The Wind-up Joke Machine

Henny Y

Henny Youngman is the thinking man’s comedian. You have to think really hard to figure out why he’s funny. This short video at the Friar’s Club explains a lot, as you can see the reactions of other comedians to Youngman’s random wit.

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Jim Thompson: L’Arc de Sade

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Although Jim Thompson was known as “Dimestore Dostoevsky,” a more accurate alliterative handle might have been “Dimestore de Sade.” His stories may not be the most violent, but the currents of sadism running through make them as disturbing as anything I’d care to read. These days, The Killer Inside Me (1952) may be his most ...

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The Slough of Malaise (Epistle III)

Ruby oswald*

Your Twos—have you ever noticed how excited they get when the subject of the Kennedy assassination comes up? They start chirping and yipping about where they were, what they were doing, what they remember. Big nostalgia dump for them; nausea-inducing for everyone else. What they don’t tell you is what they were doing the next day, ...

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Picture of the Week: Compost Mandala #39


I photographed the contents of our “compost drawer” once per week, during the calendar year 1991. Week 39 corresponded to September 18, which my notes say was Yom Kippur. The idea was to create images for a 52-Week Compost Desk Engagement Calendar. Sort of a Sierra Club parody. The rules of engagement for the photos were ...

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Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!

allan sherman-edit

1962 was the year I became a Jew. My ancestors, as far I know, were Jewish on both sides back to Abraham and Sarah. But for whatever reason, the Sheldons (anglicized from Selkowitz or Zelkovitch) used to celebrate Christmas—not Hanukkah—from 1950 to 1962, and I attended a Quaker elementary school. Then, in 1962, my father decided ...

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Short and sweet

the hunter

The Hunter is the first in a series of 23 novels about the heists and other tribulations of a character named Parker. Writing as Richard Stark, Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Donald Westlake later described the milieu he wanted to create for The Hunter as “a paperback-style tough guy novel in which the entire world ...

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Like a Boomer (Epistle II)

Parents of boomers--cruisin' thru the '50s

Remember when they made you read The People’s History of the United States in high school? Depressing, wasn’t it? Everything’s wrong. It’s all our fault—every action stems from a base motive and inevitably harms someone more deserving. What a lesson. How can anyone live, carrying a burden like that? I guarantee it was a Boomer that ...

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Picture of the Week: Happy Mother’s Day

Any number of wise guy remarks come to mind. But yesterday’s post celebrated free speech with Lenny Bruce. Now we’re looking ahead to Mother’s Day, so a measure of reverence and solemnity is in order… What are you looking at—pervert?

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Lenny Bruce reads his indictment

lenny bruce raw_edited-1

In one of his final performances, Lenny Bruce came on stage with a copy of his indictment for obscenity. He read from it in detail–explaining, ridiculing, and satirizing in turn. The best parts are when he reads the court’s description of a routine that was considered offensive–usually in circuitous or euphemistic language. Lenny would say, ...

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Thomas Perry: No, you can’t see my ID

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#PULPMONDAY celebrates the work of Thomas Perry, whose first novel, The Butcher’s Boy (1982) came out with a classy cover. No overt sex appeal—though there’s an intense and memorable sex scene designer Dick Adelson could have used. No hot colors; the gold background is not very pulpy and neither is the serif typeface. You’d think ...

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