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What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats

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Jack Handey is one of America's favorite humorists, from his New Yorker pieces to his Deep Thoughts books and Saturday Night Live sketches. Now, in What I'd Say to the Martians, Handey regales readers with his incredible wit and wacky musings.

192 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2008

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About the author

Jack Handey

16 books326 followers
Jack Handey is an American humorist. He is best known for his Deep Thoughts, a large body of surrealistic one-liner jokes, as well as his "Fuzzy Memories" and "My Big Thick Novel" shorts. Many people have the false impression that Jack Handey is not an actual person, but a character created by Saturday Night Live or a pen name used by National Lampoon.

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5 stars
578 (39%)
4 stars
495 (33%)
3 stars
277 (18%)
2 stars
78 (5%)
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31 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 170 reviews
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,444 reviews7,533 followers
April 10, 2014
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

One of my fondest childhood memories is spending Saturday night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and staying up late to watch Saturday Night Live. A million few years later, I remain loyal to SNL – I’m just old now, so the correct name for Saturday Night Live would be something along the lines of Sunday Morning DVR.

SNL has a history of producing superstars,

(Note: I’m calling out Aidy Bryant as the next best thing. She brings the LOLz errry week)

but after 39 seasons on the air, one genius is seldom mentioned anymore. That would be Jack Handy. Lowbrow humor at its best – What I’d Say to the Martians was perfect to fill in the gaps and start me off fresh in between reading a real piece of garbage, a couple of downers, the millionth book in a series and one that I’m still not sure if I liked or hated. Perfectly stupid – I laughed again and again and realized that little did I know way back when how useful Jack’s SNL advice would become or that I'd so quickly jump to read his books.

Jack has helped me learn how to release my anger without going to prison . . .

and with child rearing . . .

and just how to be a better person in general . . .

The perfect coffee table book for those of you who have a sense of humor that leans more than a bit to the demented side.
Profile Image for Justin.
122 reviews16 followers
September 2, 2010
I try not to give five stars to very many books. My ratings-criteria is fairly simple, based on a system first introduced to me by the brilliant Roger Ebert.

What is the book/movie/art piece/piece of cultural detritus trying to do, and how well does it do it?

Assessing a work under this criteria means one cannot give lower and higher scores based on one's personal tastes. One must cast aside personal bias and rate the work simply on what they determine it is trying to do, and well it is going about it. For instance, my mother doesn't like the Batman films because they are "dark." I don't like the Batman films because they are overrated, especially the ones by Christopher Noland. However, BOTH my mother and I, were we to review these films, would have to cast aside our personal tastes and accept the fact that these films ARE dark and that they ARE overrated. Once we do that we can see them for what they are: superhero films based on comic books. And, in the pantheon of all superhero films based on comic books—most of which are absolute garbage—MOST of the batman films, including Noland's and Tim Burton's additions, are actually pretty good. They are TRYING to be overhyped, overrated superhero films, and they ACCOMPLISH that goal pretty well, we both must admit.

Jack Handey tries to write short comedic essays. That has been his sole occupation for years other than a brief stint spent writing (some of the best ever) SNL skits. He is not a standup comic or a performer of any kind. He is not a novelist, short story writer, screenwriter or poet. He is a comedic essayist, and his attempt/accomplishment ratio within this context is pretty much perfect.

It's hard to imagine anyone writing a funnier brief prose piece meant to be read to yourself or aloud than, for instance, Handey's piece, "Everything Evens Out." To read this essay is to witness a technical mastery and a nearly unprecedented precision of language and tone. Witness the following line:

"Eventually, I believe, everything evens out. Long ago, an asteroid hit our planet and killed our dinosaurs. But, in the future, maybe we’ll go to another planet and kill their dinosaurs."

Handey fans are familiar with such lines because of his extremely popular Deep Thoughts from SNL and bathroom readers located above toilets and around the globe. But the essays in this collection layer such brilliant lines, combining them with hilarious overarching premises and voiced by a reliable narrator who is a character in his own right—a sort of hyperarticulate slob trying to explain his miserable life choices.

