Spotlight On: Humor!

Preeeee-senting the “Spotlight On!” Display!

Every month we’ll dedicate one of our display spaces to a different genre or topic.  This month it’s HUMOR!

The joke is that it took me forever to find this picture.
The joke is that it took me forever to find this picture.

Humor is very subjective.  What makes one reader shoot milk out of his or her nose might leave the next stony-(and clean)-faced.  Some people enjoy satire, some enjoy situational comedy.  Subtle or over-the-top, puns and sight-gags and pratfalls to wordplay and references and wit.  There are so many different ways to make people laugh.

If we were to define humor as a genre of fiction, I would say that the point is to make a reader laugh, to entertain and amuse.  Yet there’s always another layer to great comedy, and that is to make you think–whether about society, politics, or the human condition.  Humor is, and always has been, a way to point out hypocrisy in politics and power, as well as to examine the sheer absurdity of some (if not most) aspects of life.

Wouldn’t you know, I could not find a professional Readers Advisory definition for humor or comic fiction.  Perhaps because it overlaps with so many other genres?  Maybe.  Here’s a great list, subdivided by genre, from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilon County.  It ends with a list of recommended authors, and includes many different kinds of humor!  Psychology Today also has a list, compiled by Gina Barreca.

I’ve made a list of a few of my personal favorite comedic authors.  They’re all funny in different ways, for different reasons, and to different ends.  Perhaps you’ll get a chuckle, a knowing nod, or a wry smile out of them as well.

(EDIT: I’ve finally put up a list of my own, find it here, under Suggested Reading)

Christopher Moore
For zany, goofy, screwball comedy with lots of farcical elements, he’s your man.  My favorites are A Dirty Job, The Stupidest Angel, Lamb, and Fool.

S.J. Perelman
If you’re a Marx Brothers fan, you must read his work.  Wordplay, satire, general wackiness…it’s a Marx routine in prose form. Most of the Most of S.J. Perelman is a good start.

P.G. Wodehouse
Witty and fun, every piece of his is a gem!  The anthology Weekend Wodehouse is great.

Terry Pratchett
The Discworld novels employ every kind of joke that exists.  Really, they do.  With the added bonus of smarts, heart, and great characters.  Try Unseen Academicals, Eric, or Hogfather.

Jasper Fforde
In-jokes and referential humor ahoy! Plus wordplay, clever plots, and some great situational comedy.  The Thursday Next books are my favorites, but The Big Over-Easy is lots of fun, too.

I should also mention Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Helen Fielding, Bill Bryson, A.J. Jacobs, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, and Dorothy Parker as writers who amuse me to no end.  What books or authors never fail to make you laugh?  Tell us in the comments!

Stay tuned for next month, when we’ll have the spotlight on something new!



I’ll just leave you with a little something that makes me cry with laughter every time I see it.  Maybe you’ll like it, too.  From the BBC show QI, wherein Stephen Fry has a spot of trouble telling us something interesting about the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is.


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