The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes

These are the first 10 anecdotes from my book The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes, available for .99 CHEAP at online booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBookstore, Kobo, etc.:

Activism

  • Gay and lesbian activists sometimes have to fight scary battles. In the 1960s, some members of the American Nazi Party wanted to cause trouble at a conference of ECHO (East Coast Homophile Organizations). The gays and lesbians banded together to keep the American Nazis out of the auditorium where the conference was being held by locking arms and forming a human barricade that refused to let the American Nazis through. Among the activists barricading the door was Nancy Garden, lesbian author of Annie on My Mind.[1]
  • Many people read and enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the good guys’ fight against the evil of Mordor. Some of those who read it in college are activists. One campus cut down a pleasant grove of trees to make room for an ugly “Cultural Center” made of concrete blocks. Students detested the cutting down of trees, and on the ugly building someone wrote, “Another bit of Mordor.”[2]

Advertising

  • Advertising copywriters can be very good writers. In 1919, 18-year-old Lillian Eichler was assigned the task of writing advertisements for Eleanor Holt’s book Encyclopedia of Etiquette. Ms. Eichler came through in a big way. Her ad showed a guest spilling a cup of coffee on a tablecloth — the copy read, “Has this ever happened to you?” The ad was very successful, and 1,000 copies of the book were sold quickly. Unfortunately, most of those copies were returned just as quickly, as the book was old fashioned and hopelessly out of date. No problem. The publisher, Doubleday, figured that if Ms. Eichler could write advertising copy as well as she did, then she could rewrite the book well. She did rewrite the book, which was given the new title Book of Etiquette, and the book sold at least 3 million copies over the next 30 years.[3]
  • To get a job in advertising, it helps to be creative. Chris, the brother of author Beth Lisick, created a resume that included a photograph of him seated at a baby grand. It also included a photograph of celebrity John Tesh seated at a baby grand. The resume compared the careers and lives of Chris and John Tesh. For example, Mr. Tesh courted celebrity Connie Selleca at the exact same time that Chris was being dumped by a girlfriend. And when John Tesh released his album Sax by the Fire, Chris was being heavily criticized for failing to meet the dress code of a restaurant. Chris was hired, and he became a success — he wrote these words that were spoken by a Chihuahua in a series of Taco Bell commercials: “Drop the chalupa.”[4]
  • An effective advertisement need not be long or even have an illustration. When Sir Ernest Shackleton needed men to go with him on a trip to the South Pole, he placed this ad in London newspapers in 1900: “MEN WANTED for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success — Sir Ernest Shackleton.” The copy of the ad was frank, and the response to the ad showed that it was effective. Sir Ernest said, “It seemed as though all the men in Great Britain were determined to accompany me, the response was so overwhelming.”[5]

Alcohol

  • In his sketch “‘Party Cries’ in Ireland,” Mark Twain tells of the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Commonly, according to Mr. Twain, Irishmen would cry out either “To hell with the Pope” or “To hell with the Protestants,” depending on the religion of the crier. This became so common that a law was passed attempting to stop the custom by imposing a fine and court costs on anyone found guilty of giving a party cry. One day, a drunk was found lying in an alley, shouting, “To hell with! To hell with!” A police officer found the drunk and asked him, “To hell with what?” But the drunk replied, “Ah, bedad ye can finish it yourself — it’s too expinsive for me!”[6]
  • When John Holmstrom wanted to start a new magazine, his friend and co-conspirator Legs McNeil didn’t see the point. Mr. Holmstrom explained, “If we have a magazine, people will think we’re cool and stuff and want to hang out with us.” Mr. McNeil still didn’t see the point, so Mr. Holmstrom explained further, “If we have a magazine, people will give us drinks for free.” Mr. McNeil saw the point and even named the new magazine: Punk.[7]
  • Mark Twain and Bill Nye journeyed to Nevada, where the frontiersmen tried to drink them under the table. However, after a night of hard drinking, the only people still conscious were Mr. Twain and Mr. Nye. Finally, Mark Twain told his friend, “Well, Bill, what do you say we get out of here and go somewhere for a drink?”[8]

Animals

  • Children’s book author Marion Dane Bauer once used her son’s dog, which was named Nimue, as a character, also named Nimue, in her novel Face to Face. The dog was due to have a litter, and so she had read about what to do when a dog had a litter. One of the things she read was that when a puppy is born with a cleft palate the best thing to do is to kill it because it can’t nurse and will starve to death. In her novel, Ms. Bauer used a situation in which a puppy had to be killed — and Peter, her son, was furious and forbid her to use his dog in the novel. Eventually, he relented and let her use his dog in the novel after she explained to him the need for conflict in a work of fiction.[9]
  • Following World War II, when Gary Paulsen, author of Hatchet, was a child, he lived with his parents in the Philippines. There, he and his dog, Snowball, wandered everywhere and saw many things. Together, they discovered a very poor Philippine family living under an overturned Jeep. Despite the family’s poverty, they offered young Gary and even Snowball a bit of food. Thereafter, Gary took food from home and brought it to them, and they shared meals of sardines and rice. Snowball once saved Gary’s life. Walking barefoot along a trail, Gary came across a pretty — but deadly — snake that was about to bite him. Snowball grabbed the snake, shook it, and broke its neck.[10]

[1] Source: Nancy Garden, Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present, p. 50.

[2] Source: Edward Willett, J.R.R. Tolkien: Master of Imaginary Worlds, p. 102.

[3] Source: Julian Lewis Watkins, The 100 Greatest Advertisements, pp. 66-67.

[4] Source: Beth Lisick, Everybody into the Pool, pp. 159-161.

[5] Source: Julian Lewis Watkins, The 100 Greatest Advertisements, p. 1.

[6] Source: Mark Twain, Sketches, New and Old, Oxford Mark Twain, p. 263.

[7] Source: Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me, p. 203.

[8] Source: Lewis C. Henry, Humorous Anecdotes About Famous People, p. 84.

[9] Source: Marion Dane Bauer, A Writer’s Story: From Life to Fiction, pp. 37-38.

[10] Source: Gary Paulsen, My Life in Dog Years, pp. 13-17.

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