It's My Birthday, I'll Laugh If I Want To
Humor has been such a friend to me over the years. I simply could not have survived the crazy ups and downs of my life without my favorite humorists. So, on this my (not telling which) birthday, I dedicate this blog post to my favorite funny book authors. The uniqueness and brilliance of these favorite authors is that they elicit side splitting laughter while delivering profound stories and life’s lessons – and at times, a picture of world places I may never have had the time or money to visit.
Humor Can Help Heal Wounds and Did for Me Over the Decades
The 1980s: In this decade of raising young children, divorce, family loss and joblessness, would these funny authors save me? No, but they made me laugh when I wasn’t crying.
1982 Russell Baker - Growing Up is a masterpiece and journalistic history. His mom’s a hoot too. But it as much a story of family foibles and challenges. I figured if Russell could make it, so could I.
1986 Erma Bombeck - When my kids were young, I had to hide in the bathroom to read Erma so I wouldn’t wake them, choking with laughter, but also to be near the toilet in case I peed my pants. My favorite: At Wits End. Erma made me see that being an imperfect mom was not a tragedy and kids anywhere can get on your nerves.
The 1990s: My children grew up and began to leave home, and I suffered empty nest syndrome, not to mention the “no man was calling” syndrome. Loneliness was a real thing for me. Did these popular columnists keep me from leaping off a tall building? No. But I was too busy guffawing through much of the loss and loneliness. And it appears I was longing to travel? As a single mother, I hadn't the funds to travel so I hitched a ride with these funny people. 1993 Dave Barry – Back in college, I read Dave’s earlier books in the closet, so I wouldn’t disturb my roommates with my hysterical laughter. My favorite book of his came out in the '90s, Dave Barry Does Japan, which contained Dave’s usual hilarity but with a profound sense of the Japanese people and culture - and an understanding of the American in unfamiliar territory.
1996 Art Buchwald - Art’s political satire was the best. But I most enjoyed his memoir, I’ll Always Have Paris. I liked living vicariously with Art – experiencing Paris and following him around as he wrote for major newspapers. The 2000s More empty nest syndrome. More single life trauma. Back to the workplace after 15 years. I needed a heavy dose of funny. Who ya gonna call? The funniest writers of the new millennium. It appears, at this stage, I again wished to travel. Or was it to escape my present situation?
2004 J. Maarten Troost wrote two great travel memoirs. The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific and Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu. Troost has written hilarious travelogues of being caught on seriously underdeveloped islands in the South Seas. I loved traveling with him but this time I was grateful I didn’t have to experience them firsthand.
2004 Firoozeh Dumas's Funny in Farsi changed my outlook on Persians and other Middle Easterners. I met Firoozeh at a reading and was further changes by her commitment to present her countrymen in a new light. I learned something new about Iranian women. They can be simply laugh-out-loud funny.
2006 Bill Bryson I keep reading Bill’s A Walk in the Woods, trying to figure out how he can be so funny. I wanted to be that funny! A Walk in the Woods might be another book I should have read in the bathroom or the closet as to not disturb anyone. But by then, I lived alone and could laugh as loudly as I wanted to.
2007 Having lived in the middle of Wisconsin in my growing up years, I related to Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. To me, and to many others, it’s a kick in the pants masterpiece. I marveled at how he could capture childhood and the middle westerner with such wit and tongue-in-cheek humor.
The current decade brought peace and security to my life. I got a real job and began to build a retirement fund. I saw my children established in their adult lives. Still no men in my life, but I didn’t really care? I had my humorists, but I also had my own dream of writing and publishing. Although I had less need to find humor as healing, I was by now hooked on spending time with funny folks. 2010 Nora Ephron’s humor spreads across books, screenplays, and speeches. My all-time favorite is her I Remember Nothing about getting older. And for a quick and fun moment on the Internet, I repeat-watch her roast of Mike Nichols on the AFI Tribute to Mike Nichols. 2010 Christopher Buckley - I sometimes have to carry a dictionary to read Buckley’s humor but I’m mad about his columns and essays none the less. If you want to read a masterwork memoir, read Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir. He captures a time and a place and his famous parents with such wit.
2011 Calvin Trilling - Another writer I keep reading to see if the brilliance will rub off on me. Not so far. Calvin and I go way back to the 90s, but if I were to gather together all his best, I would pull out my Quite Enough of Calvin Trilling - Forty Years of Funny Stuff and remember all the days he made me laugh.
2017 Erma Bombeck Revisited – I began writing in 2013 and with trepidation, sent a humor piece to the Erma Bombeck Workshop blog. It was accepted! Since then, I have happily seen five more blog posts there. I can’t adequately describe the thrill I had when my face showed up next to Erma’s on the front page of the workshop website. Talk about a thirty-year dream come true. Then in 2017, I attended the EBWW in Dayton, OH. What an experience rubbing elbows with some really talented humorists.
So it seems I have now added myself as one of my favorite humorists. Not as famous or gifted, but hey, we hang out together now.