We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Friday evening quiz

Okay, enough serious stuff from me. Quick question to you all – what is the funniest book/film you know, and why? My personal favourites include Dr Strangelove, Animal House, A Shot in the Dark, Code of the Woosters and Carry on up the Khyber.

62 comments to Friday evening quiz

  • jk

    Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle made me laugh when I was too young for his politics to annoy me.

    Monty Python’s Holy Grail for film. Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles.

  • veryretired

    Catch-22, any Retief, The Choirboys.

    The Big Lebowski, Young Frankenstein, Laurel and Hardy, W C Fields, Holy Grail.

    And several dozen more on each list.

  • “The Man With Two Brains”, Steve Martin, directed by Carl Reiner, who cites it as his funniest movie too.

    Contest over.

  • Kit

    Almost all Abbot and Costello films. And Home Alone because it leaves my kids in tears of laugher.

  • Animal House & Blues Brothers are on my list.

    For English films, I really like Wish you were here, House! and the smallest show on earth.

  • Gotta be Ice-9 by Kurt Vonnegut, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, by Spike Milligan, and Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, on the book front.

    Why? Extraordinary imagination, huge amounts of truth and pain, and classic situations (e.g. Golgrafrinchams using leaves as currency), in that order. I mean, who would be stupid enough to use something as worthless as leaves, as currency, backed up by threats of force?

    For films; The Odd Couple (Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon version), Some Like it Hot (more Jack Lemmon), and anything with Bob Hope in it.

    Why? Walter Matthau’s face, Tony Curtis’s steamed-up glasses, and the terrible cod-cowardice and selfishness of Hope, in that order.

    Honourable comedy mentions? Books: Eat the Rich, Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall, and of course, Das Kapital.

    Films: Four Weddings and a Funeral (I hate myself for liking this – I think it’s Kristin Scott-Thomas that swings it), It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World – “I’m comin’ Mamma”, and Men In Black II, for that scene about the Post Office workers. Oh, and anything with either Charles Hawtrey or Phil Silvers in it, so that would be Carry On Camel.

  • M4-10

    Novels: Catch-22, Flashman
    Movies: Office Space, The Big Lebowski, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
    And while Serenity wouldn’t make my funny list, the Firefly Episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds” would.

  • The Odd Couple (you’re the only man I know with clenched hair)

    Holy Grail (Look at the bones!)

    Khyber (Please Shut the Gate)

    His Girl Friday (Are you referring to me?)

    So many gems in these films, that only multiple viewings will glean. Timing, multiple gags, throwaways, visual, slapstick.

  • Nick M

    Good choices JP and they’re all on my short-list but Jerome K Jerome has to win as far as books are concerned and (as someone previously mentioned) The Big Lebowski is utterly awesomely funny. If I were the Coen brother’s I would have given up after that one because my place in cinematic heaven would have been secured.

  • Julio Lopez

    Books: Confederacy of Dunces, Catch 22
    Movie: Airplane!

  • Funniest film would have to be either “The Music Box” or “Tit For Tat” by the always great L&H, though W.C. Field’s “It’s A Gift” might just beat ’em, depending on my mood. I’ll add to the votes for “Lebowski” as funniest recent film.

    Funniest book? “The Magic Christian” by Terry Southern. Although everything he wrote is just about as hilarious, TMC wins for being such a prescient fable of human stupidity.

  • With you on all your choices, Jonathan (although Blandings beats Wooster), plus:
    Books: anything by Tom Sharpe (Riotous Assembly), P.J.O’Rourke (Eat The Rich), Dave Gorman (Are You Dave Gorman?), Woody Allen (Side Effects), Douglas Adams (The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul), and Clive James (Unreliable Memoirs).
    Films: Airplane!, Fish Called Wanda, earlier Woody Allen (Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, EYAWTKASBNDTA, Love and Death), earlier Mel Brooks, earlier Steve Martin. Should funny guys be forced to retire before they lose it?

  • Ray P

    Those Smith Kids, The Specialist, How to Bonsai your Pet, Laumer’s Retief stories, Glen Cook’s Garrett stories, and some of John Ringo’s stuff.

    Any Trinity flick, Disaster ’76 (featured within the movie Drive-In), Boy and His Dog, Mystery Men

  • Funniest book, I haven’t read anything that made me laugh out loud in some time. But anything by Terry Pratchett is usually good for a laugh.

    Funniest film, Freddy Got Fingered. Just for sheer absurdity’s sake. Either that or Life of Brian.

  • Would have to be Dr. Strangelove or Kind Hearts & Coronets for films, and maybe Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe or perhaps Hitchhiker’s Guide.

  • Johnny Surabaya

    Most of the above and a couple more.

