The 2012 Thurber Prize Winner Is Calvin Trillin of The New Yorker

The 2012 Thurber Prize was presented to Calvin Trillin.

The 2012 Thurber Prize was presented to Calvin Trillin on Monday at an awards ceremony at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City where James Thurber once lived.

The finalists were Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Nate Di Meo, Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff by Calvin Trillin and Starting from Happy by Patricia Marx.

Trillin, 76, has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1963. (Trillin’s writing has been featured on this site.) He is the author of 20 books.

The Thurber Prize is the only recognition of the art of humor writing in the United States. A panel of judges selects the three finalists from a selection of seven to eight semi-finalists. (I knew I would not win, but this is mainly on account of the fact that I did not enter. Until the Thurber judges overcomes their bias against humor writers who don’t enter their prestigious humor contest, I stand very little chance of winning.)

The winner receives $5,000 for the Thurber Prize.

UPDATE: The Plain Dealer’s Michael Heaton talked to Trillin today. Trillin told Heaton he enjoys the work of Ian Frazer, Garrison Keillor, Dave Barry and David Sedaris.

When Heaton asked if humor writing can be taught, Trillin said, “Writing can be taught. It’s just thinking on paper. Not so sure about humor. Writing humor takes a weird turn of mind. I compare it to the person who can bend his thumb to touch his wrist. A minor facility.”

Big congratulations to Calvin Trillin for spending 40 years of his life honing a trivial skill! Somewhere there’s a guy who can make his ears wiggle on their own wondering where his Thurber Prize is.

Past winners of the Thurber Prize

2011: David Rakoff, Half Empty

2010: Steve Hely, How I Became a Famous Novelist

2009: Ian Frazier, Lamentations of the Father

2008: Larry Doyle, I Love You, Beth Cooper

2007: Joe Keenan, My Lucky Star

2006: Alan Zweibel, The Other Shulman

I interviewed Zweibel for The Humor Columnist

2005: Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin and David Javerbaum, America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction

2004: Christopher Buckley, No Way to Treat a First Lady

2001: David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

1999: The editorial staff of the satirical magazine The Onion for Our Dumb Century

1997: Ian Frazier, Coyote v. Acme


Thurber Prize Finalists for 2012 Announced

The Thurber Prize, which is the nation’s top award for written humor, announced its 2012 finalists.

The Thurber Prize, which is the nation’s top award for written humor, announced its 2012 finalists. They are Pawnee: The Greatest Town in AmericaQuite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff and Starting from Happy: A Novel.

I did not make the cut. I blame the fact that I did not write a book last year. It was probably the judges’ main consideration in not naming me a finalist for the Thurber Prize. It was very shortsighted of them, if you ask me.

The Pawnee book is based on one of my favorite TV shows, “Parks and Recreation,” and although the book claims to have been written by the TV character Leslie Knope, it was actually written by Nate Di Meo.

The Trillin book, which is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, is a compilation of the New Yorker writer’s humorous work, some of which I have featured on this site.

Fellow New Yorker writer Patricia Marx is the author of “Starting from Happy.” She used to write for “Saturday Night Live.” I hadn’t heard of this book until I read the list of finalists in the Los Angeles Times.

So, in case you’re wondering what it takes to become a Thurber finalist these days, either write a book based on a popular TV show, write for the New Yorker for 50 years or work for “Saturday Night Live” and then become a novelist. See, there’s nothing to it.

A sincere congratulations to all of the finalists.

The Thurber Prize for American Humor will be presented Oct. 1 in Columbus, Ohio, the boyhood home of James Thurber and the Thurber House. Winner gets a cool 5 Gs.

More from The Humor Columnist:

My interview with 2006 Thurber Prize winner Alan Zweibel


Calvin Trillin imagines three scenes with Newt Gingrich

The New Yorker’s Calvin Trillin imagines three fictional scenes involving Newt Gingrich

Calvin Trillin writes three fictional scenes. In the first, executives meet to discuss hiring Newt Gingrich as a part-time historian for $25,000 a month. In the second, Callista Gingrich, aware that her husband has cheated on and left two wives who had serious illness tries desperately to make light of a bad cough. In the third we witness the conversation between Herman Cain and Gingrich that resulted in Cain endorsing Gingrich. Trillin writes these imaginary scenes for The New Yorker. He recently wrote one in which Mitt Romney meets world leaders. I tried my hand at a Trillin-style column about Joe Biden: Gaffe Machine and now I have to resist the urge to write one every time Biden says anything in public.  Read Trillin’s Gingrich piece here. Photo via EN2008


Vice President Biden has San Francisco’s baseball Giants on the brain (With apologies to Calvin Trillin)

Joe Biden just can’t stop thinking about the San Francisco Giants

“Ever excitable Vice President Joe Biden made one of his infamous gaffes while trying to rally supporters in San Francisco when he predicted the Giants would go to the Super Bowl. Oops. The veep apologized after what the Oakland Tribune called some good-natured boos and explained he had baseball’s San Francisco’s Giants on the brain, not the 49ers’ opponents, the New York Giants.” – USA Today

The meeting was going quickly, which was fine with President Obama, who hoped to adjourn in time to watch his beloved Chicago Bulls play the Washington Wizards.

“I know that reducing the size of our armed forces will not be a popular move, but it’s one we have to make. And I think by increasing funding to the Air Force, to expand its initiatives in both space and cyberspace, we can mitigate the fallout by stressing our forward-thinking vision,” President Obama said. “Any thoughts on this?”

“Mr. President, I’d like to add something,” Vice President Joe Biden said. “It’s a bold vision. I think the Americana people will understand it. And I think that, thanks to this administration, the San Francisco Giants will have the best pitching staff in the National League West after they sign Tim Lincecum to a long-term contract.”

“Pardon me,” President Obama said. “Did you say Tim Lincecum?”

Continue reading “Vice President Biden has San Francisco’s baseball Giants on the brain (With apologies to Calvin Trillin)”