Funny like Jack Handey.
May 26, 2008 8:49 AM   Subscribe

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong, though. It's Hambone. I love the writings of Jack Handey. His Deep Thoughts (beware sound!) and his articles in the New Yorker. I would love to hear recommendations of similarly funny writings.

I can re-read his writing without it's losing any of it's impact or ability to make me laugh.

I know humour is subjective (and doesn't dissect well), but a few of the things I love about his writing are:
The fact that its all punchline no filler (short attention span), not nasty just surreal and perhaps most of all it's his stupidity, petty concerns and dumb/skewed observations that get me.

David Sedaris has come up in searches for similar so I know about him. For those of you who haven't heard of Jack here are two of this thoughts and two articles:

Basically, there are three ways the skunk and I are a lot alike. The first is, we both like to spread our 'stink' around. The second is we both get hit by cars a lot. The third is stripes.

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

....there are hundreds of others.

Ideas for Paintings
posted by therubettes to Writing & Language (35 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how much like Jack Handey he is, but I love David Rakoff.
posted by ecab at 8:55 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

James Thurber.
Ring Lardner.
Robert Benchley.
Steve Aylett.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:03 AM on May 26, 2008

So, what, exactly, is the question here?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:04 AM on May 26, 2008

If you enjoy Jack Handey, it's probably worth your while to find copies of Max Shulman's old books, especially Barefoot Boy with Cheek and Sleep Till Noon. Very similar writing style and quite often laugh-out-loud funny.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:14 AM on May 26, 2008

So, what, exactly, is the question here?
Who is funny like Jack Handey?

Not very clear I know, sorry! If an admin wants to edit it for clarity they could also put a new line after It's Hambone, might help readability. I'd swear it was there on preview.
posted by therubettes at 9:14 AM on May 26, 2008

I'll second Robert Benchley and add S. J. Perelman. There's something absurdly, subversively whimsical (rather than ha-ha knee-slapping horselaugh) about them that is in the same ballpark as the Handey vibe.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:19 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stephen Wright
Mitch Hedberg
posted by jbrjake at 9:19 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

John Hodgman always makes me laugh. His book The Areas of My Expertise is now in paperback. I like the audio version though. His deadpan delivery adds to the experience.

(Full title of the book: An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by Me, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in the Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical; Matters Literary; Matters Cryptozoological**; Hobo Matters; Food, Drink, & Cheese (a Kind of Food); Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels; Haircuts; Utopia; What Will Happen in the Future; and Most Other Subjects; Illustrated with a Reasonable Number of Tables and Figures, and Featuring the Best of "Were You Aware of It?", John Hodgman's Long-Running Newspaper Novelty Column of Strange Facts and Oddities of the Bizarre)

posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:20 AM on May 26, 2008

Comedy being subjective, I may be way off-beam, but still...

You'd probably enjoy anything written or co-written by Graham Linehan - Father Ted, Big Train, Hippies and Paris with Arthur Mathews; Black Books with Dylan Moran (first series only, but it carries on in the same vein thereafter) and The IT Crowd by himself.

And The Day Today, by loads of people, but usually ascribed to Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci.

It's a leap into left-field from there to get to The Mighty Boosh, but I'd recommend that, too. I certainly think a monster who declares "I'm Old Gregg! I got a mangina!" is in the vein of slightly disturbing silliness that you're looking for, but I may be wrong.

These are all television series, by the way. Try bit-torrent or the holy You-Tube.
posted by Grangousier at 9:35 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've collected a bunch of one-liner jokes here, some of which are similar to Jack's style.
posted by martinrebas at 9:36 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stephen Wright
Mitch Hedberg

Yeah jbrjake I have seen their clips on youtube, they're brilliant. Like Jack Handey they are pretty much all punchline.
posted by therubettes at 9:36 AM on May 26, 2008

Oh, and Glen Baxter.

