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Check It Out

Courier Article by David Locker
Sunday, October 15, 2000

Tune in to Humor With the Radio Writers of NPR

You can get a taste of the best writers of humor today by turning on your radio. All four of the writers featured here perform regularly on National Public Radio. An important part of my weekend includes mornings laughing along with those wacky brothers on Car Talk and evenings smiling in company with the poignant essayists of This American Life.

What a treat then it is to be able to read whole books of material by these writers and performers. After a long hard day at work, the healing power of such humorists can lift your spirits and ease the weight of your daily burdens.

In Our Humble Opinion: Car Talk's Click and Clack Rant and Rave by Tom and Ray Magliozzi (Perigee, 2000).

Tom and Ray, known also as the Tappet Brothers, are no ordinary car mechanics. Each graduated from M.I.T., and Tom holds a doctorate in management.

Tom spent a few years between careers drinking coffee and sitting in Harvard Square, where he had the time to come up with some really wacky theories. His younger brother Ray, too, during his three senior years at M.I.T came up with some opinions of his own, and they take turns here complaining about Starbucks, standard time, bottled water, the speed limit, government, and education.

This is required reading for fans of their radio show. It's a chance to get to better know these kindly ex-hippies from the fair city of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (Little, Brown, 2000).

David Sedaris has been called Garrison Keillor's evil twin. His sharp, twisted, understated humor produces helpless laughter. He is one of the wittiest writers around.

Sedaris is a compulsive diarist and uses this material for his performance pieces and books. He manages to turn his daily traumas and failures into comic gold. We laugh along with his experiences undergoing speech therapy in grade school, learning the guitar at the command of his overbearing father, working as a furniture mover, taking an IQ test, and being tortured by a sadistic French teacher.

Sedaris never feels sorry for himself. From each of his experiences he gathers a bitter insight, often about the sad fact of his own shortcomings.

Men My Mother Dated by Brett Leveridge (Villard, 2000).

Leveridge is another guy who likes to poke fun at himself. He admits to being nonathletic and nothing special to look at, and the gently humorous short essays in this book reflect his modesty.

The profiles of all the men his mother dated before meeting his eventual father are fun to read. You can tell he admires his mother. She certainly had a lot of gumption, whether it be flirting with Jack Kerouac on his way to Mexico, dancing with Bob Wills, the king of country swing, running away with a knife-thrower from the circus, or winning a bet by dating five men in one day.

A Cowful of Cowboy Poetry by Baxter Black (Coyote Cowboy, 2000).

Baxter Black is a real cowboy. He can ride a horse and rope and doesn't care to be cooped up in an office all day. He prefers cows to sheep, poker to golf, and wide-open spaces to big cities. He figures that if he can convince even one urban wage slave to head west, then he's done his job well.

These humorous poems and short tales center on the life of the modern cowboy. It's a life not confined to an 8 to 5 shift and full of the colors and rhythms of nature.

Baxter Black will be performing live on Friday, October 20 at the Victory Theatre. Don't miss him.

David Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.