NYT bestseller uses humor to reach readers

New York Times bestselling author Steve Almond shared his experience as a humorist at his All-College Hour Speaker Series address titled “Funny is the New Deep: How Jon Stewart Keeps Us From Going Crazy” on Wednesday Oct. 9. As a part of his introduction to his writing, Almond discussed his own creative processes and advised aspiring writers not to be afraid of writing that is not “serious” because “comedy is produced by a determined confrontation with tragedy,” he said.

As a comic writer, Almond said he believed it was important to dispel the myth that comic writers cannot be taken seriously and that comedy and tragedy are at odds with one another because it is the “role of the fool to speak to the king.”

Almond described Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote to convey his conviction that sometimes a joke is a useful tool to shed light on an issue in a relatable manner. He summed up the novel, saying it’s about a guy who “trips over his own dick for 300-and-something pages” – a comment that was met by the audience’s laughter.

In the second part of the lecture Almond read snippets from what he calls his “DIY,” or self-published books. These include Letters From People Who Hate Me, Bad Poetry and This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey.

Almond, not wanting to deal with the fuss of publishers, said he printed the books himself and sells them “like drugs” for cash only.

This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey is a compilation of short stories, vignettes and essays. Almond makes fun of bad poems he had written in his earlier stages as a writer in Bad Poetry, thus making the book “raw and personal.” Letters From People Who Hate Me, while less personal, is the same idea: a letter written by someone who hates the author followed by the author’s mocking response. In one of the responses Almond read to the audience, he tells one letter-writer that his daughter is a literal maggot who had burrowed into carrion.

The lecture concluded with a question-and-answer session followed by a book signing.