Reader Friday: TGIF and Humor

With so much angst, strife, and division in our world today, we need to be reminded that we still have much to be thankful for, and that laughter continues to be good medicine. Thank goodness it’s Friday!

My life is currently crowded, probably my manic side pushing to take charge, and by the end of the day I don’t feel like reading nonfiction and studying. I want to turn off my brain and be entertained. The book I’m reading now is Lawrence Block’s The Burglar on the Prowl. I love the Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery series, and particularly Block’s use of humor.

Since we’re discussing humor today, I looked for previous articles from the archives. JSB had a great article On Using Humor in Fiction (December 2020). There are many others posts worth reviewing. Search the archives under “humor” and you’ll be surprised. Another recent article – Do I Need to Use a Dragon? – Humor  is the beginning of a series of blogs on the topic. And in “Seven Reason to Use Humor in Your Fiction” (November 2016)  Writer’s Digest discusses using humor in serious fiction.

But, today, let’s approach humor from the reader’s perspective. Here are the questions:

  • What authors do you enjoy because of their use of humor?
  • How do they incorporate humor into their writing?
  • Is there a particular genre where you enjoy the use of humor the most?
  • What books or authors would you recommend to the rest of us because of the author’s use of humor?
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About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at:

34 thoughts on “Reader Friday: TGIF and Humor

  1. Good morning, Steve. It is interesting that you mention Larry Block. His birthday is tomorrow.

    1) Larry Block, Donald Westlake, and P.J. O’Roarke.

    2) Block and Westlake mine similar veins. Westlake, who is no longer with us, wrote several novels featuring a bumbling burglar named John Dortmunder who gathered more problems than baubles. O’Rourke, who passed away last year, published several collections and treatises dissecting politics and popular culture which utilized several spoons full of sugar to make the medicine more palatable.

    3) I don’t reflexively reach for humorous works, given that I am given to a dour and cantankerous view of things. That said, I do occasionally seek out mirth in…drum roll…mystery and thriller novels.

    4) I recommend the three authors I have listed about, as well as the madcap humor of Tim Dorsey in the Serge A. Storms books. The Storms books also function as a wonderful travelogue if you are inclined to explore Florida on the roads less traveled.

    Thanks, Steve. Have a great weekend!

    • Good morning, Joe. And thanks for that treasure trove of information.

      I’m making a list of authors/books today for my TBR list. Thanks for those great additions

      Maybe I search for humor because of my sour disposition, but also because there is so much around us that can dampen any optimism. In any case, it’s good to end the day with laughter.

      We’ll send out birthday wishes to Larry Block from the KZ gang.

      Have a great weekend!

  2. You bring up something I don’t think about enough in writing–the use of humor. I really appreciate it when authors inject moments of subtle humor into their fiction or nonfiction works (I’ve probably seen more examples in nonfiction–probably because the author feels freer to attempt humor?).

    My favorite example of humor doesn’t come from where you might expect. Our Creator was the first to know the importance of using humor. I never fail to laugh when I read 2 Kings 9:20b, which says “The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a maniac.” We think traffic & driving issues are just a modern thing. Nope. LOL!

    Happy Friday, all. Enjoy some moments of laughter today!

    • Good point, BK, we probably don’t often think about the use of humor in the books we read. But, its presence makes the whole reading experience more enjoyable.

      Interesting example from 2 Kings. I had to read it again. And the humor is mixed with suspense and intrigue. Four paragraphs later, Joram is fleeing the conflict in his chariot, and Jehu shoots him through the heart with an arrow.

      Thanks for your comments, BK, and I hope your day is filled with humor and laughter.

    • I’m not much of a biblical scholar, but my attention was recently drawn to Acts 26:29: Paul before King Agrippa:

      “Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I wish to God that not only you but everyone listening to me today would become what I am—except for these chains.’”

  3. First who comes to mind: Janet Evanovich. I had to make a rule that the Hubster couldn’t read them in bed because he’d burst out laughing and keep me awake.
    Many of my characters have a sense of humor (or is it senses of humor?)
    Sorry to answer only one of your questions, but it’s early and I can’t handle that much thinking.

    • Thanks for adding to our list, Terry. I love that rule for banning Janet Evanovich’s books from your husband’s bedtime reading. Quite an honor for a book to achieve. And your telling of the story made me laugh.

      If you think of any other ideas on humor, please come back and tell us about them.

  4. I love Mary Connealy’s books. She writes Christian historical romance – or as she likes to say, romantic comedy with cowboys. She puts in just the right amount of romance, mystery, danger, and humor.

    • Thanks, Michelle, for your recommendation, and another author to put on our list. It sounds like Mary Connealy has found the right recipe for her books. I’ll pass your recommendation on to my wife. She likes historical romance.

      Good point about the story needing “the right amount of romance, mystery, danger, and humor.” Variety is the spice of life.