    Film: Dark Star. The very deadest of deadpan, showing what happens to people when they are pushed from despair through insanity and out into something entirely different where habit is the only guide. Plus, a pneumatic alien. I can’t decide whether it is comedy or tragedy.

    Book: Clive James’s Unreliable Memoirs. One of very few books that live up to the promise that it will make you laugh out loud, and I mean tears-streaming-down-your-aching-face, genuine-hysteria-inducing funny. It is also poignant and evocative. A book that pulls the emotions out of you.

  • Books: Catch 22, some chapters of the Pickwick Papers, Sholem Aleichem. I used to laugh like crazy reading Jerome K. Jerome and Stephen Leacock, but not any more…

    Movies: Everyone Says I love You, There’s Something About Mary, The Big Lebowski, Blazing Saddles was not bad, but the Yiddish speaking Indians were a riot, along with a couple of other scenes. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, some Pink Panther movies.

  • Oh, and then there are quite a few in Russian…

  • Book: either – Puckoon by Spike Milligan or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

    Movie: either – The Producers or Harvey

  • David Roberts

    Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday

  • bob

    Books: Little Me by Patrick Dennis.
    Films: Beauchaire the barber, Kind hearts and Coronets, To be or not to be, Ninotchka, Murder by death, Kingpin…

  • Fraser

    Film: Airplane!

    Book: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett is pretty good. As is One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Chris Brookmyre.

  • Paul from Florida

    I can’t believe it.

    Didn’t anyone ever see ‘Paint Your Wagon’? If ever there was a free, libertarian movie that was it.

    Second of course is ‘Kelly’s Heroes’, also with Clint Eastwood. Private enterprise vs. World War II. Who could be against that? There were hints of private enterprise in
    ‘Catch 22’, but only minorly.

  • joel

    Funniest all time movie: Naked Gun One. I laughed from the opening to the ending credits.

    Funniest scene in movie: Making the cake in Boob Tube. In despair, I hurled myself out of bed onto a hard wood floor, hoping the pain would make me stop laughing. It didn’t.

    Funniest book? I don’t read much fiction anymore, but Cat’s Cradle has to be on the list.

  • Paul from Florida

    …oh, and ‘Brazil’ by Terry Gilliam, with tradesmen anarchist Robert De Nero.


  • If it’s libertarian comedies you want (or at least anti-collectivist), how about a couple of other Sellers films: I’m Alright Jack and Heavens Above?

  • non-conformist #962912

    Hmm, I haven’t read much humor, but I will second (or third, etc…) Hitchhiker’s Guide and Eat the Rich.


    Says Fodor’s: “The people of Cienfuegos constantly tout it as ‘la Linda Ciudad del Mar’ (the Lovely City by the Sea).”They’re lying. From here it was a thirty-mile drive through coastal mangrove swamps on a road covered with land crabs. Every time I went over one, it made a noise like when you were ten, and you spent two weeks making a plastic model of the battleship Missouri, and your dad stepped on it in the dark. I tried avoiding the land crabs. They scuttled under the wheels. I tried driving at them. They stayed put. The road smelled like thirty miles of crab salad going bad.

    It was almost 10PM before I got to my hotel on the beach, the Ancon. But the buffet was still open. They were serving crab salad. I went to the bar.

    For film, I agree with many that the Big Lebowski is excellent. However Dirty Rotten Scoundrels rarely gets the credit it deserves. Also, let me go out on a limb and say that both Jackass movies are great entertainment (but unfortunately few have the education to notice the clever socio-political commentary contained therein). Lastly, The Great Dictator. As Adenoid Hynkel says,”Cheese and Kraken!”

  • Books, almost anything by Florence King especially “Confessions of a failed Southern Lady, When Sisterhood was in Flower and With Mailice Towards All, a found looks at Misanthropy

  • Sunfish

    Books: Another Hitchhiker’s Guide series fan here. And I’ve been reading P. J. O’Rourke since high school. Also loved The Choirboys, along with damn near everything else Joseph Wambaugh wrote. (The non-fiction is worth reading, but most of it is a little dark.)

    Movies: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Broken Lizard movies. God help me, I loved “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut” and “Reno 911” and “Borat.” I should be ashamed of myself.

  • B's Freak

    Funniest book: God’s Other Son by Don Imus.
    Funniest movies: Yellowbeard, Team America.

  • Funniest film: This Is Spinal Tap

    Funniest book: Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

    Most unbearable comedy film: Little Miss Sunshine

  • Julian Taylor

    Book has to be Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Add to that Tom Sharpe’s early books on South Africa, Porterhouse Blue and The Wilt Alternative. As for movies I could go on all day but my personal favourites are still Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (the Steve Martin/Michael Caine remake), The Italian Job (original one), Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, Dr Strangelove, Trading Places, Kind Hearts And Coronets and so on ad infinitum …

  • Jim

    “Top Secret”.