If you know Handey, you know he is one of the funniest writers alive. But because he does comedy, I fear people don't truly appreciate his genius. Please, if you haven't already, read What I'd Say to the Martians. If you're already read it, read it again. Or try this: Read it aloud to someone and see how far you get without cracking up. Handey is a joke-surgeon, and his words cut mercilessly to the bone. No reader can escape his scalpel.
Profile Image for Malbadeen.
613 reviews7 followers
September 19, 2008
This book is one crescendo of stupidity after another. Which is why I loved so much of it. The middle slowed down significantly and the ending had descriptive passages of former sat. night live material that didn't work in written format but the parts that made me laugh, MADE ME LAUGH!
Did I feel shallow and unintelligent for letting the collection of Nerudo poetry, the short stories of checkov, and the moviegoer keep waiting for me on my nightstand as I barreled forward with this inane collection of ridiculousness? yes, but I'm used to that, so 4 stars it is!

*personal note: My brothers fiance bought me this book because she was a little confused about cultural norms (only having lived in America for a few years) and relied on my brothers totally clueless input regarding what to do in such situations.
The whole thing was silly and a little uncomfortable but I explained to my brother that it was entirely unnecessary for them BOTH to get me a gift and in the long run I'm glad I have the book, I'm petty that way.
Profile Image for Mike.
92 reviews16 followers
May 24, 2023
Pretty funny but Deep Thoughts are when Handey is at his best.
9 reviews
January 11, 2019
I chose to read this book because the title was intriguing to me and the sample stories on the back looked somewhat funny.
This book is a compilation of short comedy stories. Most of them revolve around the theme of the author being in a normal place or situation then saying something very out of the ordinary.
I liked the book a lot for around the first hundred pages, the stories were funny and they were very short so they didn’t get old. Another thing I liked is how there were repeated characters like Don, his neighbor.
As i said before, the book was very entertaining for the first hundred or so pages but it got extremely repetitive. Every story (for the most part), uses the same structure which made it really boring. It seemed like the author started to run out of ideas halfway through writing this book. The same repetitive jokes started to get annoying and it became a chore do finish the book.
1 review
January 24, 2019
If you do not like this book then you are a fool.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 78 books239 followers
November 10, 2022
No doubt: if you liked "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey from the SNL of days of yore, you certainly should look into getting this book.

Handey, you'll come to find out, is also a master of the bizarro flash fiction genre, having kind of invented it by bringing an absurdist sensibility to joke-storytelling, while allowing elements of fantasy and even extreme horror/weirdness into the narrative. Indeed, his "narrative perspective" (often in first person) is what holds all these stories together and you'll be charmed by his dark sense of humor and willingness to stick to an inane concept for a few pages.
Profile Image for Grace.
15 reviews
February 8, 2019
It's difficult to explain how I feel about this book now that I've finished it. The author's use of dark humor and irony was hard to decipher at some points. There were jokes that I genuinely found amusing while others seemed to just go straight over my head; not because I didn't understand them but because I didn't understand how it was funny. You can tell immediately that Handey has a very active, wild imagination. It was interesting to read about his thoughts and ridiculous scenarios, I've never read a book like this before. This was the first humor book I've ever read, maybe that's why I had trouble understanding it.

Handey displays different scenarios and short stories throughout each chapter in this book. Some of them connect loosely to each other, like when he mentions his "friend" Don and how unbearable he is. My favorite chapters were the ones that were about his favorite thoughts. He lists random questions or statements, each one no more than a few sentences long if it even exceeds one. These are sprinkled throughout the book and I enjoyed reading them because they were short, funny, and to the point.

Though the book is short, Handey was able to make it seem longer because of the short stories that kept me reading until the very end. I imagine writing a humor book like this must be difficult because humor is subjective, not everybody is going to understand his points of view or thoughts and why they would be in a humor book. There were times when he would seem to drone on about a subject and I tried to understand what the humor appeal of it was. When this happened, I'd usually skim the chapter and see if I eventually understood it and if I couldn't I'd just go to the next chapter. That's another interesting thing I learned about these types of books: just like a poetry book or a book of fairytales, you can skip around and read what catches your eye without worrying about missing something in the previous chapters.
Profile Image for Justin.
208 reviews30 followers
May 26, 2017
Super funny. Some recycling of material (Deep Thoughts and SNL skits), but hilarious. Recommended.
Profile Image for Dave Osmond.
140 reviews1 follower
November 21, 2019
Hilarious! Especially fond of "Scary Skeleton"...

