A writer for Saturday Night Live, Rich has just published his first novel, Elliot Allagash (Random House).
Our Dumb Century (1999)
By the Writers of ‘The Onion’
This book made me laugh so hard during Hebrew school that my rabbi kicked me out of the classroom. I wasn’t even reading it at the time—just thinking about it. Hard to pick a favorite headline, but I’ll go with “Stalin Announces Five-Year ‘Everybody Dies’ Plan.”
Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000)
By David Sedaris
He’s written six genius collections, but this one contains my favorite memoir ever: “You Can’t Kill the Rooster,” a poignant, profane tribute to the author’s kid brother.
The Magic Kingdom (1985)
By Stanley Elkin
A British do-gooder decides to take a group of terminally ill children on a last-gasp trip to Walt Disney World. It’s shocking that this novel got published, but I’m thankful that it did.
Decline and Fall (1928)
By Evelyn Waugh
Some of this novel takes place at a prep school and some of it at a prison. In Waugh’s bitter universe there isn’t much difference.
Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week (1986)
By Dave Barry
Barry is so insanely prolific that at a certain point it became cool to hate him. That’s too bad, because he’s really funny, especially in this corporate satire.
The Magic Christian (1959)
By Terry Southern
In this episodic novel, Southern concocts the perfect comic hero: a practical-joke enthusiast with unlimited time and money. Like Wodehouse, only full of sex and filth.
Love Is Hell (1984)
By Matt Groening
This collection of strips about love is witty, moving, and—since it’s by a comedy writer—extremely bitter.
My Uncle Oswald (1979)
By Roald Dahl
Dahl is beloved for his YA masterpieces, but Oswald is decidedly adult. The title character is a madcap bon vivant who uses his riches to seduce as many women as possible.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
By Douglas Adams
One of my favorite jokes in Simpsons history comes when an injured robot asks, “Why … why was I programmed to feel pain?” As with many great gags, Adams did it first with Marvin the Paranoid Android. I’ve reread the Hitchhiker’s books so many times that I can recite them, annoyingly, from memory.
The Great American Novel (1973)
By Philip Roth
Roth has better books, but I think this baseball fable is his funniest. In one scene, the hapless Port Ruppert Mundys take on a baseball team from an insane asylum. Now, that’s a premise!