The Funny Man [NOOK Book]

Overview

The funny man is a middling comic in an unnamed city. By day he takes care of his infant son, by night he performs in small clubs, sandwiched between other aspiring comics. His wife waits tables to support the family. It doesn?t sound like much, but they?re happy, more or less. Until the day he comes up with it. His thing. His gimmick. And everything changes. He?s a headliner, and the venues get bigger fast. Pretty soon it?s Hollywood and a ...
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The Funny Man

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Overview

The funny man is a middling comic in an unnamed city. By day he takes care of his infant son, by night he performs in small clubs, sandwiched between other aspiring comics. His wife waits tables to support the family. It doesn’t sound like much, but they’re happy, more or less. Until the day he comes up with it. His thing. His gimmick. And everything changes. He’s a headliner, and the venues get bigger fast. Pretty soon it’s Hollywood and a starring role in a blockbuster, all thanks to the gimmick.
 
Which is: He performs with his fist in his mouth to the wrist. Jokes, impressions, commercials—all with his fist in his mouth to the wrist. The people want him—are crazy for him—but only with his fist in his mouth.
 
And the funny man, he is tired of having his fist in his mouth.
 
Thus, as the novel begins, his career’s in tatters, his family’s left him, and he’s on trial for shooting an unarmed man six times. But for the second time in his life, against all odds, he’s found love. This time with another celebrity, who may or may not be sending him coded messages, and may or may not be equally in love—or even know he exists. A coruscating satire of our culture of celebrity, this debut novel documents one individual’s slide from everyman to monster, even as it reveals the potential for grace—and mercy—in his life.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This debut novel from the editor of McSweeney's Internet Tendency is a surprisingly tame takedown of celebrity culture.America's favorite comedian is on trial for manslaughter, and "the funny man"'s lawyer, Barry, has a unique defense: not guilty by way of celebrity. Fame itself frees the funny man from responsibility over his actions; in Barry's legal terms, "At the very least any celebrity by definition has a prima facie case of diminished capacity." The same, we soon discover, could be said of the funny man's rise to fame: from comedy club obscurity to a starring role in a road trip flick and a hit TV show called Kick in the A14887, his success relies on a gag he can't afford to quit: he performs with his entire fist shoved into his mouth. As the funny man, under house arrest, awaits his fate, we learn that the trial is a mere cherry on top of the requisite celebrity meltdown sundae: divorce, drug problems, abuse of domestic help, child neglect. An obsession with a hot young tennis star makes this equally sickening and humorous portrait of the celebrity as a delusional man complete. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“John Warner is an uncommonly funny and gifted writer who has managed to make the business of comedy actually funny, as opposed to the awful self-negating mess that it actually is (I may only be speaking from personal experience on this last point.) This book will make you laugh and think and laugh some more.”—Michael Ian Black

“John Warner's The Funny Man is a funny novel about a funny man who sticks his whole hand in his mouth in a funny way. But it's much more than that—a wise, rueful, surprisingly tender book about what happens when we get what we want, and then what happens when we keep on wanting things. A very American novel, in other words, a novel that reminds me of Walker Percy's and Saul Bellow's very American novels. I can think of no higher praise for a novel, and The Funny Man deserves it.”—Brock Clarke, author of Exley and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

"I'm not at all surprised that John Warner would invent the perfect Everyman for our age: a comic whose meteoric rise to fame is based on a stupid gimmick. Half first-person tell-all, half third-person takedown—a brilliant structure—The Funny Man is a whip-smart satire of celebrity culture. It is hysterical, and sad, and ultimately indicts us all. An excellent novel."—Jessica Francis Kane, author of The Report

“What people will do for fame never looked so bad, or conceivable. John Warner tips celebrity culture a few degrees toward the absurd, and out falls a human, dying from a joke. The Funny Man shows us what blooms in the shadows of the paparazzi’s flashbulbs—nothing pretty, but true and damn amusing.”—Rosecrans Baldwin, author of You Lost Me There