  5. Good morning, Steve. Love Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr—fun and funny mysteries. Joanna Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series is comedy gold, especially Hannah’s well-intentioned but constantly meddling mother. Fluke nicely blends humor with cozy mystery, and shows off her suspense chops in the books’ climaxes, deftly adding in a pathos to the dish of bathos. Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lover’s series also has some great humor in it. Second Terry’s recommendation for Janet Evanovich. Her Stephanie Plum books are hilarious.

    Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files are noir, but also have a lot of comedy. Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett are both British “grandmasters of comedy” in my book. Adams’s “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” and sequels cover a spectrum of comedy. Pratchett’s long running Discworld series has both slapstick and cutting satire. Going further back, Harry Harrison wrote a lot science fiction comedy, especially “Bill the Galactic Hero” and the Stainless Steel Rat series about James Bolivar diGriz, aka Slippery Jim, thief, con man and galactic rascal.

    In general,

    • Wow, Dale. That’s quite a list of recommendations. Thanks! Your years of experience in the library has given you a wealth of information. I bet friends ask you frequently for book recommendations. And we are fortunate to have you share your knowledge here.

      Have a great day filled with laughter and humor.

  6. As far as weaving humor into novel-length fiction, I don’t think anyone has ever surpassed Twain. In the early 20th century, Thorne Smith’s Topper novels were immensely popular for their humorous content. Dashiell Hammett handled the mix masterfully in The Thin Man. Raymond Chandler surpassed them all with his descriptions, dialogue, and minor characters (e.g., Moose Malloy in Farewell, My Lovely).

    If I need a short jolt of laughter (which is quite often these days) I turn to either Dave Barry or his literary grandfather, Robert Benchley.

    • Thanks, Jim, for that list. Great additions, and books I need to read. I’m eager to check out Dave Barry and Robert Benchley.

      Thanks, too, for you wonderful post, “On Using Humor in Fiction” from December 2020. Worth reviewing for everyone here who is a writer.

  7. The most recent comic mystery I’ve read is Book 25 of Jana Deleon’s “Miss Fortune” series. A former CIA assassin goes into hiding in a small town in Louisiana filled with eccentrics and lunatics. Murders happen, comic mayhem erupts, mysteries are solved, and banana pudding is achieved. There’s quite a lot of dissonance between the comic happenings and the darker plots. The most recent novel includes human trafficking and sexual abuse while the little old ladies are throwing glitter bombs and sabotaging a wanna-be sheriff. Since this is Book 25, most readers don’t seem to mind the dissonance.

    • Marilynn, thanks! This series sounds very interesting. I’ll check it out. The author was obviously quite successful if she made it to book #25 in a series. My theory is that readers like variety in the tone and content, even when they’re reading within their favorite genre. This series sounds like a smorgasbord.

      Thanks for your comments!

  8. Great topic, Steve.

    Two of the authors I immediately thought of have already been mentioned: Janet Evanovich and Jim Butcher. I recently read Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell. It’s full of British humor which I love.

    Another writer who employed humor was Jane Austen. What could be funnier than the opening line of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

    • Thanks, Kay.

      Great reminder about Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. And then she set out to show us the folly of the thesis in her day. Wonderful first line.

      Thanks for mentioning Sarah Caudwell and Thus Was Adonis Murdered. There’s something quaint about British humor that shows us a perspective we’re not familiar with here in the colonies.

      I hope your weekend is filled with humor and laughter.

  9. Steve, thanks for gathering excellent suggestions of humorous authors. Carl Hiaason and Tim Dorsey make me laugh out loud. Their absurdist world view and observations of weirdness are priceless.

    I just read Silence of the Lambs which is hardly a funny book yet Thomas Harris occasionally injected hilarious lines. The overall grimness of the story would have been unbearable w/o the relief of humor. B/c it was so unexpected in the context, the humor had more impact.

    The movie didn’t show Clarice’s inner thoughts as much as the book does and she’s actually quite funny. And Hannibal could launch great zingers, in spite of his other (ahem) faults.

    • Thanks, Debbie

      If Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey books make you laugh out loud, I’m putting them on the list. I wonder how many spouses will NOT appreciate the list, or banish us readers to the living room until done reading.

      Interesting info on Silence of the Lambs. How often the book and the movie are quite different. I guess that’s why some readers like to curl up with a book and enjoy the luxury of experiencing the whole thing. That’s good for us writers.

      Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Thanks for reminding us to laugh, Steve! Do we ever need it…

    We experienced a fire within a quarter mile of our house yesterday, helicopter landing in the field, 10-12 trucks, 15-20 fire staff, and smoke, smoke, smoke! And it wasn’t just a brush fire, trees were going up. Yikes!

    My taste in reading humor runs to the very subtle. The first author that came to my mind was JSB. Especially with the last of his books I read, Can’t Stop Me, his use of subtle humor, especially in the MC’s thoughts, had me snorting my coffee. And that in the middle of tension, tension, tension.

