The Funniest People in Books: 250 Anecdotes

These are the first 10 anecdotes from my book The Funniest People in Books: 250 Anecdotes, available for .99 CHEAP at online booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBookstore, Kobo, etc.:


 While working as an advertising writer for Macy’s, Margaret Fishback discovered that the famous department store had a two-foot cake tester on sale. She thought that the idea of a two-foot cake tester was ridiculous, so she wrote, “This cake tester will come in handy the next time you bake a cake two feet high.” However, this advertisement brought in more orders than Macy’s had two-foot cake testers. From this experience, Ms. Fishback and Macy’s learned that humor sells.[1]

Simon and Schuster once published a children’s book titled Dr. Dan the Bandage Man. As a publicity gimmick, they decided to include a half-dozen band-aids in each book, so publisher Richard Simon sent this telegram to a friend at Johnson and Johnson: “PLEASE SHIP TWO MILLION BAND-AIDS IMMEDIATELY.” The following day Mr. Simon received this telegram in reply: “BAND-AIDS ON THEIR WAY. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOU?”[2]

When horror writer Stephen King decided to live in England for a year, he knew exactly the kind of house he wanted to live in, so he put this advertisement in an English newspaper: “Wanted, a draughty Victorian house in the country with dark attic and creaking floorboards, preferably haunted.”[3]

G.K. Chesterton visited Broadway and Times Square at night when the scene was brightly lit by advertising signs. He gazed at the sight for a while, then said to a friend, “How beautiful it would be for someone who could not read.”[4]


 In their book, The Perfect London Walk, writers Roger Ebert (the movie critic) and Daniel Curley (a short-story writer) describe what they consider to be the best walk in London — one that lasts for hours and takes the walker through the Hampstead Heath, the Spaniards Inn, Highgate Cemetery, etc. However, Mr. Curley warns the reader that the walk will take you past several pubs, and so you may be tempted away from your walk. In one memorable case, a man named John McHugh stopped at a pub and abandoned the walk after covering scarcely 150 yards.[5]

While traveling abroad, Mark Twain heard of an American student who had struggled to learn German for three whole months, but who had learned to say only “zwei glas,” which means “two glasses” (of beer). Still, the student reflected, he had learned those words very thoroughly.[6]

Percy Hammond, the drama critic, grew up in Cadiz, Ohio, in the late 19th century. One of his favorite memories was marching in a temperance parade as a small child and carrying a banner inscribed with this slogan: “Tremble, King Alcohol, for I shall grow up.”[7]


 As a teenager, Gary Paulsen, author of the young adult novel Hatchet, was the favorite victim of a bullying street gang. Late one night, as he left his job at a bowling alley, he tried to find a new route home by leaving from the roof. As he climbed from the roof into an alley, he stepped on a ferocious dog. Frightened, he threw the dog half of a hamburger he was carrying, then he ran from the alley — right into the hands of members of the bullying street gang, who immediately started to beat him. Suddenly, the ferocious dog jumped out of the alley and began biting gang members. Gary gave the dog the rest of his hamburger, and after the dog bit the gang leader in another encounter, the gang left Gary strictly alone. (Eventually, Gary found the dog, now friendly to everyone except Gary’s enemies, a new life on a farm.)[8]

E.B. White may be most famous for his children’s book Charlotte’s Web, in which a spider named Charlotte befriends a pig named Wilbur and saves his life by writing words in her web. The idea for the book came partly from Mr. White’s discomfort at raising a pig each year at his farm in Maine, only to butcher it when it was fully grown. In addition, one day he noticed a spider building a web in an outhouse, so he brought out a lamp and a long extension cord and watched the spider. From these experiences, and more, came Charlotte’s Web. By the way, sometimes people try to find hidden meanings in Charlotte’s Web, but Mr. White says, “Any attempt to find allegorical meanings is bound to end disastrously, for no meanings are in there. I ought to know.”[9]

Pioneer life could be difficult. In 1875, Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie, was outside when she thought she saw a storm spring up on the horizon, then move closer. It wasn’t a storm — it was a cloud of grasshoppers. While Laura and her family hid in their house, the grasshoppers ate everything green, including the crops, the garden, the grass, and even the leaves in the trees. After eating everything, the grasshoppers moved west. Because the grasshoppers had destroyed his crops, Laura’s Pa walked 200 miles to eastern Minnesota to find work to support his family.[10]

[1] Source: Everett S. Allen, Famous American Humorous Poets, p. 27.

[2] Source: André Bernard, Now All We Need is a Title, p. 126.

[3] Source: Suzan Wilson, Stephen King: King of Thrillers and Horror, p. 63.

[4] Source: Lewis C. Henry, Humorous Anecdotes About Famous People, pp. 62-63.

[5] Source: Roger Ebert and Daniel Curley, The Perfect London Walk, p. xii.

[6] Source: Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, Oxford Mark Twain, p. 614.

[7] Source: Franklin P. Adams, et. al., Percy Hammond: A Symposium in Tribute, p. viii.

[8] Source: Edith Hope Fine, Gary Paulsen: Author and Wilderness Adventurer, pp. 38-39.

[9] Source: Janice Tingum, E.B. White: The Elements of a Writer, pp. 93-94, 103.

[10] Source: Ginger Wadsworth, Laura Ingalls Wilder: Storyteller of the Prairie, p. 26.

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