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The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion

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3.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  460 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
Ever wondered who makes a very funny person laugh? Wonder no more. Brought together in this Library of America collection are America’s fifty funniest writers—according to acclaimed writer and comedian Andy Borowitz. Reaching back to Mark Twain and forward to contemporary masters such as David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, RoyBlount Jr., Ian Frazier, Bernie Mac, Wanda Sykes, and G ...more
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Published (first published October 13th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,399)
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S.D.
Nov 15, 2011 S.D. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Declaring these writers the “funniest” is a bit of stretch. Technical skill is the main feature of this anthology: these writers know the tricks of the humor trade and they ply them well. 50 people reading these selections on a subway car would not experience a widespread outbreak of laughter; but a clever turn of phrase, a metaphoric counterpoint, or carefully chose word will likely cause a few chuckles. Highlights are where you might expect them: Lenny Bruce exposing the hypocrisy of popular t ...more
Shellstress
Nov 05, 2011 Shellstress rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm generally fairly scattershot when it comes to the manner in which I approach a typical anthology: I'll thumb through, choose selections at reckless random, set it aside for months, perhaps pick it up later, and likely completely forget about the 44% I never managed to get to. Dust ultimately collects, as dust is wont to do.

I've long been deeply amused by damn near EVERYTHING that Mr. Borowitz has to say (whether it be in The New Yorker, via Twitter, or on his masterfully produced satirical w
...more
Steve
Oct 06, 2011 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 (plus the requisite piece from Twain).
Lisa
Jul 14, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really good way to get the mind to unwind. I would say that this writing is a mix of humor and funny, as there were at least several that were more humorous than funny. For funny, I am so glad for the entry by Bernie Mac because he made me laugh out loud more than anyone in this book.

I thought the entries made in chronological order were an interesting way to organize the book and ended up taking us on a little historical journey through American humor. It is interesting how somethin
...more
Spence
Aug 03, 2012 Spence rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
I enjoyed it, but many of the stories required context which the book did not provide. I appreciate the gesture, the assumption that I would be familiar with every author, their history, and the time period and socio-cultural environment that existed at the time the various articles were written, however the reality was multiple trips to wikipedia in order to get the history and perspective of the many very funny authors included in Borowitz's book. The wikipedia research is really important if ...more
Emily
Jun 16, 2013 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This seemed more like a historical anthology of humour writers than a collection of actual humour. While these may possibly be some of the funniest American writers, if these were their funniest efforts then I can only say I do not share a sense of humour with Andy Borowitz. Some stories were amusing but it was very hit-and-miss, and not a single one got a real laugh out loud. So, perhaps interesting as a historical collection, but if you just want a good laugh I'd look elsewhere.
Alissa
brilliant and verve- y compendium of Borowitz's choices.

delighted -amused -insight and wisedom into the fun and absurd
side of humanity-- learned a lot - laughed like a fool - gained
that light fun whimsical appreciation for those who can nail a 'situation' \
rife with understanding of people and that illuminating analysis
of what goes on -- smart book - loved it - re-read it on many occasions --------


Hunter Thomposn's Kentucky Derby - priceless

Tome Wolf's Secret Vice - rich and social commentary
wi
...more
Preeti
Dec 24, 2011 Preeti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, stories
The only reason I picked up this book was because Andy Borowitz compiled the stories. Overall, I was mixed on the stories - some were funny, the others were not my cup of tea. I ended up skipping a couple stories or I would never have finished. it was a wide variety of humor as well. I wouldn't recommend this for most people, unless you are really into comedy.