“An illuminating satire…a sharply focused lampoon of the escalating absurdity of the newest virulent strains of celebrity culture—as the story’s funny man straddles a deeply conflicted persona reminding us that comedy is after all, no joke.”—The Daily Beast

“Darkly funny.... [Warner] peppers his book with clever asides that themselves could serve as stand-up bits.... But these serve more as comic relief to the book’s provocative theme of being careful what you wish for.... The last third of the book is ambiguous, but serves as a meditation on therapy, the afterlife, and connecting with a kindred spirit. It works because like the rest of the novel, it’s the biting social commentary that Warner is going for, not wrapping things up in a bow.”—Splitsider

"America's favorite comedian is on trial for manslaughter, and 'the funny man''s lawyer, Barry, has a unique defense: not guilty by way of celebrity.... [An] equally sickening and humorous portrait of the celebrity as a delusional man."—Publisher's Weekly

“In his first novel, Warner skewers the culture of celebrity.... Not guilty by reason of celebrity (hey, it worked for Rob Lowe and Charlie Sheen). The funny man’s fall is precipitous, yet in the midst of it, he manages to find love again with (who else?) another celebrity ... a clever premise.”—Booklist

The Funny Man joins a short list of intelligent, dark comedies about self-loathing main characters whose success is built on the poor taste and/or low IQ of the American public. In so doing, Mr. Warner follows the path of authors like Chris Buckley and Randall Silvis, but he is darker than the former and funnier than the latter. Regardless of the company he keeps, The Funny Man puts John Warner among the most perceptive and edgy chroniclers of an increasingly coarse American culture.”—New York Journal of Books

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569479742
  • Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/27/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • File size: 376 KB

Meet the Author

John Warner is the managing editor of McSweeney's Internet Tendency. His book, My First Presidentiary: A Scrapbook of George W. Bush (with Kevin Guilfoile) was a number one Washington Post bestseller.  John is also the editor of three volumes of material culled from the website, Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans; Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists; and The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes. Warner teaches at Clemson University in South Carolina and is a consulting editor to the South Carolina Review.
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Read an Excerpt

1

The courtroom is not a space conducive to comedy. For
one thing the ceiling is too high; too much space for jokes to
float up and fade. And then there’s the layout, the way the various
people—judge, defendant, prosecutor, jury—are isolated in their
zones. Laughter is like a virus, more easily spread when people are
in proximity to each other, and the only person anywhere near
me is Barry, my lawyer.

Not that I’m in the mood to try out any new material, even if
Barry hadn’t hinted that levity is a bad idea when you’re charged
with manslaughter by saying, “The only one who gets to be funny
in here is the judge and if the judge is funny I’m allowed to laugh,
but you aren’t. You are going to be as serious as ass cancer.”

The viewing area is empty, the judge’s decision to prevent a
“spectacle.” I didn’t object, and neither did Barry, which is odd
because he seems to enjoy an audience almost as much as I used
to. Because I’m famous, there’s been high demand to see the trial.
Depending on the news outlet this is either the trial of the year
or the decade. I am a top story every night. There are at least ten
Web sites dedicated entirely to the trial’s goings on, reporting the
tiniest of minutia. There are daily tweets on what the jury orders
out for lunch. A large crowd hoping for a glimpse of something
interesting gathers in a roped-in designated free speech area out
in front of the courthouse every day. On the cable news crawl you
will find my name scrolling by at five minute increments. Apparently,
I spark the synapses of the national consciousness.

Crowds used to be my thing, but lately, I sometimes like to
imagine myself as the main character in one of those postapocalyptic
movies where there is only one person with one loyal dog
companion left on Earth and that vision feels pretty damn good,
relative to the present circumstances anyway.

No, two people. I would like there to be two people left on
Earth (with or without the dog), me being one of them.

Barry and I must now enter and leave the courthouse from
below ground in a car with dark windows because otherwise the
paparazzi would never allow us down the courthouse steps. They
would slowly melt me to a puddle under the heat and glare of their
camera lights.