    In my next release, No Tomorrows, there’s one character who, early on, introduced himself to me as the resident jokester. His name is Hank, fondly called Hankster the Prankster, he’s a teenager, and keeps his family in stitches with one-liners. He was a fun character to develop.

    Here’s a quote: “What do you call a day without sunshine? Wait for it, wait for it…night!” Cue groans from his three sisters and a high five from his dad.

    Happy Friday!

    • Thanks, Deb. Yes, we truly need some comic relief and humor. It is too easy to get caught up in the tension and conflict of current affairs.

      I’m glad you escaped the fire that was so near to your house.

      Great addition to the list with JSB’s books. His Mike Romeo character shows us some interesting perspectives on life, as well.

      Hankster sounds like an interesting and funny character that will be fun to read, and was probably a lot of fun to develop and write. Keep us informed of when that book is published.

      Happy Friday!

  11. ❖ What authors do you enjoy because of their use of humor?
    ❦ My parents assembled their library in the 30s and 40s, so as a boy, I read Robert Benchley, Ogden Nash, H. Allen Smith, Fred Beck, James Thurber, Bennett Cerf, Gene Fowler, and others of that era. I discovered PG Wodehouse, et al., at the local library.
    ❖ How do they incorporate humor into their writing?
    ❦ Entire PhD theses could be written on this subject. I shall refrain from doing so here. Distilling all of the above, especially the bolded entries, and others I’ve forgotten, the operative word is quirky or its adverbial form, whatever that is.
    ❖ Is there a particular genre where you enjoy the use of humor the most?
    ❦ No. I like it everywhere. Okay, maybe not theology👣. Speaking of myself, as you knew I would, I use humor in all my works, including non-fiction and my three-act classical tragedy, which resulted in many a full-body eye-roll from my director.
    ❖ What books or authors would you recommend to the rest of us because of the author’s use of humor?
    ❦ Less is more, so, of the above, I’d single out H. Allen Smith, whose “The Compleat Practical Joker” gave 14-year old me many a high-pitched giggle.

    👣note: I’d completely forgotten, but I opened my 2010 sermon on theology with “There are three philosophers in a bar . . .” Seriously.

    • JG, you never cease to amaze. Wow, lots of great information there. I’m especially interested in those authors you discovered in your parent’s library. I’m making a list.

      And that three-philosophers-in-a-bar joke. I see from a Google search there are multiple ways to complete that joke. I hope you will tell us your way sometime.

      Thanks for participating and sharing your wisdom.

      • Many thanks, Steve. The philosopher jokes that preceded my homily on theodicy.
        ☻There are three philosophers in a bar. The first is Rene Descartes, the Rationalist famous for saying, “I think, therefore I am.” He asks the other two, “What is ze greatest invention ever conceived? As a believer in Science, I would say ze telescope, because it has increased astronomers’ knowledge of ze universe a hundred-fold.”
        William James, the Pragmatist, disagrees, saying: “The printing press has advanced the knowledge of not just a few scientists, but of all mankind. The printing press is the greatest invention.”
        Nikolai Bukharin, the Marxist, jumps up and says: “Nyet! Thermos bottle is greatest invention! Definitely is Thermos bottle.”
        The others look at him in surprise and ask, “Why is the Thermos bottle the greatest invention?”
        Bukharin explains: “If you want it keep something hot, is keep it hot. If you want it keep something cold, is keep it cold. Thermos bottle can read people’s minds!”

        ☻☻There are three French philosophers in a café: Jacques Derrida, Jean-Paul Sartre, and again Rene Descartes, left over from the previous joke. The waitress asks if they’d like coffee.
        Derrida, the Deconstructionist, tells her, “Your question is without meaning. It is impossible to define coffee without resorting to other words! Then you’d have to define those words, and so on, in an endless process.”
        The waitress says, “All right, No coffee for you!” She turns to Sartre, the Existentialist, who says: “Yes, I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream.”
        The waitress says, “I’m sorry, M. Sartre, but we’re out of cream.”
        Sartre says, “All right, then, I’ll have it with no milk.”
        Finally, she asks Rene Descartes, “Would you like coffee, too?”
        Decartes says, “I think not.” And he disappears.

  12. I try to go to school on Terry Pratchett’s stories. When he’s on (some stories are better than others), he had a knack for writing satires about a world close enough to our own that we can see ourselves but distant enough that we can look at it from the outside. It gives him a marvelous platform for skewering modern society.

  13. Great topic, Steve!

    I loved Mary Roach’s dark humor in STIFF, a nonfiction book about the dead. Highly recommend. In fiction, humor always adds a little something extra, like a special sauce. Humor also provides a well-needed respite from pulse-pounding suspense — a chance to let our readers breathe before plunging them back into the action.

    Wishing you a fantastic weekend, my friend!

    • Thanks, Sue.

      I’m putting Mary Roach and STIFF on my list.

      And excellent advice on using humor to slow the pulse between the pulse-pounding scenes. Part of Swain’s scene and sequel alternation.

      I hope you have a wonderful weekend!!

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