And, therefore, What a Life!
posted by Grangousier at 9:41 AM on May 26, 2008

What I imagined the people around me were saying when I was . . .

“Oh, man, I can’t believe that kid Simon missed that ground ball! How pathetic!”
“Wait. He’s staring at his baseball glove with a confused expression on his face. Maybe there’s something wrong with his glove and that’s why he messed up.”
“Yeah, that’s probably what happened.”


“Did that kid sitting behind us on the bus just get an erection?”
“I don’t know. For a while, I thought that was the case, but now that he’s holding a book on his lap it’s impossible to tell.”
“I guess we’ll never know what the situation was.”


“Hey, look, that thirteen-year-old is walking around with his mom!”
“There—in front of the supermarket!”
“Oh, my God! That kid is way too old to be hanging out with his mom. Even though I’ve never met him, I can tell he’s a complete loser.”
“Wait a minute. He’s scowling at her and rolling his eyes.”
“Oh, yeah . . . and I think I just heard him curse at her, for no reason.”
“I guess he’s cool after all.”

-- Simon Rich

More: The Wisdom of Children, Ant Farm
posted by grumblebee at 10:00 AM on May 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Have you heard of Emo Philips?
posted by j at 10:02 AM on May 26, 2008

Jay Pinkerton tries, but usually fails. His article about Writing Great Suspense is great, though.
posted by martinrebas at 10:07 AM on May 26, 2008

I second Steven Wright, and get one of these great Steve Martin stand-up albums:
Let's Get Small
Wild and Crazy Guy
Comedy is not Pretty

Some of the dry humor on McSweeney's.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:18 AM on May 26, 2008

He wasn't an author, but you should definitely check out Mitch Hedberg. Some of his lines are here...
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:21 AM on May 26, 2008

You should definitely check out Simon Rich's "Ant Farm and Other Desperate Situations," which is indebted to Handey but also fantastically wonderful.

I presume you have Handey's new book? I'm interviewing him in a couple of days about it, looking forward to it.

I also echo the recommendation of Rakoff, though he isn't much like Handey. And Hodgman, who is maybe a little tiny bit like Handey, but not much.

Definitely you should check out [url=]Kasper Hauser's SkyMaul: Happy Crap You Can Buy From A Plane[/url].

Maybe also Don Novello's The Lazlo Letters, which also have a bit of the demented tone of Handey.
posted by YoungAmerican at 10:24 AM on May 26, 2008

Demetri Martin?

“I like parties, but I don’t like piñatas because the pinata promotes violence against flamboyant animals. Hey, there’s a donkey with some pizzazz. Let’s kick its ass. What I’m trying to say is, don’t make the same Halloween costume mistake that I did.”
posted by wsquared at 10:24 AM on May 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

I like Mr. Boffo for short, weird, yet somehow observational humor.
posted by lore at 10:29 AM on May 26, 2008

dave barry (!)
posted by ncc1701d at 10:29 AM on May 26, 2008

Seconding Barefoot Boy with Cheek. It's a very clear inspiration for Deep Thoughts.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:51 AM on May 26, 2008


Fellow MeFis offered a bunch awesome suggestions (thanks everyone!) Styles range from wacky/hilarious to dry/witty*.

Since you're looking for shorter entries, I think Acts of Gord, True Porn Clerk Stories or maybe Hugh Grant Squid Test fit the bill.

PS: davesecretary FTW!
posted by yeoja at 11:04 AM on May 26, 2008

You'll probably like the Christiana's Shallow Thoughts podcast. 1-3 minutes a day of the kind of stuff you've described.
posted by JDHarper at 11:07 AM on May 26, 2008

...a bunch OF awesome suggestions.