As is, when the car leaves the underground garage, they stand
in front of the vehicle, blocking its way until they get more than
enough pictures. They seem willing to risk their lives for these
pictures (of the car, not even of me since the windows are blackened),
one hand braced on the car’s hood while they fire away with
their cameras, defying the car to run them over.

I killed a man, that’s not in doubt. We’re not arguing about that.
I said as much to the first cops on the scene when they approached
with their guns and their f lashlights drawn, the guns aimed at my
torso, the flashlights focused on my hands, because it was in my
hands that I still held the gun and they asked, “Did you shoot this
guy?” and I said, “Yeah.” And one of the cops said, “Hey, I know
you,” and the other cop said, “Me too.”

In the mug shot that you’ve probably seen I look blottoed, crazy,
my hair electrified, my eyes sunken deep into my skull, but it’s
important to remember that it was raining and I was wearing a
hood and there’s a certain amount of shock associated with being
arrested, even when you’ve done nothing wrong.

Plus, I was in love.

The trial is to determine if I had to shoot the man, if it was selfdefense,
if it was justified. It is illegal to shoot someone because
you can, or even should, or even if they deserve it. The only way
it is legal to shoot someone is if you have a reasonable belief that
your life is in danger at the moment you shot the person.

The answer to the question of why I shot the man is a complicated
story. However, let me lay out these undisputed facts: The
gun belonged to the other man, and the other man was a wellknown
thief, an armed robber as had been proven in a court of
law twice before. And no, I did not have to shoot him. He was
disarmed, the threat neutralized. I shot him six times as an act
of kindness, of mercy. No one knows this story, not even Barry,
because he wouldn’t believe it. It seems impossible to make the
context clear. I deserve punishment for lots of things, but shooting
that man is not one of them.

That night, I was walking around the city, minding my own
business, feeling good, feeling really good for the first time in a
long time, feeling really really good for the first time since the
divorce and then the new thing bombing, my failures. Two of
my failures, anyway. I was feeling good because I had gone to the
ends of the Earth (another complicated story) and there I’d met
her and in her I had been cleansed; all things suddenly seemed
possible. I had spent the evening watching her the only way I
could, on television, a match from Monte Carlo, tape delayed as
filler. I could’ve been the only one watching for all I knew, but
it didn’t matter. It was as though each serve, every groundstroke,
was a message transmitted directly to me. As she destroyed the
teenager from Croatia, it was as though she was saying, I miss you.
I’ll see you soon.

It was raining, but following her match I couldn’t be contained
by the walls of my apartment, so I gave in to the urge to grab my
coat and walk, just walk wherever, rolling everything around in my
head, her smile, the sensation of our first kiss, savoring this change
in fortune. We were temporarily apart due to circumstances, but I
was confident that those circumstances would change. Not confident,
certain. Those were moments of certainty for me. I kept the
hood on my jacket pulled up, protection against the rain. I must’ve
looked a little dumb, walking in the rain, laughing, almost giggling
to myself when I thought of her.

I turned a corner and smirked because just at that moment I was
thinking about how my life had turned a corner and there I was,
literally turning a corner, and there was something funny in that, not
ironic funny, coincidence funny, but there was the man with the
gun saying, “Give me your wallet. No funny business.”



Barry sits, staring placidly at the empty bench, his hands
folded on top of a blank legal pad. An expensive pen rests to one
side. There are no other papers or materials either on or beneath
or beside the table. I used to have my own notepad and pen, but
Barry took them away from me earlier in the trial because the
courtroom sketch artist noticed that I had the tendency to draw
obscene doodles and this little tidbit wound up anonymously
sourced in the news, which was not good, which was described
on several of the websites as a “setback.”

The judge is often called away for urgent business in her chambers,
which means the rest of us—me, Barry, the prosecutor, the
jury, the sketch artist—are left behind, waiting. If the waiting is
expected to go on too long, the jury gets to go elsewhere, but
I am usually expected to stay. Sometimes I imagine the judge
makes us wait because she can, which isn’t fair. The headlines say
it themselves: Funny Man on Trial for His Life, the kind of
thing that deserves a judge’s full attention. Well, not exactly my
life, since manslaughter is not punishable by death, but enough
imprisonment to last the rest of my days is close enough to “life,”
in my book.

During these periods of judicial absence, Barry is serene, contemplative
without being glassy or glazed, a well-dressed Buddha.
Occasionally, he leans toward me as though to speak, his eyes
canted up and to the right at the jury, but nine times out of ten he
says nothing, or at best, a “how ya doing?”

The prosecutor, on the other hand, is busy riff ling through
accordion files, f lagging things with Post-its, scribbling notes onto
his own pad. His tie is almost always askew and there is a stack of
poster-sized exhibits resting behind him, some gruesome pictures
of the “victim” at the scene and later on the coroner’s table. A team
of three assistants sits at an auxiliary table pouring through their
own files, occasionally bringing a sheet of paper to the prosecutor’s
attention for him to look at brief ly before either shaking his head
and sending them away, or grabbing it and stuffing it into one of
his own files. They are like bees working in the hive.

During the prosecution’s case, which has just ended, this
dichotomy between the prosecution’s busy hive and Barry’s
Buddha disposition began to bother me. The prosecutor would
display one of the oversized pictures showing the “victim” on a
metal table under the glare of the coroner’s lights, the small purplish
blotch between his eyes where the only bullet that mattered
entered, and march back to his table to grab a piece of paper to
wave at the witness and ask things like, “Isn’t it true that . . . ?”
And the answer from the witness always sounded very bad, very
damaging to my case, a “major setback,” if you will. All the while
Barry maintained his look, calm yet alert, centered, speaking only
occasionally to object to the way a question was phrased, after
which the prosecutor would simply reword to the same effect and
there came the damaging information anyway. It was as though a
hand was raised to block a blow to the head, only to invite one to
the gut. I’ll admit, it was maddening, borderline infuriating even,
and finally at the end of one of the days of the trial as Barry and
I rode in the back of the car with the darkened windows, being
buffeted by the paparazzi trying to shoot us through the front
windshield, I exploded. There was a time where I would’ve gladly
subjected myself to the judge and jury’s harshest punishment, but
I was ready to live and it seemed like Barry was helping them kill
me. The car rocked gently as it eased through the mass of reporters,
the driver tooting his horn with every inch.

“We’re getting killed! You’re killing me!” I said, my hands
trembling in my lap, one eye on Barry, one on the stubbly back
of the driver’s head. “Even I’m going to think I’m guilty by the
time this is over! Why don’t you do anything? Look at all the stuff
they have! The reports, the pictures, the diagrams, the re-creation
animation!” I felt my face f lush and I pounded my hand against
the armrest as I shouted.

Barry maintained the infuriatingly calm look and placed one
hand gently on my leg as the other reached for the switch that raised
the divider between us and the driver. As the barrier swooshed
into place, he started to speak.

“I am doing great, better than great, actually. You, on the other
hand, are going to cock things up with your fidgeting and wincing
every time they ask something and even a slightly unfavorable
answer comes out. Half the time you look like someone’s got
electrodes on your nads. It’s not pretty and it’s not helpful.”

“Not helpful! You’re doing nothing! No-thing! Did you see
those pictures he has? Gah! This guy is slaughtering you and you
do nothing! I just want you to do something!”

I shook my fists like a frustrated baby. It was a worse moment
among bad ones. Barry sighed and grabbed my arms and pulled
them down and gripped me by the hands. The look on Barry’s face
remained unchanged, unbothered, placid, but the grip was extremely
strong. I could feel my knuckles shift underneath my skin.

