T. C. Boyle

The Real List of Adrian Messenger (if he had a sense of humor)

Here are a few–well, fifty–of my favorite writers who traffic in the craft of humor, in alphabetical order by first name: Alan Bennett, Andrew Bergman, Andy Borowitz, Art Buchwald, Billy Wilder, Bruce Jay Friedman, Calvin Trillin, Carl Hiaasen, Charles Portis, Craig Wright, Dave Barry, David Ives, David Sedaris, Dorothy Parker, Douglas Adams, Dr. Seuss, Elaine May, Elmore Leonard, Flannery O’Connor, George Carlin, H.L. Mencken, Ian Frazier, James Thurber, Jean Shepherd, Ken Ludwig, Kurt Vonnegut, Lewis Caroll, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, Mark Twain, Mel Brooks, Michael Frayn, Moliere, Molly Ivins, Neil Simon, Nora Ephron, O. Henry, Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse, Ring Lardner, Robert Benchley, Roy Blount Jr., S.J. Perelman, Stanley Elkin, Stephen Leacock, Steve Martin, T.C. Boyle, Theresa Rebeck, Walt Kelly, William Shakespeare, and Woody Allen.

What’s your list of humor writers look like?



I’ll See Your Parody and Raise You

Another parody from the deck of humor I’d like to share. It’s from “The Champ,” a short story by T. C. Boyle. Context: Angelo D. has reigned as the champion food eater for thirty-seven years. But he may have met his match in Kid Gullet. This parody combines sports and home life. The excerpt comes toward the end of the short story.

It was the Champ’s round all the way: sweet potato pie with butterscotch syrup and pralines. For the first time the Kid let up—toward the end of the round he dropped his fork and took a mandatory eight count. But he came back strong in the thirteenth with a savage combination of Texas wieners and sauce diable. The Champ staggered, went down once, twice, flung himself at the water pitcher while the Kid gorged like a machine, wiener after wiener, blithely lapping the hot sauce from his fingers and knuckles with an epicurean relish. Then QT_BoyleShortStoriesAngelo’s head fell to the table, his huge whiskered jowl mired in a pool of béchamel and butter. The fans sprang to their feet, feinting left and right, snapping their jaws and yabbering for the kill. The Champ’s eyes fluttered open, the ref counted over him.

It was then that it happened. His vision blurring, Angelo gazed out into the crowd and focused suddenly on the stooped and wizened figure of an old woman in a black bonnet.

Angelo lifted his head. “Ma?” he said. “Eat, Angelo, eat!” she called, her voice a whisper in the apocalyptic thunder of the crowd. “Clean your plate!

One more excerpt from a short story by T. C. Boyle. This one is titled “Top of the Food Chain” and I consider it a smart blend of parody and satire. Context: An executive from a chemical company testifies before the United States Senate about the unforeseen effects of spraying DDT in Borneo.

You’re right there, Senator, yes—that’s exactly what happened.

You see, the cats had a field day with these feeble geckos—you can imagine, if any of you have ever owned a cat, the kind of joy these animals must have experienced to see their nemesis, this ultra-quick lizard, and it’s just barely creeping across the floor like a bug.  Well, to make a long story short, the cats ate up every dead and dying gecko in the country, from snout to tail, and then the cats began to die … which to my mind would have been nor great loss if it wasn’t for the rats. Suddenly there were rats everywhere—you couldn’t drive down the street without running over half-a-dozen of them at a time. They fouled the grain supplies, fell in the wells and died, bit infants as they slept in their cradles. But that wasn’t the worst, not by a long shot. No, things really went down the tube after that. Within the month we were getting scattered reports of bubonic plague, and of course we tracked them all down and made sure the people got a round of treatment with antibiotics, but still we lost a few and the rats kept coming….