretty much does everything she can to avoid finding a new job or passion.

This book has been compared to Bridget Jones’s Diary, and I can see why. Claire’s thoughts and ruminations are very Bridget-like, though she’s not as sad and unorganized as Bridget. She’s not stupid or vapid, she’s just a bit lost and wants to do more with her life. Fortunately, unlike Bridget, she’s well-off and can actually afford to leave work to find herself.

This is an easy read, divided into sections of no more than 3 pages, with headings like:  Wallflower, Liquid Meal, No Change, Mixed Messages, etc. This can be read in one sitting or in many sittings, as it’s easy to put down after any section. As far as humor goes, it isn’t knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud funny, but more of a smirk or chuckle kind of humor. It is just this side of chick-lit, only because it doesn’t dwell on Claire’s love life. Mainly for women in their 20’s.

Helen Fielding
Sophie Kinsella
Anna Maxted

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library

Mister Monkey by Francine Prose

Mister Monkey, is a dark comedy about the sad, disappointing lives of everyone involved in a way-off-Broadway revival of a bad musical based on a fictitious classic children's book called Mister Monkey.

Like the famous children’s character Curious George, Mister Monkey is a pet chimp living in the city. He likes to pickpocket people's wallets as a party trick, though he always returns them. Unlike Curious George, who always manages to get out of trouble with his charm, Mister Monkey is arrested, accused of stealing a wallet and is put on trial.

The characters are sad and funny at the same time, an odd bunch involved with the musical, each giving their own perspective on the production: Margot, the Yale drama school graduate who is coming to grips with the fact that her career has been reduced to playing a lawyer defending a monkey in a failed musical; Adam, the 12-year-old playing the monkey onstage, who can’t seem to separate his adolescent emotions from his stage life; and Ms. Sonya, the Xanax-popping teacher of young Edward, who goes to see the musical with his dying grandfather. Then there is Ray himself, who wrote the Mister Monkey children’s book that inspired the play as a way to get over PTSD after his deployment.

With each character's narrative, Prose reveals a new connection between strangers, turning a seemingly silly story into a profound example of the human psyche. Her wit and dark humor make this an excellent read. 

A Gambler's Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired