The Barnes & Noble Review
Who is Ted Nancy? What is he after? Just what, exactly, makes this madman tick? The mystery grows each and every day. Letters From a Nut, featuring an introduction by Jerry Seinfeld, was published to massive and instantaneous success. Nancy's preposterous letters inquiries, requests, compliments, and complaints to corporate VIPS, petty bureaucrats, semicelebrities, and others and the often even more hilarious (because they were, for the most part, serious) answers, struck a nerve somewhere deep in the sophomoric heart of the American sense of humor. The second collection of Nancy's ridiculous correspondence, More Letters From a Nut, is available, with yet another introduction by Seinfeld, and it begs the question: How long will this go on?
Jerry Seinfeld claims in his introduction not to actually know Ted Nancy. Jerry Seinfeld apologizes to America for having loosed Nancy on the public he thinks it has all gone a bit too far. Jerry Seinfeld, referring to Nancy as a "micro-brained sociopath," confesses to being afraid of him: "I used to wonder if someday I would find the real Ted L. Nancy. Now I worry that someday he will find me."
However long Ted Nancy will, in fact, be able to keep this up (the volume of letters and responses, when one considers the amount of time in which they were written, would suggest that he does little else with his days), whether or not he will produce a new collection every ten months, and whether he will ever find Jerry Seinfeld all remain to be seen. One thing is certain: Ted L. Nancyhasfound a simple but potent formula for creating humor.
A sample: This letter is addressed to the Licensing Office, in Billings, Montana:
Dear Licensing Bureau: I will soon open "Nostrils by the Bay Premier Belgian Cuisine." I will cater to the upscale diners and have dancing, valet parking, and a sketch artist that will draw people while they eat. Please advise on how I get a license. I will erect a 50 foot Nostrils sign where people walk in through openings. It will be the largest free standing Nostrils sign in Montana.
Only Florida has one bigger.
I look forward to hearing from you with my permit information soon. And please stop by and try our new Lions Club Sandwich. The B.L.T. Bacon, lion, and tomato.
Complimentary, of course.
Thank you, Ted L. Nancy
On the adjoining page sits a copy of the reply (on Billings, Montana, County of Yellowstone letterhead). It is a completely straight response by a bureaucratic office to a legitimate request for a food-service establishment license. Nancy's letter is funny because it's crazy. You read it and laugh (ha ha). The letter from the licensing bureau is funny because it's so blah, and you can't imagine that someone would actually take the time to write it. You laugh again (ho ho). Then you get a little confused. You realize that there is something about the juxtaposition of the two letters that hints of an inherent madness it's not simply in the original loony request, or in the rote response, but in the combination of the two, in the fact that they manage to coexist in a symbiotic relationship and, by extension, in the logistical workings of a society that has allowed them to. Then you laugh again, only harder.
But that might be getting a bit more profound than is called for. Mainly, More Letters From a Nut is good, inane, goofy fun. Ted L. Nancy's comic genius is deranged, sure; but isn't all good genius tinged with insanity? He may be a wacko, but he's probably not really dangerous. Probably.