(If you're a Millennial or younger, don't even bother. You won't get it. Just go back to your Xbox and your Tiktok account...)
Profile Image for Terry Clague.
265 reviews
February 9, 2015
In 1997 I acquired my very first email address from Cardiff University. Exciting times. One result of this new-found medium of exchange was that friends would share things from the internet. One such email that did the rounds contained Jack Handey's dark thoughts and we all hooted to discover this stuff that had previously been aired on Saturday Night Live. I still remember some by heart, such as:

One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh no," I said, "Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried, but deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland but it was getting pretty late.

Now, I don't know if this stuff got old, or I did. Or whether the strong material (such as the above) is just overly diluted with blatant filler, but this book is quite tiresome and not very funny at all. It is a nicely produced volume (in terms of production values)but it says something that I was fearful to put it down in case I didn't want to pick it up again during a flight which had little other competition for my attention.
Profile Image for Tara.
474 reviews40 followers
May 12, 2008
Whether you were introduced to Jack Handey through Saturday Night Live, his pieces in The New Yorker, Outside and Playboy, or one of his many collected works, including Deep Thoughts, Deeper Thoughts or Deepest Thoughts, his humor, born from Steve Martin's "Jerk Humor,"; plays the fool again in these longer essays. Essays/bits/theories (I'm not sure WHAT to call them)vary from why your skeleton should be as scary as possible after you die to how he'd film a nature documentary. In addition to the new material, several old facetious favorites from the New Yorker and sketches from Saturday Night Live including "Toonces, the Driving Cat!" complete this wacky work. Handey is the quirkiest, funniest American humorist writing today.
Profile Image for Eric T. Voigt.
377 reviews11 followers
April 10, 2013
Zaniness. What isn't to enjoy about the egotistical dullard who lives in a world of Draculas for neighbors and Everests that can be ascended hundreds of times? Nothing. Rhetorical questions are destroying my critical reputation. It's like I'm using the question mark to distance myself from the truth instead of just telling you outright I laughed a bunch and am sitting here pissed that his SNL sketch "The Zombies vs. The Bees" was produced but never aired. Why didn't they air that? It reads so well. Zombies attacked by bees. Man. Jesus.
Profile Image for Mac Flynn.
Author 301 books249 followers
June 25, 2017
Gems among a few duds, the scattered stories and snippets of snark will leave you smiling, if not flat-out laughing. A must-read for anyone who likes jokes with punchlines that will keep you turning the page.
Profile Image for Phil Ganz.
3 reviews1 follower
June 17, 2017
One of the funniest and most creative books I've ever read.
Profile Image for Realini.
3,319 reviews76 followers
October 7, 2017
What I’d Say to the Martians by Jack Handey

Martians have been on our mind for millennia.
It may well be that concern with, fear of those who live nearby and can visit the Earth and possibly conquer it have affected the psyche of humanity.

Maybe it’s subconscious.
War of the Worlds is an example where Orson Wells and his veridical rendition of a Mars Attack have created panic of a large scale.

Listeners to War of the Worlds have been sure that Martians are conquering the planet and it is the end of this planet.
Their genetic inheritance has been passed on and their descendants have the same fear of Mexicans and vote with the Donald.

- I am just kidding

Jack Handey is very upset and funny, right from the start when he threatens the people of Mars with...a new Martian asshole.
The narrative is about the supposed conflict between our planet and the one that was called the Red Planet.

If this is satire, we could laugh at the idea that the protagonist pretends to be civilized and then talks about…

- You say we are violent and barbaric, but has any one of you come up to my cage and extended his hand? Because, if he did, I would jerk it off and eat it right in front of him. “Mmm, that’s good Martian,” I would say.

The other excesses written are meant to both provoke laughter and provoke thoughts on our level of sophistication…

I think.
Urinating on the Martians is preposterous and funny, the idea of attacking their god with fury is perhaps a depiction of our habit of provoking and fighting religious wars, along with conflicts on various issues.

