Demitri Martin's "This is a Book" is just his television show, "Important Things" in book form (which was just his stand-up routine in skit comedy forDemitri Martin's "This is a Book" is just his television show, "Important Things" in book form (which was just his stand-up routine in skit comedy form). Its nothing earth shattering, but it's really damned funny.
Martin's humor is very clever, but his real strength lies in the tedious lengths to which he'll go for a laugh. There are lots of his usual drawings and graphs that take all of 10 or 15 seconds to absorb and chuckle at. But then you come upon something like a crossword puzzle where every square is filled in with the letter 'A'. The next two pages are all the clues, the answers to which are actually all different combinations of the letter 'A'. (ex: 3 across - a very boring chord progression; 15 down - the bra cup sizes of a gymnastics squad).
A bit later, he plays around with short palindromes that make little sense unless you read the accompanying explanation. This is mildly amusing and worth a few laughs. And then you get to the last palindrome which is a three page long poem that again, only makes sense if you read the attached half-page synopsis. Elaborate crosswords and palindromes are not easy, and the ones Martin creates are funny to boot.
There are many more conventional entries (or as conventional as Martin gets), including a confusing encounter between Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future Perfect. An apology about ever having claimed anything was 'better than sex'. A romance between a man and a ghost he met during a near-death experience. And there are lots of graphs, charts, and drawings. And plenty of one-liners that seem lifted directly from his stand-up routine ("You never forget your first kiss. And that's what makes it so hard to forgive my uncle.")
It's pleasant to see Demitri Martin spread his brand of literate humor across so many genres. His stand-up is funny. His tv show was deconstructed brilliance. And his book is that same vein....more
I almost feel like I was tricked into reading "Stuff Christians Like" by Jonathan Acuff. I saw it on a table at Barnes & Noble labeled "Religion",I almost feel like I was tricked into reading "Stuff Christians Like" by Jonathan Acuff. I saw it on a table at Barnes & Noble labeled "Religion", which normally I'd walk right past, but its cover had an amusing diagram of a couple demonstating the 'side hug' manaeuver, so I thought perhaps the volume was more than just empty spiritual drivel. Leafing through it, there were several humerously simple drawings and section headings that seemed more interested in mocking Christians than inspiring them, so I read a few passages and was rewarded with short essays about how Christians so blatantly ignore copyright law (they borrow liberally from corporate logo designs in concocting their own 'clever' inspirational slogans for t-shirts and whatnot) and how supposedly enlightening testimonials are usually just people telling about how awesome their lives were until they accepted Christ when all the fun promptly ended.
I put the book down that day and went about my business, but a week or so later, came across it again at a different Barnes & Noble, and couldn't quite resist the urge. I bought it, joking with the clerk as I checked out about how the book was categorized in the 'Christian/Inspirational' section. Those dumb Christians are so gullible!
So then I finally read it, and I'll be damned (pun intended) if I didn't realize I'd been bamboozeled!
It turns out, Jonathan Acuff is a devout Christian! And his little book is a collection of postings from his Christian blog that actually is supposed to be inspirational!! It turns out, Mr. Acuff used my cynicism against me, appealing to me via sarcasm and dry wit! And I fell for it, hook line and sinker. My hat's off to the author. Bravo, sir.
So once I'd discovered the true intent of "Stuff Christians Like", how did I fare? Well, actually, I had some fun with it. As a veteran of east Texas Baptist churches and conservative small town sensibilities, I found myself familiar with many of the little idiosyncracies Acuff is poking fun at, whose gentle attacks on his subjects betray his affection for the very people of whom he is making fun (which frequently include himself).
There's good natured ribbing at hipster youth pastors with soul-patches who like to play frisbee. Perplexity over which parts of the Old Testament we should follow and which parts are overruled by the New Testament. Humorous frustration about inconsistant prayer and quiet time and the awkwardness of witnessing to friends and co-workers. Jokes about how small churches and mega-churches share mutual pity for one another. Rather candid opinions on how Christians should view sex. It's a trove of things that every church-going Christian surely notices as the Sundays tick off the calendar, but are maybe too uncouth to ever mention out loud. All in all, a refreshing look at a sub-culture that can come off as quite annoying to the uninitiated.
The only place the book really falls flat is unfortunately its final chapter where Acuff forgoes the humor in favor of actual earnest inspirational essays. As willing as I was to put aside my spiritual differences and enjoy the affectionate joshing Acuff gives to his religious brethren, it was difficult not to roll my eyes at Acuff's proselytizing with corny platitudes about everybody being a celebrity in God's eyes or trusting God to help with your troubles instead of struggling so hard on your own. I don't begrudge people who find comfort and solace in platitudes, but they're still platitudes.
Final verdict? I have some Christian friends who I think would totally enjoy this book, not only for the humor but also for the inspiration that was totally lost on me. As a matter of fact, I think I'll give my copy to one of my co-workers as a late Christmas present....more
I didn't want to use the phrase "inspired lunacy" to describe this book, as that term is a bit played out, but quite frankly, I really couldn't thinkI didn't want to use the phrase "inspired lunacy" to describe this book, as that term is a bit played out, but quite frankly, I really couldn't think of a more adequate description for Hodgman's unique brand of...well, of inspired lunacy.
I usually stray away from comedy books like this, but every once in a while, the situation just seems right. I've read some Dave Barry and Jon Stewart, who both come off being a bit slight, playing out jokes in short bursts that are just barely satisfying. Woody Allen is probably the most enjoyable of the comedy writers I've read, and it is he who John Hodgman most reminds me of, with one very significant difference. Where Woody Allen has an almost ADHD penchant for zipping from one non-sequitar gag to another, Hodgman takes the same jokes, but draws each one out into detailed chapters.
You get bizarre accounts of the Great Hobo War; a description of the lost 51st United State, Hohoq (also known as Ar); ponderings on the metaphorical city of Chicago (which only the naive would take to be a real place); and the secret Masonic history of the District of Columbia. There are dozens of other odd pseudo-factual accounts of other strange occurances dealing with such disparate topics as the prophetic powers of actuaries, furry lobsters, and bad haircuts.
The topics themselves are no more odd than anything found in a Woody Allen gag, but Hodgman isn't content to merely drop the idea in the middle of a sentence and let you trip over the humor on the way to the next sentence. Hodgman elaborates. His Hobo War isn't just a one-off joke. Its practically a well thought-out plot with dozens of odd little details that actually pop in other unexpected places throughout the book. Its certainly a little lunatic to write about the 51st state that floats overhead over central Canada and America, but its inspired that there seems to be a well thought-out back-story explaining its discovery and current status.
Like most comedy books, this won't be for everybody. Humor is subjective. But for myself, I smiled a lot, and out-loud laughing occured....more