Woody Allen

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?



That’s Parody for the Course

In this post, I’d like to analyze the market implications of an emerging global economy, and how to invest your money wisely in these uncertain times using only a Ouija board. But that was too boring. Instead, I’m going to talk about parody and give a couple of examples.

Parody is a humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation of a person, event, or serious work of literature designed to ridicule in nonsensical fashion or to criticize by clever duplication. The term is also used for a comic imitation of a serious poem, similar to a cartoon caricature of a person’s face. 

Here’s another way of looking at it. “Parody” is from the Greek paroidia, meaning “burlesque poem or song.” At least that’s according to eNotes Guide to Literary Terms.

“If the Impressionists Had Been Dentists,” by Woody Allen, is one of my favorite parodies. Context: Vincent van Gogh corresponded with his brother, Theo. That correspondence was eventually published and became known as the “Dear Theo” letters. Woody Allen wrote a parody of those letters based on a classic what-if setup. What “If the Impressionists Had Been Dentists?”

One brief passage:

Dear Theo,

Once again I am in need of funds. I know what a burden I must be to you, but who can I turn to? I need money for materials! I am working almost exclusively with dental floss now, improvising as I go along, and the results are exciting. God! I have not even a penny left for Novocaine! Today I pulled a tooth and had to anesthetize the patient by reading him some Dreiser. Help.


And later:

Dear Theo,

Gauguin and I had another fight and he has left for Tahiti! He was in the midst of an extraction when I disturbed him. He had his knee on QT_WithoutFeathersMr. Nat Feldman’s chest with the pliers around the man’s upper right molar. There was the usual struggle and I had the misfortune to enter and ask Gauguin if he had seen my felt hat. Distracted, Gauguin lost his grip on the tooth and Feldman took advantage of the lapse to bolt from the chair and race out of the office. Gauguin flew into a frenzy! He held my head under the X-ray machine for ten straight minutes and for several hours after I could not blink my eyes in unison. Now I am lonely.


There are many parodies available, from the wild and wacky Bored of the Rings by Harvard Lampoon to the more subtle yet still hilarious Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Another parody by another Gibbons is The Baloney Code. Written by my friend David Gibbons, a very funny writer, the book was published under the name of Davis Sweet. More recently, Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody Pride and Prejudice and Zombies became a best-seller.  More parodies in my next blog post.