“You are under a misapprehension,” Barry said, maintaining
his grip. “You, like our prosecutor friend, believe that a trial is an
exercise in logic, that Sherlock Holmes is on the scene, deducting
and inducting until we arrive at a common understanding of who
is guilty and why. You believe that a trial is like solving a puzzle of
what happened that night in that alley, and why, each piece locking
into place until the picture is clear for all to see. Yes?”

I nodded. These things had seemed self-evident to me, the
page that all of us—judge, prosecution, jury—were on. This was
the given, the thing to be understood and accepted and while—
because of the plausibility issues—I could never tell the full story,
I had been hoping that Barry would come up with a reasonable
facsimile that would prove convincing to the jury. Barry loosened
his grip a little and began rubbing the top of his thumb over the
back of one of my hands. It felt good, actually.

“This strategy would suggest that we need to be contesting each
and every inch of forensic evidence, and from there move on to
destroying the credibility of their witnesses, the ones who said they
heard a scuff le starting and then a scuff le ending and then maybe
some pleading from an unidentified voice that is probably not the
defendant, since the defendant’s voice is rather recognizable, and
only then a gunshot. Check that, multiple gunshots, suggesting
that you may just have executed this poor wretch of a man forced
to steal from people with enough money for a hundred lifetimes
to feed a drug habit that has already twice landed him in jail.

“If this trial is an exercise in logic,” he continued, “we should
want to muddy the picture of that puzzle so the jury can’t tell if
they’re looking at a picture of Mount Rushmore, or a basket full
of golden retriever puppies, or an autumn scene in New England,
right?”

I nodded again, relaxing slowly. My hands puddled inside of
Barry’s grip. His skin was downy soft. We held onto each other
like husband and wife at the wedding altar. Barry continued.

“You believe that trials are won and lost on the basis of who
presents the most compelling arguments in the most cohesive and
logical fashion, but as history and experience have shown, this is
nonsense, a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature and
decision making. Here’s an analogy. I assume you’ve voted before.
Do we happen to elect the person who is most qualified, who is
best prepared for the challenges of the office? Do we sort through
the criteria for being a good president, weigh the pros and cons,
and then select the right person for the right time? No, we do not,
because human beings are irrational creatures. We are subject to
swings of emotion. We are governed by illogic. You, above all,
should recognize this by now, considering your life.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but no sound came out.

“A trial is not a logic puzzle. A trial is not Tetris. A trial is a
story. A trial has characters and conflict and action and symbolism
and theme and a climax, and all those other things. Now, I bet you
can picture the climax we’re hoping for. I know I can. In fact, I
visualize it daily. It is part of my morning ablutions, all of us turned
toward the jury, quiet enough in the courtroom to hear a pin drop,
breaths held in anticipation as the foreperson unfolds the slip of
paper and reads from it, despite already knowing what’s printed
there, and says, ‘Not guilty, Your Honor.’ Would you agree that
this is the climactic moment we’re hoping for?”

I nodded. I hadn’t dared visualize it before, but as he spoke it
appeared before me and I had the urge to run toward it.

“Good. So we’re on the same page there. Now, to bring about
this climax, something very important has to happen and that is
that regardless of whether or not you committed the act in the way
the prosecution alleges, when we get to that moment, we need that
jury to want you to be innocent. Let me say that again in a slightly
different way. It doesn’t matter if you are or are not innocent on
the facts of the case. It is not what happened that matters, it is why it
happened. They must be rooting for you to be innocent. In rooting
for you to be innocent they will realize that they have the power
to make it so and after we hear that verdict you’ll be shaking my
hand and hugging me and pounding me on the back as tears roll
down your cheeks. But . . .”

“But?”

“Yes, there is a but. I didn’t want to have to share this with
you, but at this point, we have no real choice. As part of our trial
preparation we have been focus grouping you.”

“Focus grouping?”

“Yes, we gathered the unemployed, the elderly, the unemployed,
the unclever, the unemployed, in short, the sorts of people who
were likely to—and indeed did—wind up in a jury of your peers,
and we asked them about you, what they know, what they think,
and it was not pretty.”

