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What is dark humor?

(You know you laughed…)

When my daughter was a toddler, she had a joke that never failed to leave her collapsed in gales of uncontrollable laughter. “Pig poo!” As she grew older, her sense of humor (thankfully) matured as well. But that first impulse—to laugh, even nervously, at things that are sensitive, forbidden, or just plain dark—persists. Like it, love it, or hate it, but dark humor is funny.

As Wikipedia defines it, “Popular themes of the genre include murder, suicide, depression, abuse, mutilation, war, religion, barbarism, drug abuse, terminal illness, domestic violence, rape, homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, child sexual abuse, insanity, nightmares, disease, racism, homophobia, sexism, disability (both physical and mental), chauvinism, terrorism, genocide, political corruption, torture, and crime.” [NOTE: in England, this list also includes queue jumping and persons who speak out loud in the theater.] What could possibly be funnier?

From Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal (that the ‘Irish Problem’ could be solved by allowing poor Irish parents to sell their excess children to rich people as a food source) to Monty Python’s well… everything… to just about any comedian working standup today, darkness is a staple of the humor genre.

As my last post for Comedy Book Week, I’m delighted to offer reviews for a pair of hilarious dark humor books. Dead lovers/mothers/children/poodles, evil dwarves/dentists/poodles, randy music legends and poodles—especially poodles—have never been so darkly funny.

DANGER. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Well, I DID warn you...

Well, I DID warn you…

But before we start, I must issue the following advisory to all of you, especially those with weak stomachs. There are clowns.

I’m so sorry.

First up is a novella that takes readers on a lethally-hilarious joy ride.


Blurb: The Planets All Shone by Nora Fleishcer

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Dana Elson never should have drunk that soda. Now she’s sharing her body with the clone of a dead man– and she and the clone’s gun-happy boyfriend are on the run from the sinister Mahler Corporation.

Can Dana to get her own body back before Mahler catches up to them?

The Planets All Shone is a buddy comedy for fans of the great American road trip.

 


gold starMy Review: 3.5 stars out of 5

 

This is pretty much the most adorable little too-fast horror story ever. It’s like author Nora Fleisher went dumpster diving in a bin full of genre scraps and came up with a fistful that read “horror”, “SciFi”, and maybe “that episode on Angel where everyone was turned into a muppet”…

Nora lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children. When she's not writing, Nora enjoys jogging, very slowly. You can chat with her on twitter at @zombinanora.

Nora lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, Nora enjoys jogging, very slowly. You can chat with her on twitter at @zombinanora.

What can you say about a story which starts with a tired traveler who gets into her rental car, thinking about the model dogs she makes, and the most important sales presentation of her life.  Dana Elson swallows a slug of her soda only… it’s not actually her soda. “It had the consistency of jello, tested like rotting oysters, and slid down her throat like a greased slug.”

Back at her hotel, a violently ill Dana is hunched over the toilet when a scary stranger breaks into her room, precipitating an unexpected change. Seems what she accidentally swallowed was the rebooted coded DNA for a dead hit-man. Suddenly Dana isn’t exactly Dana anymore, but someone taller, stronger, and more muscular. The new person inside her—Jay—is in control of Dana. And then things get really weird.

“Oh, God,” Adam said. “It actually worked.” He grabbed them by the shoulders and kissed them, a hard desperate kiss that Dana could feel but was totally unable to avoid. Jay, on the other hand, seemed to have no interest in stopping anything. He pulled Adam to him.” 

The next thing Dana knows, she’s on the run, in an epic road trip with two certifiably psychotic hit-men (one inside her) and her dead music-idol father’s jacket. There are hilarious and touching and disturbing adventures—“And then there is the Clown World Casino, thought Dana, which is where bad clowns go when they die.”

There are aliens and an invisibility cloak and too many other genre dips to list. But like all good buddy stories (and even lots of the weird ones too), Dana finds herself getting close to Adam and even closer to Jay, the nutcase sharing her body. They defeat…sort of… the bad guys, and save the world. Kinda. There’s even a nicely muppety theme—“No one should be judged by objective measures.” (At least when they are a woman who occasionally turns into a man for a one-third mental threesome…)

There are so many things I liked in this little novella. It was nonstop and heartwarming and very, very weird. But there were a few things that did get in the way of my enjoyment. For one thing, there were way too many he said/she said tags. For another, it was TOO short. I thought that if we had a chance to get to know Dana more, to learn more about her background and issues, and especially to see her grow, it would have made the story more approachable. And while I thought the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to plot twists was amusing, it was also overwhelming in such a short story space. (Okay, and while I’m on a roll, I’ll mention the cover, which is great but doesn’t give a hint of what kind of book was inside.)