Indeed, the hero talks about the aliens as accusing humans of various things, but they can simply play the role of objective observers.
Our representative denies that we are violent, as accused by our neighbors, but then he says he will use his laser guns on everyone…

- Including pets

Therefore we can draw a conclusion, supported also by the other violent statements made- putting your head in the visor and more.
In fact, hilarious as this short story is, it seems to be as much a condemnation of violence as a humorous tale.

If there are other intelligent beings, our human envoy is not keen to communicate with them, but to attack them.
As for his loyalty, after suggesting that the Martians become our allies so that we go after the rest, he makes it clear that we would then attack the former allies.

- Is this too much? Should we be outraged at this portrayal of a human who shows no compassion, no sense or EQ?
- Well, think of what we do to the planet, how we vote in the land of the free, the country that is supposed to be the leader of the free world…if the Donald is the most powerful man on earth, what does it say about the planet?

Greed is another aspect that makes the reader laugh, but at the same time is connected with the possible end of Earth, whose resources have been exploited without concern for the future, with disastrous results visible now with the gargantuan climate change effects- four hurricanes in a row, right next to the orangutan living in the White House…and I apologize to the beautiful apes that are also intelligent, unlike the pussy grabber.

Our guy from the Martian prison likes to fantasize over the home made flame thrower he is working on, chasing the Martians with a wooden mallet.
And the jailers seem reasonable, as they only want him to sign a promise not to attack upon liberation.

Our man wants a long sharp pen to sign with, human reproduction material and to discuss with their greatest philosopher—“just me, him, and one of his big, heavy books.”
He also wants his wife to send a bazooka- “which is a flower we have on Earth”…

- “If my so-called friend Don asks you where the money I owe him is, please anally probe him. Do that anyway.”

Profile Image for Bill Weaver.
187 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2019
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
these sacks.'"

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.
Profile Image for Jason Edwards.
Author 2 books10 followers
October 12, 2018
A really good litmus test would be one where you ask people if they like Jack Handey. The ones who know him personally are exempt from this test. Also ones who have never heard of him. Also ones who are deaf and didn’t hear what you said. Also ones who have a mouthful of ramen so you can’t hear their answer. (Maybe the deaf guys and the ramen guys should get together. That’d be a hoot).

Then if the person you asked says yes, he passes. If he says no, write a movie about how Liam Neeson is going to punch him in the face.

Reading Jack Handey is infectious. His writing is so darn simple. Dang simple, even. Plain. But it packs so much punch. It sneaks past your guard and lands a square one right on your chin. And as you are falling backward you can only think “I hope this doesn’t kill me because I want him to punch me again.”

No, seriously. I haven’t read every greatest novel ever, but I’ve read some of them. What I’d say to the Martians isn’t a novel, so it can’t be one of the greatest. But it was written by the guy who wrote The Stench of Honolulu, which is one of the greatest novels ever. And What I’d say to the Martians has the kind of writing that makes The Stench of Honolulu one of the greatest novels ever.

I don’t know. I kind of hate Jack Handy for not writing a whole heck-dang of a lot of more novels. I’m serious. I wish you knew me and knew what my serious face looked like so you could hear me say that and look at my face and think, “I’m scared for Jack Handey right now.”

Another good litmus test would be one using strips of paper coated with powdered Parmelia. I used Google for that one.
Profile Image for Warren.
129 reviews2 followers
August 23, 2022
Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts were my AIM away message fodder for years in high school and college. His humor just resonates with me and probably inspired me in the same way The Simpsons and The Far Side did. So reading this collection of stupidly silly essays worked for me. Not all the way through, with a lot of bits running long and not really landing and losing me a bit. But then he’s find a way to make me laugh again, hit that funny bone of mine at just the right angle, and it was wonderful.

Loved that he included Deep Thoughts (some of them personal favorites of mine) as well as the transcript to Super Happy Fun Ball from SNL which still makes me laugh when I think about it. Was also fun to see little callbacks and running gags like his “funny cowboy dance” and his friend Don who make constant appearances.

Easy to see how Handey inspired guys like Conan O’Brien and Simon Rich and John Mulaney and all those other pale white male writers I admire. Reading this made me happy, if not also frustrated that my sense of humor is so painfully stupid.
Profile Image for Alex.
117 reviews1 follower
May 25, 2020
Comedy is hard. Comedy is harder in writing where you lose so many key ingredients like timing, visual gags, or even tone of voice. Comedy is even harder if you're writing short vignettes. There's little time to set up characters or establish a scene in the reader's imagination. It made Jack Handey's book of short and absurd vignettes that much more enjoyable, even the premise of such a book is in itself absurd.