“No?”

“No. The words most commonly associated with you among
our target potential jury demographic were untalented, successful,
and bad husband and father.”

Barry said the words matter-of-factly, a declaration as straightforward
as name, rank, and serial number.

“Successful is good, though, right?”

“Not when coupled with untalented, no. The perception is that
your success is unearned, either a f luke or a function of a decaying
society, an early sign of the end-times-type thing. If the world
were a better place we never would have heard of you. You are a
symptom of a collective societal weakness for the gimmicky and
trivial. The overwhelming feeling among these people is that you
should just go away. To these people, you’re not likable enough
to pity, not interesting enough to hate. Either of these could be
compelling reasons for a jury to find you not guilty. Right now,
you are simply what is happening and they’re eager to move on to
whatever is next while still recognizing the need for closure with
regards to your particular tale. They feel that you are holding them
hostage. They wish for resolution, but don’t particularly care what
it is. ‘Just get it over with,’ they say. ‘Whatever,’ they say. Needless
to say, this narrative is toxic to our chances. They want you gone
because they can’t bring themselves to look away.

Barry released my hands and sat back in the seat and turned his
eyes forward. The driver had wormed free of the paparazzi and
we were speeding down an avenue, the lights going green for us
as though by Barry’s command, the soft shocks of the town car
absorbing all bumps. I stared at Barry, still gape-mouthed, my mind
swirling, disordered like a snow globe shaken and dropped, and
finally asked, “So which am I going to be? Hero or villain?”

“That’s what we’re going to find out.”



2


On the small, nightclub stage, the funny man says funny
things to the small audience arranged around the small tables
before him. As the laughter fades between these funny things,
the funny man hears ice shift in cocktail glasses and throats being
quietly cleared. Toward the end, someone lets loose a big, wet
cough that sounds tubercular and a drunk man orders his next
round loud enough to drown out a punchline. All in all, though,
a damn good night.

This is maybe the five or six hundredth time the funny man
has tried his hand at this and “damn good” is a signif icant
improvement over his initial attempts. The number of people
he has performed for has varied from none to slightly more
than none, to seven (including three bachelor party revelers
who were unconscious, greening upchuck crusted to their
shirtfronts), all the way up to 125 when he was scheduled on a
night when there was a rumor that a “comedy legend” would
be doing a rare club appearance to work on new material. The
legend never appeared because it was the funny man who started
the rumor, maybe the cleverest thing he had done in his life
up to that point.

Six years the funny man has been coming to this club, from the
moment he was old enough for his parents to trust him to drive
alone into the city, fueled by an indestructible belief that he was
indeed funny and that someday people would pay to hear him
say and do funny things. The funny man doesn’t know where
this belief, or the seemingly inexhaustible fuel that accompanied
his desire to have others agree with this self-assessment, came
from. This belief remained unshaken despite the number of times
someone, unsolicited, had shouted up to him on the stage, “Fuck
you, you’re not fucking funny.” (Forty-nine.) The funny man had
been told to “eat shit,” to “die,” to “eat shit and die,” and to “eat
shit and die horribly,” which actually made him laugh. Shielded
by the stage lights blocking the funny man’s view, patrons had
yelled at the funny man to fuck himself, to fuck his mother and to
fuck himself with his mother’s dick, and yet at every opportunity
he climbed on to the stage, hopeful each time that it would go, if
not “damn good,” at least “pretty good.” If you want to call that
a sickness, that’s your business.

The club is the only venue that matters, the place where all of
the famous funny men (and women, though there aren’t that many
women) have been spawned. They come to the club as embryos
and the stage is where they gestate and careers are either birthed
or aborted. The club is small and ugly and certainly not the kind
of place that should be seen in daylight under any circumstances,
but it is and always has been the place. The hopeful funny people
come to bomb until the day they no longer bomb and then they
are said to have “passed,” at which time you are allowed to perform
on a Friday or Saturday night and you earn twenty dollars
for the privilege.

