Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Review: Dog Duty by Bobby D. Lux

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Dog Duty is a fun, but serious, dog noir romp by Bobby D. Lux.

An injury on the job ends up forcing a cop into retirement, but he finds it tough to adjust to the quiet life. Obsessed with his last case, he finds himself returning to his old patrol, brushing aside new friends for a chance at closure—and maybe revenge.

“I’ve been shot at,” he tells us near the start. “I’ve sniffed out bombs, drug paraphernalia, and crime scenes. I’ve chased killers and gang members in the rain. I’ve been punched and had my fur ripped out.”

As the last line hints, the noir core of “Dog Duty” is enhanced by the fact that its central figure is, well, a dog. Fritz is an alpha cop in the Grand City Police Department, but a run-in with a monstrous Rottweiler has left him with one lame leg and a hasty retirement party.

His old partner, Officer Hart, brings him back home to the suburbs, but Fritz can’t settle in so easily. Instead, he recruits his new backyard-mates—streetwise Ernie, a former stray, and dopey young Nipper—to trot down these mean streets in search of the dog who maimed him.

Written by Bobby D. Lux, the book offers a fun, imaginative look into the secret world of dogs. Fritz and his pals take us on a four-legged tour ranging from their cozy, confining backyard to secret dog speakeasies and high-rolling cat races.

The author does a great job capturing the world from a canine point of view, translating everything from doggie love to forbidden snacks to the rough business of discovering who’s top dog. “Only humans care about things like being fair and one-on-one and rules and you can’t do this or that,” an antagonist tells Fritz near the end, “but you got to remember that dogs ain’t like that…there’s just one rule I adhere to: I go home and you don’t.”

Lux is also serious about exploring the identity crisis sparked by Fritz’s forced retirement. Like many of his human counterparts, our dog has always defined himself by being a cop; he’s at a loss when the role is taken from him. Fritz’s reflections on the job convey a strong sense of pride and duty, but there’s arrogance as well as he dismisses others for not living up to his standard. His takeaway after filming a public-service announcement with the local police chief is revealing. “It took Chief Lennox six tries to get his speech right,” Fritz says. “I nailed the bark on the first take.”

Ultimately, Fritz has to resolve these complications before he can make headway in his old case—not to mention his new life. He’s a strong character: wounded, gruff, but self aware enough to change. While Fritz’s development is compelling over the course of the story, the book is at its best when he’s working with the rest of his scrappy ensemble, notably mutt Ernie, who enjoys the doggie pleasures in life and isn’t averse to the occasional breakout to pursue them. I had a lot of fun with the cast, although I do wish the strongest female character, Saucy, had gotten an earlier opportunity to roll with the rest of the gang.

Ultimately, “Dog Duty” isn’t going to win over the dog-show crowd (that bridge is burned), but it’s a great read. Lux has a lot of fun with the setting but plays it straight with the plot, even taking into account one questionable decision near the end by a human crook. (Hey, who said criminals were smart? Not Fritz.) In any case, the dogs run the show, and they’re a delight. I only hope the promised sequel becomes a reality.

New Book: “Dog Duty” by Bobby D. Lux

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Available through Amazon, "Dog Duty" is a fun riff on a crime book, taking us along as former canine detective Fritz tries for revenge on the dog that drove him off the force.

FLYMF alum Bobby D. Lux has his debut novel out! Available through Amazon, “Dog Duty” is a fun riff on a crime book, taking us along as former canine detective Fritz tries for revenge on the dog that drove him off the force. Check out the Kindle edition at the link above; a print version will also be coming out soon for us fetishists.

Bobby was a longtime FLYMF contributor; he has a number of stories in FLYMF’s Greatest Hits. Bobby’s FLYMF work includes When The Camera Stopped Rolling, Mike Tyson Movie Reviews, O’Neill ‘Scopes’ An Early Career, Monkey Dance, Outrageous ClaimsIn Memorium, Adventures In Time Travel, The Worst Story Ever, Batman Begins By Superman, The Coreys, Tonto’s Shocking Discovery, Vegas Wedding, The Solution To America’s Problems, Superman Returns, The Pirates Of Swenxof, and “Sly” Nostalgia.


