How many of you have watched a sitcom you didn't think was funny despite the ongoing laugh track telling what which moments were supposed to be? Why would one need a laugh track if something were actually funny? As a kid, I watched Happy Days, Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island reruns over and over--had I ever laughed? Apart from Seinfeld and a few others, I imagine few people actually laughed at hugely popular sitcoms.
How many have read a humorous book that you didn't find laugh-out-loud funny, but you read it anyway? I recall laughing once at the supposedly hilarious Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Nonetheless, I read the entire series and bought the movie. Why?
My guess is that comedies have a pleasant rhythm, zany imagination, often absurdist viewpoint, and light-hearted mood that please us even should we not laugh. For instance, witness the title of this collection. A number will recognize the name of a silly band called They Might Be Giants. Someone might snort, but most will merely recognize the play on words, possibly smile and try out the collection.
Possibly the best joke occurs in "So There's a Banshee outside Your Window" where a mysterious voice talks to a thirteen-year-old about the old hag hanging outside his window:
"[B]anshees only warn those [that are going to die soon] that have heritage with the Irish. Specifically persons with surnames beginning with 'O' or 'Mac.' So, unless your name begins with that, you should be fine.
"For a voice that exist in my head you sure are lousy at knowing anything about me. My name is MacDonald. Ron MacDonald.
"Haha what? Seriously?
"Yes yes, hilarious, I know."The voice tells him to get a sword, but the kid doesn't have one.
"Try the pawnshop. Walmart. Petsmart. Maybe McDonalds--I'm sure they know you there.
"Shut up! That isn't funny!
"Yeah, it kind of is.
"Okay, maybe you're right."The story's right. It kind of is funny even if you don't laugh. (And some readers did.) You know who you are, those of you who will like this.
Another cool aspect of the collection is that it forms a loose novel--which is probably the best way since many tales trail off (the above tale ends with the characters cussing each other out). The author invites you to read the collection in any order the reader prefers although that's difficult in an ebook without a table of contents. Booth says he didn't assemble it with any order in mind, so swim these waters in whatever way that pleases you.
There are running gags--the devil and his demons are coming to raise hell on Earth every 104 years to destroy unknown little towns (this time in Vermillion, Indiana... who cares about Indiana?), bad demons get tossed into laugh-track sitcom hell--that help glue the series together. The concept's novel and pleasing, and it rouses my curiosity to read further.