Who’s The Funniest of Them All

Bookshelf bookshelf on my wall

Photo by Anu Anniah

If I had to pick my favorite among some of these guys, I think I’d pick PG Wodehouse. OK, wait. I recently read this really hilarious book by Gerald Durrell. So maybe he’s my top pick. Oh no, hold on. What about that one by Bill Bryson I read whenever I visited the bathroom? People knocked on the door and asked what was so funny in the loo. They had heard me cackling with laughter.

Why on earth should I have to pick the top funny writer? I am not going to pick one. By the way, I have not mentioned several others here including another potential numero uno, Douglas Adams. I am trying to keep this post to a readable length.

If you have not read any of these authors, you must remedy that situation immediately. If you have read only one or the other, you must fix the problem at once. Beg, mooch, pilfer, purloin — in short, do whatever it takes to lay hands on some of these gems at once.

Seriously! Each of them has a brand of humor that is guaranteed to generate some mental chuckles if not loud guffaws. We need laughs now more than ever. Writing that helps us look at life through a fun filter and makes us laugh — that’s the magic pill.

Consider Gerald Durrell. His life and most of his writing revolved around animals. Heck, he even wrote a book called My Family and Other Animals. Don’t you see how this book already screams I’m funny?

Gerald portrays his family as such a bunch of cartoons that one can’t help but laugh at the things that happen in the course of a normal day. He elevates most mundane family happenings to comic situations by his clever and witty choice of words.

My most recent Gerald Durrell is a delightful little book called Rosy is My Relative. Not such a funny title, eh? But wait, Rosy is an elephant. How about that?

The book takes us through the dull, boring, adventure-devoid life of Adrian Rookwhistle until he inherits Rosy. Then we are provided such a visual treat as Adrian begins life with Rosy. You don’t see Rosy as just another big, gray elephant. In fact, in my head, Rosy is a chubby, pink, super cute elephant with the kindest eyes and the naughtiest smile. She is full of affection and lights up the space around her with her happy squeaks. At least, that’s how Gerald describes her.

When he says things like, Rosy was leaning against the wall and delicately fanning herself with a blade of grass, you begin to see this really dainty elephant. Who said dainty and elephant cannot go together. In a world of Gerald’s creation, dainty and elephant fit together perfectly.

Rosy was leaning against the wall and delicately fanning herself with a blade of grass.

– Rosy is my relative, gerald durrell

Oh, and Rosy is no ordinary elephant. To add an extra twist, Rosy is a pretty pachyderm with a penchant for liquor!

Bill Bryson is mostly known for his travel writing. He has written so many books and traveled so much that he ended up writing a book called A Short History of Nearly Everything. This book should be included in place of the usual drab history textbooks in school. Strangely, the book is about science.

The most recent Bill Bryson book to pass through my hands is Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe. He takes us through various parts of Europe and paints such a funny picture in each place that I feel like I have to visit those places with him to have similar hilarious experiences. I have been here and there in Europe and had some fun. But Bill Bryson seems to be a fun magnet.

I found the book so funny that I took to calling up random friends and insisted on reading entire passages out loud to them. There is great pleasure in laughing together. Books like these are meant to be read aloud amidst a bunch of friends with a similar sense of humor.

“What is it about maps? I could look at them all day, earnestly studying the names of towns and villages I have never heard of and will never visit…”
Bill Bryson, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe

PG Wodehouse is the ultimate in light-hearted humor. I have loved almost all books by him that I have been able to lay hands on. But my favorite series is the one in which we peek into the lives of Bertie Wooster and his amazing butler, Jeeves. What a riot! I think everybody secretly wants a Jeeves in their home.

PGW’s command over the English language and his ability to play with words is so brilliant that I can’t even begin to describe it.

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?’”

“The mood will pass sir.”

For me, PGW books are like pick-me-ups. They lift me to a happy state. I never read a PGW book at a stretch. I read a few pages, run those pages in my head, and then get back to it again several days later.

It would be callous on our part to consume such carefully crafted humor in a single swoop. One must take a sip, twirl it around in the mind, savor it for a bit, and then gently imbibe.

Writers like Bill Bryson, PGW, and Gerald Durrell should be commended for the great social service they render to society. For brief moments in time, they take us to worlds where normal humans indulge in cartoon-like behavior and almost convince us that the world is in fact a pretty harmless and happy place.

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