Review: Second City, Backstage at the World’s Greatest Comedy Theater by Sheldon Patinkin

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014


A nice history of Chicago’s famous improv comedy troupe. The book does a good job delving into Second City’s origins, calling up Chicago’s theater scene in the early 1950s as well as the acting “games” that inspired the group’s original approach.

From there, author (and longtime Second City creative director) Sheldon Patinkin takes us to the present day, pausing to catch up with famous alumni, notably the Murray-Belushi-Ramis core in Chicago and the Akroyd-Candy-Radner glory days in Toronto. There are tons of familiar faces in here, from Alan Arkin to Tina Fey, and it’s fun to see how they intersected with Second City (sometimes briefly) before moving on to other things.

The lifers have a presence as well, including original owner (and occasional director) Bernie Sahlins, producer Joyce Sloan and actor/director/madman Del Close. It may just be effective PR, but the book does have a nice familial feel, emphasizing the ties, and the occasional fights, that drew these disparate performers together.

The book is more a history than a humor collection; jokes and bits are interspersed throughout its pages, but it’s more a collection of memories. There’s often a lot going on–actors coming and going, new playhouses opening in different spots to try to make some money. The narrative sometimes seems reduced to just a sequence of events–”this happened, then this happened, etc.” But the performer profiles sprinkled throughout and the clear reverence for what the group accomplished offer a unifying thread.

Hardly a tell-all, this is still a good read for comedy fans interested in the institutional side of things. It probably helps to be a Chicagoan…or at least a Torontonian.

Review: The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich

Saturday, February 8th, 2014


More humorous short stories from Simon Rich, who’s been on a roll lately in the New Yorker. I like his style, which involves calmly building on familiar tropes until they explode into the absurd. On the whole, this series is good–there aren’t many duds in the bunch. But there didn’t seem to be many standouts either, and I think that’s in part because of the theme Rich has chosen.

The Last Girlfriend on Earth” is pretty much devoted to boy-girl pairings, with both participants in their twenties and the relationship either coming, building, or gone. There’s a lot of good humor to find in the topic, and Rich does, but the organizing principle for the collection doesn’t offer a lot of thematic range.

My favorite stories were ones that changed the setting or the rules somewhat. We have a great caveman love story with “I Love Girl,” and God deals with the pressure of creating the cosmos and maintaining a happy relationship in “Center of the Universe.” There’s also a surprisingly touching story about the age and retirement of a boy’s first condom in his wallet in “Unprotected.”

But while Rich tries not to stereotype, a lot of his stories capture a view of women as some unknowable “other,” weird and capricious. It’s a view that will feel familiar to many guys in their teens and early twenties (heck, maybe even older) as they try to figure out the mysteries of dating and love. But it feels limiting in many of the stories, and a couple, like “Scared Straight” and “The Girlfriend Repair Shop,” give a real whiff of the locker room.

But all in all, the stories are funny, and Rich doesn’t seem to want to make anyone look bad. I look forward to checking out another of his collections.

Massive John Hodgman Interview

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Comedian Pete Holmes has a great (and very long) interview with John Hodgman on Holmes’ podcast, You Made It Weird. It’s wide-ranging stuff, moving from comedy and originality all the way to the question of Big Dadd G-O-D. Hodgman reveals a lot of his own personal history and goes into some good detail on leaving his job as a literary agent to try to stake his own creative claim. Holmes’ laugh is a bit of an aquired taste, but he serves as a nice foil, producing a really compelling listen.

Review: Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume 2 by Michael Kupperman

Thursday, July 25th, 2013


Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume 2 is wide ranging, bizarre and very funny. Michael Kupperman again turns a volume over to his comic imagination, riffing in stories ranging from single-page gags to an epic spoof of Quincy, M.E. that sees the 70s television coroner meet St. Peter (who has his own comic book) and get lost in an Inception-esque series of parodies.

