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


I expect bribes, people

Remember that humor-writing contest I’m judging? The finalists are in. And all four books were written by me, mooo-hoo-hahahahaha.

Remember that humor-writing contest I’m judging? The finalists are in. And all four books were written by me, mooo-hoo-hahahahaha.

Just kidding. I haven’t written any books. But I have read a bunch of books. And I like to judge stuff. So I guess that makes me qualified.

If you’re an author and you would like to know more about this contest so you can read this year’s funny books or enter next year, here’s the skinny from the organizer (who is my sister-in-law and the book publicist who put together this wonderful contest):

Shirley You Jest! Book Awards, the only comedy and humor indie book contest offering publicity-based prizes, announces its fiction and non-fiction finalists.

Presented by Liz D Publicity & Promotions, SYJ! invited independent authors who “bring the funny” to submit their 2011-2012 eBooks and print titles.  First round judges read and evaluated entries belonging mainly to the mystery, chick lit, creative non-fiction, and memoir genres.

The following titles are competing for Shirley LOL (first place) and Shirley HAH (second place) Awards in their respective categories:

Fiction:  What Would Satan Do? by Anthony Miller, Apocowlypto by Whitney Moore, The Seven Steps to Closure by Donna Joy Usher, Pickin’ Tomatoes by J.W. Bull

Non-fiction:  Mishegas of Motherhood. Raising Children To Leave The Nest…As Long As They Come Home For Dinner. by Ellie Grossman, Confessions of an Edgy Suburban Mom by Pam Grimes, Memoirs of a Gas Station: A Delightfully Awkward Journey Across the Alaskan Tundra by Sam Neumann, Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves by Robin O’Bryant

Winners are announced on November 1, 2012, National Author’s Day.  SYJ! prize sponsors will award these witty wordsmiths with author interviews, book reviews and social media mentions.  Participating U.S., Canadian, and UK sponsors include: Underground Book Reviews, Book Guys, Great Minds Think Aloud Literary Community, Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog, Author Groupie, A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book, All Fooked Up, The Paperback Pursuer, Indie Author News, Mercurial Musings, The Humor Columnist, WriteHook, The Bunny’s Review, Humor Times, The Lenny and John Show, Conversations LIVE Radio and Conversations Magazine.

SYJ!  Book Awards congratulates the finalists and applauds all entrants for tickling Shirley’s funny bone.

Shirley You Jest! Book Awards, presented by Liz D Publicity & Promotions, honors books by self-published and traditionally published indie authors that “bring the funny” in the categories of fiction and non-fiction.  Winners receive publicity-based prizes from SYJ! sponsors, such as interviews, reviews and social media mentions.


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


Humor contest deadline for Washington Post is August 10

Find out how to enter the Washington Post’s humor contest

This is great news. The Washington Post has launched a humor contest.

Humor contest details via the Post:

The WP Magazine is inviting readers to submit original, unpublished material to its first Humor Contest. Readers may enter material to any or all of three categories:

● A true memoir

● A funny, unstaged photo

● A 140-chracter Twitter joke.

Only one memoir or photo per person. If you submit multiple entries, we will consider only the first received. Include your name, age, city of residence, e-mail address and phone number, and occupation on all entries.

You may submit only material that you have written or photographed yourself, and you must have all necessary rights to the material to submit it. For photos, include caption information and the date the photo was taken. Please do not submit images that have been heavily manipulated. It is acceptable to adjust images to achieve color balance that reflects the scene as you observed it. Cropping is also acceptable.

The Post has the right to disqualify any image it believes has been overly altered or staged.

Only amateurs are eligible. Professional humor writers or photographers (i.e., anyone who earns more than 50 percent of his or her annual income fromwriting humor or photography, determined at Sponsor’s sole discretion) are not eligible.

By entering, you grant The Washington Post permission to use your material in perpetuity in any medium, including to edit, publish, distribute and republish it in any form. You retain the copyright.

All entries are subject to The Post’s Discussion and Submission Guidelines.

Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Entriesmust be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Entries that are late, incomplete, unreadable, inaccurate, unintelligible or otherwise not in compliance with these Official Rules will be disqualified. Sponsors are not responsible for lost, destroyed ormisdirected entries.

A word of praise for the Washington Post. By employing Gene Weingarten, and running humor contests like this one, it continues to support humor writing at a time when most newspapers and magazines have given up on it.

For more details about this humor contest go here.



I am judging the Shirley You Jest Book Awards

Want to enter a comedy book contest? Read here for details on getting your funny book read.

The Shirley You Jest Book Awards (presented by Liz D Publicity and Promotions) honor books by self-published and traditionally-published indie authors that “deliver the funny.” I am a proud judge and sponsor of this event and am excited to be part of this contest, which will bring much-needed attention to the overlooked worlds of indie publishing and humor writing. Now deliver the funny, authors.



For more info go here.