The best funny books to laugh in the face of insanity

Eric Sporer Author Of A Man Eating Chicken
By Eric Sporer

The Books I Picked & Why

A Confederacy of Dunces

By John Kennedy Toole

Book cover of A Confederacy of Dunces

Why this book?

To me, A Confederacy of Dunces is the perfect example of what any funny book should aspire to be. It is absurd (in the best way), engaging, and paints a vivid picture. With the perfect picaresque anti-hero leading the way, it is silly, but not in a way that takes you out of the story. While many “funny stories” struggle to be both funny and a good story, A Confederacy of Dunces had managed to pull off both perfectly. It was eye-opening to me in terms of what a comedic novel can be.

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The Big Book of Hell

By Matt Groening

Book cover of The Big Book of Hell

Why this book?

The Big Book of Hell is the holy grail of dark humor, packaged perfectly in a comic format. Growing up as a sarcastic kid from Brooklyn, this was the first humor book I read that I felt was aimed directly at my sensibilities. It has a very unique “substance-over-style” aesthetic that is striking and somehow managed to become widely identifiable. It dances around subjects, poking fun at the absurdities of the world it was written in. It really showed me that you don’t need to be a conventionally great artist to publish comics and that there is a market for dark humor comics. The book, which reads almost like a variety show, opened my eyes to ways to play with structure of an individual comic and a whole book.

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By Joseph Heller

Book cover of Catch-22

Why this book?

Perhaps one of the most celebrated satires, Catch-22 is dark, philosophical, political, and personal; it’s really everything in one novel. It tells a story in a way that is relatable and conveys real and heavy emotions in a sympathetic light, despite the absurdity it is all framed in. It showed me how much nuance can fit into satire. It showed me how powerful a tool humor can be when used artfully; using it to tell a dark tale in a light way by poking at its absurdity. It manages to pull off a free-flowing story from multiple perspectives in such a neat package that its execution is impeccable. 

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By Kurt Vonnegut

Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Why this book?

Slaughterhouse-Five sits on a shelf completely of its own. Its absurdist science fiction approach to addressing real, heavy cultural and historical issues is truly unique. It’s straight-up funny to the core, though. It is unflinchingly dark and creative beyond reproach. Beyond the actual prose being funny, the concept is funny. The structure is funny. Ever since I was a small child, I used humor as a tool to cope with the world, but Slaughterhouse-Five showed me the extent that it could be used. It showed me what humor, honesty, artistry, and ambition can achieve together.

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The Mouse That Roared

By Leonard Wibberley

Book cover of The Mouse That Roared

Why this book?

While I grew up at the tail end of the Cold War, there was something in The Mouse that Roared that really spoke to me. The way that it takes an already absurd reality to an extreme really spoke to my own sensibilities and humor. History books tell the facts, but stories like this reflect how absurd the geopolitical culture must have felt to most people. It’s akin to Dr. Strangelove, not only in being a Cold War satire, but in the absurd and extreme nature of the farce. It influenced my own political satire heavily.

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