I give it 2.5 stars.
Jenna
May 08, 2012 Jenna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, I thought it would be funnier. I follow Andy Borowitz on Twitter...his many tweets per day are worth at least a couple of guffaws. WIth this book he's basically giving a history of American humor writers starting with Mark Twain. Many selections are quite good, but some are just boring. I found myself skimming a lot of the middle section.
Deshawn
Nov 03, 2011 Deshawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the usual suspects - Dorothy Parker, Woody Allen, S.J. Perelman - to the out-of-the-box choices - John Hughes, Donald Barthelme, Bernie Mac - this is an inventive and masterfully curated collection. I bought copies for everyone on my Christmas list.
Abby Aldrich
Nobody new to me in here. I didn't realize that was what I was looking for so that's probably why I wasn't very excited about it.
Jack Goodstein
Nov 06, 2011 Jack Goodstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthologies
Mixed bag of humor running from parody and satire to observational humor--49 of which are from the 20th century and into the 21st.
Liz
Okay, so the subtitle is the caveat: “according to Andy Borowitz”. And while I agree that Mark Twain, O.Henry, and S.J. Perelman have some very funny pieces, a good bit of the writing in this compilation did NOT have me chuckling in my chair. (Of course, “The Ransom of Red Chief” is always funny, but I’ve read it a dozen times since high school.) On the modern side, I love Dave Barry, and his essay on the differences between men and women is an oldie but goodie that I love. David Sedaris is alwa ...more
Sara
Aug 27, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So this started out FABULOUS, and I was all set to say this was the best anthology I've ever gotten me hands on.
It... started to fizzle towards the middle. Mostly because, I think, the essays/stories are in order by year... and so you start with Mark Twain and S. L. Perelman and Larry Bruce, then move toward a bunch of unknown writers from the 80s who are trying to be novel and cool but aren't at all funny. You get a pop at the end, though, from Dave Barry and The Onion and George Carlin.

En fin.
...more
The Goon
Feb 14, 2015 The Goon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. I found the selections of the anthology to be pretty random. Furthermore, very few of the writing selected was actually funny, which was confusing since the title says it’s got writing from “The 50 Funniest American Writers.”
I guess, thinking about it, the title doesn’t say that it’s the funniest writing of the funniest American writers, but just pieces that happen to have been written by those funny writers.
Just because you are a funny writer does not mea
...more
Katie
Mar 23, 2014 Katie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Count on the Borowitz name like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Every daily dose of satire in the Borowitz Report unfailingly delivers.

That kind of reliability makes the fantastic flop, “The 50 Funniest American Writers According to Andy Borowitz” all the more puzzling.

He may, in fact, have identified the top 50 writers. He did not, however, pick the 50 funniest stories. He barely picked five stories I found funny at all.

Others suggest that the oldest stories need context for the contemp
...more
Neil
Oct 17, 2012 Neil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a tough crowd here rating this book so lowly, but that only goes to prove the subjectivity of humor. And it's not a proposition of like it or feel neutral: people who don't find something funny often react with outright hostility. Look at the scores for any book on this site that has been touted as highly funny. They're never high, and the scores are all over the map.

Borowitz takes on a tough task, narrowing a huge field of humorists to 50, and then finding representative work when he's und
...more
Leslie
Jul 15, 2012 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a Christmas gift from my sister, and I'm grateful because I don't think I would have picked it up, left to my own devices. There's a lot of golden treasure here, including Garrison Keillor's "The Tip-Top Club", whose appearance in The Atlantic Monthly, sometime in 1981, was the first time I'd ever heard of him.

On one day I hit upon Susan Orlean, Calvin Trillin, Molly Ivins, a piece from The Onion, and Dave Barry (whom I sometimes find funny, sometimes not), and laughed for about a half
...more
Kevin Brown
I'm probably being a bit generous with my rating, as I didn't find most of this book funny. It got much better once it got to contemporary writers, such as David Sedaris, Molly Ivins, Ian Frazier, and David Rakoff. When one of the funniest pieces is from The Onion (which is funny, certainly, but it shouldn't be near the high point of the book), you know you're in trouble. I did enjoy reading Larry Wilmore, though, the only writer I found funny whom I had never read before.
Frances Levy
The humor in some of the chronologically older pieces was totally lost on me. But I liked almost all the selections from the late 1920s forward. I agree with other reviewers: I have read much funnier pieces by some of the writers who are represented in this anthology. And I was disappointed by the small number of women writers selected for this volume.