And sorry for the orphaned * and missing period.

posted by yeoja at 11:08 AM on May 26, 2008

As weird as it may seem, the misdirection-style humor has never been stronger than in Woody Allen's early books, particularly Without Feathers. That's when he was going for absurdist and clever, rather than navel-gazing and whiny. It's broken up into quick little sections, so it's a fast read as well.
posted by Gucky at 11:33 AM on May 26, 2008

Wow what fantastic set of responses so far, I look forward to googling, amazon-ing, podcasting and laughing at them.
posted by therubettes at 12:26 PM on May 26, 2008

I presume you have Handey's new book? I'm interviewing him in a couple of days about it, looking forward to it.

I've ordered the book from Amazon can't wait. I would also love to read your interview. Where can I do that?
posted by therubettes at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2008

I love Jack Handey, too, and I will second or third or nth the suggestions of:
Graham Linehan shows (Father Ted is my favorite show possibly ever, but I like the IT Crowd, too)
Steven Wright
Demetri Martin
Steve Martin
Mitch Hedberg (RIP, saw him live shortly before he died and it was terrible, he kept stopping in the middle of new jokes and saying "fuck it, that ain't funny" which was kind of funny in itself, but mostly just sad)

I personally don't find Hodgman that funny, but I'm probably in the minority.
posted by fructose at 1:48 PM on May 26, 2008

I've ordered the book from Amazon can't wait. I would also love to read your interview. Where can I do that?
posted by therubettes

Don't wanna step on Young American's turf here, but...

He's probably referring to The Sound of Young America podcast. Subscribe through iTunes, or check out

The Sound of Young America, and Jordan Jesse Go! are my two favorite podcasts, so they qualify as an answer to the quest for funny stuff.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 2:45 PM on May 26, 2008

You may enjoy the multi-format work of Australian lawyer/comedian (yes) Sean Micallef, but my guess is it will be extremely difficult to find, and it can be very hit-and-miss if you aren't already familiar with the character of his earlier work on old Aussie comedy shows like Full Frontal.

Nthing any TV you can find by Chris Morris. Also the series Time Trumpet. Oh! And People Like Us and Peep Show.

As far as books, I recently picked up Novels In Three Lines by Felix Feneon and The Collected Short Stories of Saki, both of which contain beautiful moments of gut-busting, completely surreal hilarity.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:59 PM on May 26, 2008

I've had the first Ricky Gervais Show podcast languishing on my long list of podcasts on iTunes for the last couple years since the season of twelve aired, and I finally started listening a few days ago. It's awesome.

You probably know this, but it started as a normal two-DJ radio show on XFM with a pre-fame Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and hit its stride as they began to incorporate their producer, Karl Pilkington, who they discovered to be an unknown (and unwitting) comic "genius." He's like a real-life Homer Simpson, except with more of that Zen, Stephen Wright quality. The things he says aren't quite as good as those, but the fact that he actually means it more than makes up for it. By the podcasts, the format consisted of Gervais and Merchant probing him for insights on many topics and, comically, he's become something of a minor celebrity and has two books out so far. He's so incredible that many people think he's a fictional character, but if so, he's amazingly well-acted.

You can find old shows in various places, including torrent archives of everything they did on The Pirate Bay and so on (which isn't too sketchy, since a lot of it was free). Easiest place to start would be season 1 of the podcast from 2005.
posted by abcde at 4:30 PM on May 26, 2008

I don't really think of David Sedaris or David Rakoff as being similar to Jack Handey. I would agree strongly with Mitch Hedburg and Demitri Martin, though. For those interested, I would say Douglas Adams and John Hodgman are almost the exact opposite of this "all punchline, no filler" style. For example, there are jokes in the Hitchhiker's series that Adams set up several books in advance, sometimes.
posted by joshrholloway at 7:52 PM on May 26, 2008

Since we're spreading out from the original point of similarity here - I think Stephen Wright and Mitch Hedberg were closest - I'll throw in "Flight of the Conchords." In between the silly songs there is some very snappy dialog with punchlines all over the place.
posted by mmoncur at 9:36 PM on May 26, 2008

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