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Laugh tracts

A funny thing happened on the way to the bookstore

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Laugh tracts
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Humor books written by comedians of television fame spill from the bookstore racks these days and provide not only laughs but different takes on what Americans believe-or perhaps, more accurately, on what Americans are encouraged to believe. Let's look at five of the books, starting with two emerging from the troupe of court jesters known as Saturday Night Live (SNL).

Newly released Bossypants is SNL veteran Tina Fey's take on balancing home-family life with show-business-family life. Bossypants refers to the role Fey performs as creator, head writer, and star of NBC's 30 Rock, a role she takes seriously, noting that her performance affects the work lives of 200 people associated with the show.

Fey's stories about her dad, Don, whom she greatly admires, are delightful: She describes him as a Goldwater Republican who looks like Clint Eastwood, and she amusingly tells how Don confronted a rented carpet-cleaning machine that was acting up. Fey also writes of her mixed feelings about Sarah Palin, whom she famously portrayed during the 2008 presidential campaign: As moms, the two connect, but politically they are as far apart as, well, New York and Alaska.

As an inside-television tale Bossypants makes interesting reading, but Fey punctuates it with jolts of crude language and a few intimate personal revelations. She also offers Christians her view of "a pretty successful implementation of Christianity" on issues such as gay relationships: Keep your views to yourself.

A different perspective on the tell-all television world comes to us from another SNL graduate, Jim Breuer, perhaps best known for his offbeat Goat Boy creation and for his spot-on impersonation of Joe Pesci. In I'm Not High (But I've Got a Lot of Crazy Stories about Life as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and a Spiritual Warrior), Breuer unabashedly points to moments throughout both his personal and professional life where God was guiding his steps. For example, in a "Saving Steve-O" chapter, Breuer discloses how he and his wife took in a troubled nephew and set his life on a course away from crime and self-destruction-an excellent illustration of James 5:10 ("Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins").

Breuer also describes his wife Dee's conversion to Christianity, which came during a critical, teeter-tottering time in their marriage. If you're looking for a reflective and informative inside-television journey through the eyes of a seeker of God's truth, I'm Not High will not disappoint.

While politically Fey's book leans far-left and Breuer's stands in the middle, comic-pundit Greg Gutfeld's The Bible of Unspeakable Truths tilts unquestionably right. Gutfeld hosts Fox News Channel's Red Eye program and clearly disdains liberals. His book includes sections such as "Antiwar Activists Love War More Than the People Who Fight Them," "Gender Studies Are Ignored If They Tell the Truth," and an especially effective and comical couple of pages dedicated to "People Who Accuse You of Racism Are Usually Racist." Warning: the humorous and flippant language and observations may seem unduly harsh.

Michael Showalter (Mr. Funny Pants) and Demetri Martin (This Is a Book by Demetri Martin) are young, hip, first-time authors who have had some success as stand-up comedians and have created shows for Comedy Central. Both authors structured their books similarly, with drawings, short stories (some quasi-autobiographical, some total fabrication), and one-line observations. Similarities end, however, when considering the laugh factor. Rarely does Mr. Funny Pants make you snicker, let alone snort. Showalter's chapters on streaking and holiday recipes for guys qualify for the snicker category, and "How to Write and Sell a Hollywood Screenplay-Chapter Four" might get you close to a snort. But, overall, Mr. Funny Pants could have been helped by a brutal editor cutting the book by half.

This Is a Book by Demetri Martin, on the other hand, delivers the laughs. Clever and unusual, it peaks a few times at eye-wateringly funny. Witty, imaginative short pieces with surprise endings-such as "Fruit Stand Diary Excerpts" (cars chased by the police keep slamming into the fruit stand), "Sheila" (dating a ghost), and a whimsical eulogy for an obnoxious bully-all call to mind a collection like Woody Allen's Without Feathers. Quick bursts-"The shepherd fell asleep again. But who could blame him? He had been counting sheep all day"-also make This Is a Book by Demetri Martin your best bet for hearty laughs. But again, typical of the times in which we live, a warning about offensive language applies.

Comic observations

From Bossypants by Tina Fey: Disdainfully comparing an ocean cruise to flying: "You wouldn't take a vacation where you ride on a stagecoach for two months but there's all-you-can-eat shrimp."

From The Bible of Unspeakable Truths by Greg Gutfeld: "Blogs used to be called Diaries, and they were written by twelve-year-old girls."

From This Is a Book by Demetri Martin by Demetri Martin: "If every person took five minutes less time in the shower, then people who take showers that are only five minutes long would start to smell."

Buy the book: Links to purchase the books featured in WORLD's 2011 Books Issue

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