Starting at 12 years old, I began reading Mad magazine. Every issue had the “What, Me Worry?” kid, Alfred E. Neuman, on the cover with his gap-toothed smile. Every issue of Mad magazine contained “assorted rubbish from the usual gang of idiots”, which was the publishers’ slogan. There were other humor magazines such as “Crack’d”, “Sick”, and “Panic”, but Mad was always consistently the funniest. I was so dedicated to Mad, I’m sure the magazine shaped my entire attitude toward life. They still sell Mad magazine but most places that sell magazines are way too respectable and reputable to carry something so smart, creative, and anarchic as Mad magazine.
Today, we also do have “The Onion”, a fake newspaper with outrageous headlines like “Pepsi to Cease Advertising”. Most of the articles in The Onion are more relevant than those in the real newspapers. I’ve noticed that after the first few humorous pages, “The Onion” has some of the best reviews anywhere.
After college I mostly switched to humorous novels instead of humor magazines.
Kimbofo at Reading Matters recently listed the ten bleakest novels ever. Most of these novels were very dark. Now, as an antidote, I will print my personal list in no particular order of the funniest novels ever.
* Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis an English college riot
* Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole Masterpiece of “slob” literature
* Catch-22 by Joseph Heller Military forces awry
* Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift Travel to some very unusual places
* At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brian A wild Irish tale
* Candide by Voltaire an eternal French optimist
* Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes “a hopeless romantic” or “romantic and hopeless”?
* Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons Way down on the farm
* The Good Soldier Schweik by Jaroslav Hasek the funny side of World War I
* The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy Why is college so funny?
* Pictures from an Institution by Randall Jarrell Is humor academic?
* Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov a lazy Russian aristocrat
* Scoop by Evelyn Waugh outlandish African news reporting
* Firmin – Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage autobiography of a literary rat
* The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler Young man on the make in Montreal
As you can see, no writer appears on this list twice. Which writer came closest to appearing twice? It probably would be Evelyn Waugh whose “The Loved One” is a fall-down hilarious putdown of the funeral business. Honorable mention also goes to Peter De Vries who wrote many humorous novels including “The Tunnel of Love” and *The Tents of Wickedness”.
I’m sure there are some great humorous novels I’ve missed. I want to know what I’ve missed. What humorous novels should I also include?