  • Paul

    Puckoon by Spike Milligan and Notes from a small island by Bill Bryson both had me crying with laughter.

    Not many films make me laugh, the characters never seem
    sympathetic, however Tom Hanks in The Money Pit does
    the trick every time I’ve seen it.

  • Mine would be National Lampoons European Vacation “Dad, I think he’s gonna pork her.” 🙂 Always kills me that part and the part where chevy chase tries to navigate a british roundabout.
    Books would have to be early tom sharpe about south africa and almost all of terry pratchett including good omens.

  • Oh well, of course Naked Gun should have been there as well. As to Chaplin, the Dictator was good, but Gold Rush still beats them all. And, speaking of Gilliam: Baron Münchhausen.

    Definitely “Airplane” and “Trading Places” too.

    Julian: DRS is a remake of a 60ies movie that had a different title (I forget what it was).

  • Julian Taylor

    It was a loose “remake” of the 1964 Brando/Niven movie ‘Bedtime Story’ but the remake was considerably funnier.

  • Nick M

    The first National Lampoon’s vacation was much funnier than the European sequel. Speaking as a Brit who frequently has to navigate this nation’s roundabout systems such as this gem of planning: The Hanger Lane Gyratory System I saw that scene as more tragic than amusing. What was amusing was seeing the antics at the “one roundabout in Georgia” completely flummox Atlantan drivers in the mid 90s. I suspect the “imp of the pervese” was responsible for this unique piece of traffic engineering.

  • Julian: right you are. DRS is one of the best comedies of all time. It was pure genius to pair Martin and Caine in a French Riviera setting.

    Can we bring up TV shows? We can? OK: Soap, Night Court (except a couple of last seasons), Taxi, early Seinfeld, early Frasier. And lately Boston Legal.

  • Allan

    Love and Death
    Top Secret!
    Team America: World Police

  • John Rippengal

    Airplane or Naked Gun for films
    The Nonsense Novels collection of Stephen Leacock short stories plus the gem of them all ‘My Financial Career’ only two and a bit pages long. Soaked in Seaweed, Gertrude the Governess, A B and C, Psychic ? all good for helpless hysteria.

  • smallwit

    Book: the early Tom Sharpe South African novels

    Film: Team America – World Police.

  • Jacob

    Book: a little old fashioned, but it´s Don Quijote.

  • Bruce Hoult

    I can’t argue against all the great stuff people have mentioned already but … why has no one mentioned early Ben Elton? I know he is (or was?) a bit of a lefty, but he’s incredibly funny, with absolutely top tier rankings for me in both TV shows (Blackadder, Young Ones) and his first book, “Stark”.

    And no one has mentioned some of my all time favourite comedy films: Amelie and Zoolander.

  • Eric

    +1 on Paint Your Wagon and Kelly’s Heroes. You are probably showing some age if you remember those.

    I personally busted a gut on The Road to Wellville. After that I had a hard time taking Matthew Broderick’s role in Glory seriously – I kept seeing him in the scene from TRTW where he pukes on Anthony Hopkins.

  • Eric

    Oh, I forgot the “why” on The Road to Wellville. (Aside from Broderick puking on Hopkins.) I thought it was a such a splendid takedown of overbearing health nuts, and I hurt afterwards from laughing.

  • rvman

    Duck Soup, The Philadelphia Story, and Bringing up Baby, for the ‘classics’. Holy Grail and Ghostbusters among the moderns.

  • R C Dean

    Film: Office Space. Man With Two Brains is damn funny, too.

    Books: Any of the Flashman books, I think. I listened to them all as brilliant readings by David Case (no longer available), so he gets some credit.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    I don’t think anybody’s mentioned Preston Sturges yet, so I’d like to add The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek and The Palm Beach Story.

    Also funny is Just Imagine, a 1930 sci-fi/musical comedy set in the distant future… of 1980!

  • Films: lots of great stuff here. “Strangelove” is a dead lock: I can feel the giggles starting to come on with the opening theme music juxtaposed against the aerial refueling footage, and the nuke blast right on each of the first eight beats of the closing music just knocks me flat every time. I’d intended, however, to ring in here with “Stanley Kramer’s Folly”: “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World”, which I think includes the greatest single ensemble ever cast in a comedic feature film, to sensational effect. Jack Maturin covered that one, already.

    I saw “Paint Your Wagon” in first-run. (I was eleven years old.) Lee Marvin was an un-sung comic genius. See “Cat Ballou”. He steals the whole show.