But, if you are looking for a short, funny, very very different read, I still would recommend The Planets all Shone. It’s dark humor with some beautiful, heartwarmingly disturbing moments.

***I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

Book Title: The Planets All  Shone
Author: Nora Fleisher
Genre: SciFi/Dark Comedy
Length: 44 pages
Release Date: Jennifer Lee Goloboy (May 25, 2016)

Contact and Buy Links:

 Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)


And now for something completely different. (Except for the clown part…)

My next review is for a book that was originally one of my Pg. 69 challenges here, and it certainly worked on me. I absolutely had to read it! To see what I mean, take a look at that excerpt, and also the interview with author Rich Leder here.


Blurb: Let There Be Linda by Rich Leder

Let.There.Be.Linda.BookCover

Leder’s black comic thriller tells the tall tale of estranged brothers Mike and Dan Miller—accountant and con-man talent agent respectively—up to their necks in the virtual quicksand of LA’s San Fernando Valley during the hottest summer in Southern California history.

The root cause of their problems could be the missing seventy-five thousand dollars, or the sadistic, loan shark dwarf and his vicious giant, or the psycho comedian cop on the case, or the coke-snorting dentist, or the deranged zombie real estate developer. Or perhaps it’s the poodle—the poodle is suspect, no doubt. Or maybe it’s the grocery store checker who breathes life into death.

Oh yes, it could be her too.

And so to repair the head-on collision the Millers have made of their personal and professional lives, the brothers summon their mother back from the dead to clean up the wreckage. But what the Miller men discover is that screwing with the laws of nature is a violent, bloody, hysterical, and hilarious idea. 


5 gold starMy Review: 5 stars out of 5

I actually have little to add about Let There Be Linda, the new dark dark darkly hilarious book by Rich Leder, a professional writer at the top of his game.

Rich Leder has been a working writer for more than two decades. His screen credits include 18 produced television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, and Left Bank Films. He has written four funny novels: McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication; McCall & Company: Swollen Identity; Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench; and Let There Be Linda. He founded Laugh Riot Press as an imprint for his funny books and the funny books of other indie authors. He has been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the University of North Carolina Wilmington Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill. He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three children.

Rich Leder has been a working writer for more than two decades. His screen credits include 18 produced television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, and Left Bank Films.
He has written four funny novels: McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication; McCall & Company: Swollen Identity; Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench; and Let There Be Linda.
He founded Laugh Riot Press as an imprint for his funny books and the funny books of other indie authors.
He has been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the University of North Carolina Wilmington Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill. He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three children.

There is nobody to like in this book, because everyone is some version of the California dream gone wrong. But there is plenty to love. There are two brothers who might love but can’t stand each other. There’s a cop whose true love is standup comedy, and the mothers (and poodle) that a grocery store checker brings back from the dead. Mostly.

But for me it’s the dark, hilarious, almost throw-away writing itself. Lines like, “He was on the wrong side of human.”

Character development is usually something I look for in a novel, and I supposed that’s here too. Certainly, the brothers never understand themselves but they do come to a tentative understanding of their relationship.

There is even a theme. Maybe. The way we want to see ourselves is much more important than what we really are, or at least that’s what comedy-cop Gary realizes.

“Gary’s cop radar clicked off, and his comedian radar clicked on, and he said, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do, Judd. I’m going to make you my deputy. You stay close to Mike Miller and find out what’s going on with this Greenburg guy and his dog. As long as you do that, I won’t arrest you. But you can’t kill Miller. No killing Miller.’

‘Can I hurt him bad?’

Gary knew he had crossed a line as precarious as the San Andeas. He saw the line and walked right over it. In his own way, he was as crazy as Judd Martin. But that’s what artists did for their art; they crossed lines. He would cross back one day…or he wouldn’t. It didn’t matter. All that mattered now was his act. 

‘You’re a zombie cop,’ Gary said. ‘Use your judgement.’

‘Don’t have any,’ Judd said.”

This is a book about love and hate and fear and the stories people tell themselves. I’m very sorry to say that there is also a completely creepy clown, but even he can’t keep this from being a hilarious and somehow touching story of brotherly love and poodles.

I’d give it five stars and recommend for anyone who wants an oddly appealing and laugh out loud hilarious story about horrible people doing awful stuff that somehow ends up being strangely affirming.

 

***I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

Book Title: Let There Be Linda
Author: Rich Leder
Genre: Black Comic Thriller
Length: 377 pages
Release Date: Laugh Riot Press (1 July 2016)

Contact and Buy Links:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads |

Facebook | LaughRiot Press | Twitter

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