Jenny Allen, says Andy Borowitz, is “one of the funniest writers in America.”
True. But which America?
I may sound like a Grade “A” Elitist here, but I’m going with the Volvo-driving, latte-drinking America — you know: the one populated by fans of Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.
I’m thinking that’s you.
Not for political reasons. This is for cultural reasons. Smart culture. Sly culture. Whimsical culture. Decidedly not snark or snob culture. This level of humor is one of the hardest to pull off. Most writers on the Humor shelf don’t even try. In “Would Everybody Please Stop? Reflections on Life and Other Bad Ideas,” Jenny Allen rarely misses. [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]
Her method is generally to pose a question, and in a thousand words or less, dig into it.
“I’m Awake” starts like this: “I’m up. Are you up?”
Here’s the beginning of “Me, Flirting,” in which a woman of a certain age chats up a man at a wedding: “Is this seat taken? Actually, I’d better sit over here, on your other side. My ‘good ear’ side.”
And this: “Something’s wrong, here in the backyard. Is something bad about to happen?”
And this: “Would everyone please stop saying iteration? Who started iteration? Isn’t it just a stuck-up version of ‘version?’”
And then there are Perceptions, some reminiscent of Mitch Hedberg:
I love coffee shops not only because I like the kind of food they serve, but because my server is not that interested in me. There isn’t a lot of pressure on our relationship; it’s more of a one-meal stand.
When I meditate, I think to think about all the things that are happening right that second that I don’t know are happening but will later hurt me.
I live alone. These things happen. Your children grow up, your husband leaves, and then you are one…. You know how you never have enough time? You will have it.
Who else would write a piece called My Gathas — and, in a spirit of helpfulness, start it with a helpful cheat sheet?
Gathas are small verses or poems which we use to help us in our mindfulness practice. A great practice is to compose our own gathas to help ourselves and others to develop mindfulness in our daily life.
—The Web site for Luminous Ground, a Buddhist organization.
Taking my seat in the movie theatre,
I am excited to be here,
And offer my heartfelt hope that it is not
A film like “Carol”
— Beautiful, but so boring.
Swiffering my floor, I offer thanks to the Procter & Gamble company
For a marvellous cleaning product, although I know that
Some people think P. & G. got the idea of electrostatic cleaning cloths from a Japanese firm,
And that the Swiffer Sweeper is based on the “razors and blades” model — that is: I must keep buying expensive new replacement cloths endlessly.
You like bite? Try this, from one of her most recent pieces, “Roger Ailes’s New, Enlightened Code of Sexual Conduct.”
Here’s the set-up: “Roger Ailes, the disgraced former chairman and C.E.O. of Fox News, has completed a week at an intensive ‘Yes Means Yes’ seminar on sexual conduct.”
And here’s a bit of what he took away from that week:
“When a female employee, or potential employee, enters my office, and I greet her by locking the door and telling her to lift her skirt so that I may see her underpants, or to turn around so that I may “get a good look” at her buttocks, I will try to remember that.”
I’m just getting started here. But you get the point. Jenny Allen’s not exactly the “denizen of a competitively literate Manhattan” that Ben Brantley, the drama critic of The New York Times, praises in a rave review of the one-woman show she staged a few years ago. Jenny Allen is more than a denizen. Since Nora Ephron left us, she rules.
This article originally appeared on The Head Butler
Photo credit: Getty Images
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