A variety of writers, comics and academics recommend their best funny humour books and their favourite comic writing. Allen MacDuffie, Larry Doyle and Andy Borowitz all recommend their top five comic novels or comic books. Lee Camp and P J O’Rourke choose their best books of political satire.
Tom McLaughlin recommends the best humour books for kids. Ruth Wisse selects the best books on Jewish humour, and Woody Allen chooses the top five books that inspired him. The novelist Sophie Kinsella chooses her favourite chick lit books, which are funny (even if only of the tragicomic variety) as well as romantic.
The humourist, Craig Brown, recommends the best diaries and autobiographies.
Comedy offers escapism and a way of processing our emotions during stressful times, says the comedian Pippa Evans—who this year served as a judge for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction. Here she talks us through the books shortlisted for the title of the funniest book of 2020, and explains how she found herself researching pig deliveries.
Satire is humour used for a moral purpose, explains American political satirist P.J. O’Rourke—though it doesn’t have to be particularly funny and can be quite dark. Here, he chooses five classic works of political satire, books that lay bare the shortcomings of not only communism and fascism but also the two-party system and the quest for a perfect society where everyone is happy.
Literature teacher from the University of Texas says the intelligence behind the confusion in comic novels must be essentially benign – like being tickled.
A prolific writer sometimes oblivious to events going on around him, PG Wodehouse remains so well loved because of his enduring characters and inimitable style, says Sophie Ratcliffe, associate professor of English at Oxford University and editor of his letters.
Humour can be better than mainstream media at speaking truth to power, says the American comedian and activist. He discusses masters of the art, from Jon Stewart to Joseph Heller
Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Comparative Literature Emerita at Harvard and author of No Joke: Making Jewish Humour, identifies Tevye the Dairyman as the first standup comic and Sigmund Freud as Jewish humour’s greatest analyst.
What makes for great comic writing? Is it possible to say? The author and former Simpsons writer gives us his personal choice of five pitch-perfect examples
Actor and comic chooses five books on comedy. One choice is The Comedy Bible, which explains that every comedian is either saying, “It is hard to…” or, “I love being…” – and you need to fill in the blanks.