This collection of shorter humorous pieces — I hesitate to use the word story as so many are written only to hit a punchline — are either the first inklings of a major force in humor or the short, brilliant sparks of beer-infused talent at the cusp of spiraling into oblivion.
Personally, I’m hoping for the latter.
Simon Rich, with his Harvard degree and his being all Mr. President of The Harvard Lampoon, who does he think he is having his oh-so-clever little observations published just in time for graduation? Who the hell is this kid with testimonial from Jon Stewart on the front and back cover — what, you couldn’t find more than one person to say nice things about you? I noticed, Simon, that half of these little stories of yours (if you can call them stories, most are just little fragments of dialog) were previously published in that paragon of literary lights The Harvard Lampoon; were you unable to get anyone outside of your alma mater to give you a few inches of space in their journals and magazines? I bet you didn’t even try, I bet the whole thing is just a bunch of back-slapping good-ol-boys insider club wheeling-dealing. And as for the other half of the book, what was that, contractual filler that the publisher requested after you handed in a twenty-five page manuscript? Your success is a farce, my friend, your talent…
Actually, your stuff is pretty damn funny, I have to admit. I’m not going to say you hit it out of the park because there are a few items that do feel a bit like filler, where the humor is stretched a bit thin. Where you do hit, you hit well, strong and solid. The pieces are like finely crafted commercials, dialog and description succinct and powerful, and just like that on to the next.
“a conversation at the grown-ups’ table as imagined at the kids table” is nothing short of brilliant. It’s the kind of thing that The National Lampoon Radio Hour wished they’d written, the kind of thing the early Saturday Night Live might have tried, and exactly the sort of thing Hollywood would use to build a movie franchise out of… a bad movie franchise. Think Look Whose Talking meets Charles Bukowski. No, don’t think it, don’t even reread that sentence! Hollywood can hear our thoughts and that’s why they make the crap they do. That’s how they get away with saying “We’re giving the people what they want!” No! We don’t want it, we’re just joking! It’s a joke! Please, don’t make any more crappy movies! I beg you! Get out of my head!
This isn’t much of a review. Sorry about that. Let me rectify the situation here and now. Most of what Rich writes about concerns the life of children, kids of all ages, and those childhood perceptions that sometimes get in the way of our world view. There’s a short drama about what a third grader imagines the UNICEF headquarters are like (UNICEF is a tyrannical despot using kids to collect money to make himself rich), a seventh grade fantasy where all the jocks become slaves to the nerds, the best friend who has a sex-addicted fashion model girlfriend that clearly is a figment of his friend’s imagination, and a variety of other (57 in all) situations where things don’t go as planned. Simon writes what he knows, and at the age of 22 he still remembers vividly and painfully how unfair middle school was, taking the even-handed lack of justice from the principal’s office and applies it to the adult courtroom.
How was that, did that sound more like a book review? I tried to keep that paragraph factual without letting my bitter jealousy and rancor seep through.
What? No, I’m not jealous. Did I say that? I don’t think I did. No, no. Not at all jealous.