Jack Handey is famous for his "Deep Thoughts" on Saturday Night Live:
quick segments where an announcer would just read something Handey had
written. My favorite has always been, "To me, it's a good idea to
always carry two sacks when you walk around. That way, if anybody
says, 'hey, can you give me a hand with?' You can say, 'Sorry. Got
That's Handey. Short. Simple. Profoundly clever. I read about this
book in a McSweeney's article claiming that Handey had written the
greatest joke ever written, which is in this collection of short
stories and essays. In a chapter about a human who has been captured
by Martians and won't be released because they think he's too violent,
the human begs to be released, stating, "I came here in peace, seeking
gold and slaves." The McSweeney's article was actually quite long and
discussed in depth how this was the greatest joke of all time.
Regardless of where you come out on the joke, Handey may be the
funniest writer of all time. This is a guy so funny that SNL would
just put his words up as a sketch.
The book isn't one-liners or deep thoughts (well, there are a couple
pages where he lists some of his favorites, but his publisher probably
put those in there. You buy a book by Jack Handey, even if it's the
test prep section, you expect some deep thoughts), but short essays
and stories, which are even more amazing, because Handey is able to be
just as funny page for page as he is sentence for sentence. The man is
the master of the misdirect. He knows what you expect in a joke, and
he goes the other way every time. There's a whole story told by a guy
who thinks he's fishing with another guy, but who is totally obviously
a grizzly bear. And the whole time you think, "Okay, this is going to
end with him figuring out it's a bear." But then you get smart and you
expect the misdirect, thinking, "No. It actually will end up being
revealed as a person." Nope. Wrong. The big reveal is that it's a
female bear. Handey knew you were expecting a reveal at the end, but
the joke is always on you for thinking you know what to expect.
Rather than explain why this book was so fun to read or why things are
funny, I'm just going to write my favorite parts from my favorite
(From Fuzzy Memories)
When we would go for a drive in the family car, I used to love to
stick my head out the window, until one time we passed an oncoming car
and my head knocked off a dog's head.
(From Little Tiny Stories)
As I understood it, the tribe would give me a head start, and then
they would hunt me down, for sport. I got an idea. Instead of running,
I began to ask them a bunch of questions about the rules, to stall and
confuse them. That's when the clubbing began.
(From Hitchhikers [about a guy who keeps hitting hitchhikers])
I wondered if I harbored some secret animosity toward hitchhikers, so
I went to a psychiatrist. He gave me a test. First, he handed me a
framed picture of a hitchhiker and asked me my thoughts. My first
thought was to wonder why someone would frame a picture of a
hitchhiker, but he wanted more. "I hope he gets a ride," I said of the
picture, and put it down. Then he gave me a framed picture of a
driver. "I hope he has a safe journey," I said. Then I accidentally
dropped the driver picture onto the hitchhiker picture, breaking it.
The psychiatrist asked me not to come back, so I guess I passed.
In short, the only thing wrong with this book is that it ended.