One more comment: although I know there isn't any way Andy Borowitz could have selected everyone's favorite for the limited list of 50, I can't fa
...more
Gemma
Jun 21, 2013 Gemma rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The 50 Funniest American Writers: According to Andy Borowitz but not to Gemma Shazlin.

I liked that the stories were in chronological order and occasionally provided some historical insight, but outside of a few gems, I was never really amused.

A lot of heavy satire and absurdity, with quality varying throughout. Satire has always been a bit too dry and often heavy-handed for me to dub hilarious, and I enjoy absurd humor more when it's not in essay form.

'Funny' is an extremely subjective term,
...more
Al
Jun 08, 2013 Al rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andy Borowitz takes on a hopeless task with this comic writing anthology. Still, while there's little here that will have you rolling in the aisles, there's enough to make you chuckle and (most importantly) want to follow up and read more by certain authors. Editor Borowitz leans heavily towards writers associated with "The New Yorker," (his current employer), but that may simply be the result of that magazine's well-deserved reputation of selecting the best humor writers. Many of the newer writ ...more
Douglas Tatelman
I picked this up to see if old Hunter Thompson writings held up over the years. (Still unique, but not so great).

This should properly be called "An Anthology of American Humorists". Nothing is laugh out loud funny, but it does give you an idea of what people were thinking and writing over the years.
Alek Teplicki
May 19, 2015 Alek Teplicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very funny and at the same time very interesting. It was interesting because we got to see how humour has evolved.We were taken through the humor of mark twain and brought onward to newer humor. all the stories were very entertaining and fun to read. this book was a great mood enlightener.
James Swenson
Dec 30, 2011 James Swenson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are some great essays in this collection; a nice mix of old and new, from Mark Twain to Larry Wilmore. A couple of my old favorites are here, including "Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father" by Ian Frazier and "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry. A couple of excellent things were new to me; particularly "A Presidential Candidate" by Mark Twain.

Some things were included that I didn't care for, too, but I guess that's unavoidable.
Jennie Morton
This anthology is a Whitman's Sampler of comedic writing. Some hits, some missess, all enough of a taste to getting an idea of the author's voice. Interesting to see the range of what falls under humor.

I wish, however, there had been some context for each piece. It's not always obvious if the writing was merely humorous, fictional or memoir, satire, sarcasm, or just blatantly outlandish. Not that each joke needs to be revealed beforehand, but a sentence or two about the historical atmosphere or
...more
CJ Bowen
Probably unavoidable for an edited collection, but this book is a thoroughly mixed bag. Standouts include O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief", James Thurber's "More Alarms at Night" (although not Thurber's funniest), Dorothy Parker's "The Waltz", Peter de Vries' "The House of Mirth", Tom Wolfe's "The Secret Vice", Jean Shepherd's "The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message", Charles Portis' "Your Action Line", John Hughes' "Vacation '58", Dave Barry's "Tips for Women", Ian Frazier's ...more
Hollowspine
Apr 04, 2012 Hollowspine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With stories from Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson and The Onion this anthology is a schooling in humor. The selections are top quality and none failed to bring out a smile, if not a stifled guffaw (I mainly read this in the break room so I didn't let loose with the nose snort or the hearty guffaw).

I would recommend this book, I found it witty and clever and hilarious. I read every inch, from the introduction from Andy Borowitz, who if nothing else, seemed to have a great sense of humor did a wond
...more
Robert Bason
Someone gave me this book - and I did enjoy reading it. Unfortunately, I then gave it away. I'd like to have it back to look up something funny - especially after reading Henry Miller.
Lori
Mar 03, 2012 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating - and funny - history tour of the American psyche and sense of humor, starting with a Mark Twain piece from 1879 on "A Presidential Candidate" and proceeding in chronological order. The last piece is Larry Wilmore writing on how America should apologize for slavery and titled "If Not an Apology, at Least a "My Bad"". In this collection you'll re-enjoy some old favorites as well as discover some new nuggets. The intro by Andy Borowitz is hysterical. Adding to my enjoyment was that I w ...more
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