The highlight is the recurring pairing of Mark Twain and Albert Einstein, who have a range of oddball schemes and adventures. (“I’ll tell you Al,” one opens, “I never thought we would end up on a game show hosted by Count Dracula.)

Kupperman has Twain adopt a “try anything” tough-guy patter that’s hilarious, whether the great author is serving as a Hollywood detective, blowing up asteroids or taking “sexy reporter” pills smuggled in from Japan.

The different stories adopt varying styles, but most of the volume parrots the rough, vibrant outlines and “waste no time” plotting of early superhero comics. Characters are given to wacko lines and bold pronounements: “Get offa me, you ghostly clown!” or “Gimme some pants, then I gotta investigate you two.”

But you don’t have to be subtle when you’re sharing the adventures of Jungle Princess or revealing that the moon landing actually employed death-row convicts, a la The Dirty Dozen, who later find gold. You just have to funny, and Kupperman is

A Shakespearian Cockblock

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

I’m reading King Richard III, and I had to laugh at this footnote in the intro to the New Cambridge Shakespeare.

“Probably the most famous story about Burbage [one of Shakespeare’s lead actors] also concerns “King Richard III.” On 13 March 1602, John Manningham wrote in his “Diary”: ‘Upon a tyme when Burbridge played Rich. 3 there was a citizen greue soe farr in liking with him, that before shee went from the play shee appointed him to come that night unto hir by the name of Ri: the 3. Shakespeare overhearing their conclusion went before, was intertained, and at his game ere Burbridge came. Then message being brought that Rich the 3.d was at the dore, Shakespeare caused returne to be made that William the Conqueror was before Rich. the 3.’”

Review: J.D. Smith, “Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth”

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013


J.D. Smith has a broad sense of humor. His new humor collection, “Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth,” has something to draw a laugh out of any reader…and maybe something to bug their eyes out with a welcome bit of surprise as well.

The formats are diverse—poems, lists, short stories, even a bingo grid—but it’s all carefully constructed with a clever Hodgman/McSweeney’s vibe. That’s true whether he’s listing “Scat Masterson” as one of the “Least-Feared Gunfighters in the Old West” or doing a Scorcese/Shakespeare mash-up in “Goodsonnet,” which opens with the immortal line, “Would you compare me to some kind of clown?”

The poems and longer-form humor are subtler, taking time to offer a sly twist on the familiar. I really enjoyed following J.D. through his paces; at the same time, the lists offer more quick-hit humor. (There are also two stories exploring sexual themes that may not be for every reader, although the endings offer satisfying payoffs.)

Full disclosure: I first read J.D. work when he published The Great Tuvalu Liquidation Sale, My Fetishist Things and As a Matter of Fact, I Am the Person You Have to Blow to Get a Table Around Here in FLYMF, a humor magazine I used to edit. Those stories are collected here with plenty of great company. Recommended if you’re looking for a laugh.

Humor Collection from J.D. Smith

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Here’s a book I’m very much looking forward to reading–FLYMF alum J.D. Smith has published a humor compilation, “Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth.” As his “alum” status attests, J.D. is a very funny writer…and a few of these stories may have even been published in FLYMF! I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

J.D.’s stories for FLYMF included The Great Tuvalu Liquidation SaleMy Fetishist Things and As a Matter of Fact, I Am the Person You Have to Blow to Get a Table Around Here. You can follow all of J.D.’s updates on his blog, Smitroverse.

Made Me Laugh: Marv Albert Is My Therapist

Monday, March 25th, 2013

A simple concept executed with variety and commitment makes for great humor. Jesse Eisenberg (the actor?) had a fun little dialogue in the New Yorker recently that uses a Marv Albert catchphrase to respond to every bit of anguish coming from a therapist’s couch.