But this night, for the funny man, no bombing, only applause,
or mostly applause among the usual indifference. One of the things
the funny man has come to realize during his times on stage is that
the people in the club who are not shitfaced into oblivion want
to laugh. They are almost desperate to laugh, having paid their
fifteen-dollar cover charge and drunken their required minimum
of drinks. They are like cans of soda shaken up, ready to explode
and all it takes is to open them. It is the funny man’s job to unearth
the funny things they already hold in their brains, they just don’t
know it yet. And yet, so many of the prospective funny people
bomb, or tank, or f lop, because the wannabe funny people are
equally desperate to get them to laugh and the mutual desperation
meets like two magnets tuned to the same poles, pushing each
other farther and farther apart until there is only silence, or even
worse, a comic who turns on the audience, seeking laughs in that
guy’s mole, or her oversized breasts, blaming them for his (it is
always a he) own shortcomings, the most significant of which is
that he just isn’t funny.

Upon finishing, the funny man thanks the audience for having
him and tells them that they’re really too, too kind. As is custom,
he introduces the next performer and steps from the stage lights
into darkness and wipes the sweat from his brow and this moment
always reminds the funny man of the moment after orgasm where
just instants before you were thinking that this is the best thing ever
and then all of the sudden it’s all, “what’s the big deal?” and then
two minutes later you feel kind of dirty about the whole thing.

Near the bar, a man loudly claps two fat hands together, whistles
with his fingers at his lips, and then claps again, repeating the
sequence long after the rest of the room is silent. The man is round
and dumpy like those toys that can’t be knocked down. He gestures
the funny man backstage. The funny man follows. The man’s neck
is thick and wrinkled like a Shar-pei.

The clapping man claps the funny man on the back. Regular
people are not allowed backstage, so the funny man knows this
man is irregular. He is part of the industry. “That was killer,”
the man says. “You killed. That slayed me. Funny, funny shit.
I’m dying here.” The clapping man leans on a chair and breathes
heavily as he hands the funny man a card. “You’ve cracked the
code. You just need a ‘thing’ now. That’s the clincher. A thing.
The arrow through the head, the inf lated surgical glove, watermelons
and sledgehammers, crazy hair, screeching, turtlenecks,
obesity, something. Call me when you get one,” he says. “I’ll take
you places.”

The funny man looks down at the card as he massages the
back of his own neck. The other hopeful funny men lounging
around the broken-down couches sucking on beers and smoking
themselves into early graves look at him with deep and intractable
loathing. Talent Agent the card says, with a number below.
“Where?” he asks, looking up, but the man has already left. On
the way home he rolls this word around his head: Talent. “I have
talent,” he thinks. “Talent talent talent.”


From the Hardcover edition.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2012

    Boooo

    Not funny!!!!!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting. Different. Just not "funny."

    John Warner's debut novel THE FUNNY MAN is an interesting tale about an average comic in an average city who hits the big time with a gimmick that suddenly the public can't live without. Unfortunately, he can't really live WITH it, and as his fame skyrockets his life completely unravels. He is poor and in love and grounded before fame, and rich and alone and possibly insane after.
    If this were just another "fall from grace" story it would be totally unremarkable. However, the author employs two completely different styles in the story, using both third person and first person to tell the story. The third person portions are more narrative, describing what is actually happening. The first person parts are describing what the hero THINKS is happening, which as the story moves on separates more and more from reality. But the genius in the story telling is that the two stories dovetail in a way that the reader can never be sure that what's happening in the "funny man's" head (we never learn his name) ISN'T reality. It's reality to him, to be sure, and Warner's style is convincing enough that the reader is wondering, "Am I reading tragedy, fantasy, comedy, or something in between?"
    I will admit that the book caught my eye because I was looking for something light and funny. This didn't really fit that bill, but there were definitely some (darkly) funny moments. It was definitely entertaining, just not humorous.
    Plenty of profanity, so for those who don't like their curse words spelled out, this may not be for you.

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