    I am not a great reader of fiction, but the “Illuminatus!” trilogy (Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson) had me rolling on the floor the last time I read it about twenty-five years ago. Thompson’s “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas” is way up there, too.

  • Book: “Lucky Jim” by Kingsley Amis.

    Film: probably “Naked Gun”…


  • huribaba

    FUNNIEST FILM: Bringing up Baby.

    FUNNIEST BOOK: Right Ho Jeeves pips The Code of the Woosters by a whisker.

    UNFUNNIEST BOOK: anything by Will Self.

  • David B. Wildgoose

    No clear front-runners for books, but a couple of films that I didn’t spot and found to be completely hilarious would be “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels” and the incredibly funny Star Trek spoof “Galaxy Quest” which is even funnier if you know anything about the fan-scene.

  • RAB

    I’m a critic who doesn’t do lists.
    Every bloody christmas someone asks me to list my top ten this or that.
    I wont do It. To much good stuff to choose from.
    I agree with almost all of the above, and feel almost brotherhood with Perry’s choices (Somebody wrote you a crappy pair of legs too??)
    But seeing as they have made no-ones list so far, you unadventuring bums! I will add-
    Bill Hicks
    The Firesign Theatre
    Lord Buckley

  • Michiganny

    Books: Tibor Fisher’s Under The Frog is his best so far. The man who calls the Soviet war memorial in Budapest “The Tomb Of The Unknown Watch Thief” is a genius. Nobody else can bring out the tragi-comedy of the eastern front or Hungary in 1956 in the same way.

    Irvine Welsh is now 1990’s passe to better men, but my office once staged an intervention for my benefit because I howled through every lunch hour for a week reading a book of his short stories. In the days preceding my hospitalization for a week in Edinburgh in 1996 for food poisoning and glandular fever, I learned that the “Worst Toilet In Scotland” has extremely stiff competition in Leith. Every time I hear Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life,” recently reincarnated as the theme-song for Chrysler mini-vans, my gut winces.

    John Mortimer’s Rumpole series is also painfullly funny to watch or read, but thankfully not in the same way.

  • Austin Mike

    Fools Die by Mario Puzo, in which the author tires of a female character and kills her with a brain aneurism, suddenly, without warning, and then moves on with his plot. This stunning example of authorial power had me laughing out loud.

    A Sentimental Journey Through Italy and France, by Lawrence Sterne. The aside about the wren’s prodigious sexuality coincided with my looking up and out the window – where a wren was doing the exact same thing as described in the book. Coincidence? I think not….

  • Books: Catch-22, Puckoon, Riotous Assembly

    Movies: Animal House, Shaun of the Dead, Life of Brian (beating out Holy Grail by a nose)

    TV: The Young Ones, early Frasier, early Married… With Children, Arrested Development, AbFab

    Nothing by Mel Brooks or the Zucker Brothers, who should all be hanged, after stoning.

  • The funniest books I’ve ever read are Tim Dorsey’s. Don’t read them if you’re squeamish, though. Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith was the funniest thing I’d ever read until Tim Dorsey came along.

    As for films, it’s hard to beat The Money Pit. Oh, and Cold Turkey.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I find Kim’s pathological dislike of Mel Brooks very weird.
    Blazing Saddles is a work of genius.

  • Johnathan,

    Monty Python is comic genius.

    Mel Brooks is tired Borscht Belt schtick. I’ve seen, regrettably, every single Mel Brooks movie, and I’ve laughed, in total, three times.

    (The Gene Hackman blind man scene in Young Frankenstein; the juxtaposition of White men singing “nigger music” and Black men singing a torch song, at the very beginning of Blazing Saddles, and… I’ve forgotten the third. Maybe it was only twice.)

    The best example of how bad Brooks is can be summed up in this story.

    A friend told me about Silent Movie, specifically about how they swapped a guy’s seeing-eye dog with an ordinary one. The concept alone had me howling with helpless laughter. Then I saw the movie, and the execution was worse than a nursery-school play.

    Fach. Brooks is dreadful: over-broad, too obvious, repetitive, and worst of all, predictable.

    His Men In Tights take-off of the Robin Hood legend wasn’t even as funny as Kevin Costner’s (inadvertently) hilarious version.

  • I agree with Kim about Brooks, apart from Blazing Saddles. I find it surprising that such an unfunny man managed to create such a brilliantly funny film. He must have been having an off day.

    My favourite moment in that film is when Gene Wilder is still holding his popcorn in the final scene. It’s exactly the sort of subtle, understated joke that Brooks would usually have trouble understanding. Are we sure he didn’t nick the script?

    I forgot to mention earlier: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot. I’ve rarely laughed so much as the first time I saw that.