There are two kinds of people in the world: those who demand coherent narratives in their comedy, and those who think the world lost one of its great humorists when Mitch Hedberg
passed away. Folks from the second group are strongly recommended to check out Simon Rich's Free-Range Chickens
(Random House, 129 pages, $17.00).
This is the second book from Rich, the son of New York Times
columnist Frank Rich
and a former president of The Harvard Lampoon
as well as a staff writer for Saturday Night Live
. Not bad credentials for a twenty-four year old.
What's also not bad, exceedingly not bad, is Rich's new book. The collection of one-to-three page irony-laden anecdotes is the type of thing you could breeze through in about 45 minutes, but the book is best enjoyed in four-or-five-minute bursts. Open up to just about any page and you are almost certain to laugh out loud, even if you're not the type of person to LOL while reading.
Rich is definitely an 80s baby, and the book shows its comedic forbears: the aforementioned Hedberg, Steven Wright
, The Simpsons
, Jon Stewart and another former Harvard Lampoon
president who went on to write for SNL
, Conan O'Brien
. He's probably also read a few Dilbert
strips in his day. Yet the sarcastic comedic voice, satirizing everything from Duck Hunt
to Moses, is entirely Rich's own.
Maybe it's best to read a sample. This is the book's third vignette, "A conversation between the people who hid in my closet every night when I was seven":
FREDDY KRUEGER: When do you guys want to kill him?
MURDERER FROM THE SIX O'CLOCK NEWS: How about right now?
DEAD UNCLE WHOSE BODY I SAW AT AN OPEN CASKET FUNERAL: I say we do it when he gets up to pee. You know, when he's walking down the hallway, in the dark.
FREDDY KRUEGER: What if he doesn't get up?
MURDERER: He'll get up. Look at how he's squirming. It's only a matter of time.
DEAD UNCLE: Man, I cannot wait to kill this kid.
MURDERER: Same here.
FREDDY KRUEGER: I've wanted to kill him ever since he saw my movie.
DEAD UNCLE: Do you guys remember that night-light Simon used to have?
MURDER: Man, that thing scared the heck out of me.
FREDDY KRUEGER: It's a good thing him mom got rid of it. Now there's nothing to stop us from killing him.
(Everyone nods in agreement)
DR. MURPHY: Hey, guys, sorry I'm late. I was busy scheduling an appointment with Simon, to give him shots.
FREDDY KRUEGER: No problem.
(Freddy Krueger and Dr. Murphy do their secret handshake)
MURDERER: It's getting kind of crowded in here. Chucky, can you move over?
CHUCKY: I'm over as far as I can get.
MURDERER: I need more space than you're giving me. I'm a lot bigger than you.
CHUCKY: Are you calling me short?
DR. MURPHY: Hey, guys, relax, all right? We're all here for the same reason: to kill and possibly eat Simon.
MURDERER: (Sighs.) You're right. I'm sorry.
CHUCKY: Yeah…me too. I kind of lost perspective.
DR MURPHY: It's okay. Just remember: we're all in this together.
DEAD UNCLE: Hey, it looks like he's getting up! Wait a minute…where's he going?
CHUCKY: I think he's running into his mom's room!
DEAD UNCLE: Maybe we should follow him?
CHUCKY: Are you insane? I'm not facing that kid's mother. That woman is terrifying!
MURDERER: Seriously, there is no way I'm going in there.
FREDDY KRUEGER: (Sighs.) I guess tonight's a bust. Let's try tomorrow, okay? Same time, same place.