There's not much more to say, it's funny. My only recommendation is to read it in small doses for your various pockets of time in your life when you want something lighthearted. No need to overthink things, it's a book of jokes.
Profile Image for David.
237 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2022
I enjoyed "The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure" by Jack Handey and like his 'Deep Thoughts' series quite a bit too. This book gets high ratings, so I was expecting another winner, but I just couldn't get into it!

It's not a novel (or even a short story), but it's also not quick little rants or jokes like 'Deep Thoughts' was. They are 2-3 page 'storrrrriiiiiieeeesssss??????????????????' (I don't know what they are). They aren't quick enough to give you a startled laugh or long enough to get you into anything.

I only made it through about a third of the book then took my own advice to not let 'finishing a book' rule me and bailed.
796 reviews2 followers
February 19, 2018
This is my second foray into the print world of Jack Handey (I read his hilarious comic novel, The Stench of Honolulu last year) and I found myself laughing out loud on the train several times while reading this. I thought the inclusion of the classic Handey-written SNL skecthes at the end seemed a bit tacked on, and I wish that the book were a bit longer, but "WISTTMAOVT" made me so happy I wanted to get up and do the funny cowboy dance Handey writes so lovingly about throughout this book.
Profile Image for Theo Bazin.
7 reviews
October 29, 2018
What I'd Say to the Martians is a wonderful collection of writings by Jack Handey, not all of them veiled threats exactly. Handey also talks about some of his favorite deep thoughts, his ideas for paintings, why it's important to have a scary skeleton, and of course, what he would say to the martians. With repeated references to his "funny cowboy dance" and his "so-called friend Don", Jack Handey's book is sure to keep the reader entertained and laughing all the way through.
Profile Image for Claude.
192 reviews28 followers
August 11, 2020
Dear lord what a lot of silly stories. All these foolish musings. Why oh why would someone read or write all this senseless dribble.

One unbelievably weird story after another. There's so little time to lead an intellectually stimulating live and writers spend their lives inventing these extremely wacky stories. How much nonsense can a man endure??

Well, as much as possible, so far as I'm concerned. Bring it on. I want more!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
589 reviews7 followers
February 18, 2021

Well Hedlun was silently laughing and shaking his whole body he found this book so funny. I had a few smiles and the Happy Fun Ball brought back some memories, but this author's humor didn't fit my own...Hedlun found the essay about his wife being his 3rd best friend, hilarious, I want to know if this guy is still married:)...short book and was able to read it during basketball game breaks so a quick and easy read.
Profile Image for Doug Moe.
Author 8 books34 followers
February 28, 2019
"I'll never forget the time the president came to our town. When I saw him go by, he looked so much older and sadder than I thought he was. Also, why was he driving an ice cream truck?"

"I tried to explain to little Betsy how, when horses get old, you have to take them out and shoot them. But then I thought, Why not wait until she gets a horse?"

Funny funny funny. Highly recommended.
382 reviews2 followers
March 11, 2020
I could not finish this book. Many years ago I liked this sense of humour (back when I was a teenager), a little like Kurt Vonnegut. I've grown up and I no longer find "ridiculously stupid" funny anymore.

I would recommend this book to a teen or person in their early 20's but if you have not laughed by page 20 then put it down and go find a much better book to read.
Profile Image for Katie Leonard.
65 reviews
June 15, 2020
After reading a few of Jack's stories, I could recognize his pieces in other magazines. His voice is distinct, witty, and memorable. Particularly enjoyed his lists of thoughts and the story of preparing a rabbit. Though I wasn't too fond of his SNL scripts and frequent mentions of the cowboy dance, "What I'd Say to the Martians" nonetheless remains a great collection.
December 6, 2020
I get that some people find Jack Handey to be funny - the why escapes me. There were a few sentences that I enjoyed but they were few and far between. Perhaps this is better on a SnL skit, or it did not age well, or his other works are just better. Its supposed to be zany but I just found it tedious.
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