Outtakes From the Jen Kirkman Interview

Read the outtakes from my Q-and-A with Chelsea Lately comedian Jen Kirkman.

BOOKCOVER_JENKIRKMANI know Jen Kirkman. A little. She appeared on my podcast twice and was a fantastic guest both times. Kirkman has written a book entitled “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids.” For you longtime fans of my podcast, she did not get the idea for the book after spending three hours in a small room with Carlos, Mike, Sean and me. (Although I am certain Los has inspired many women never to have kids.)

No, this book came about because Kirkman long ago decided she did not want kids, and the whole world pestered her and said things like, “But you should really have kids,” and she was like, “I mean it. I don’t want kids.” And the world was like, “You’ll change your mind someday. You’re being selfish,” And she was like, “How many ways do I have to tell you people? I say it in my stand-up. I say it on Twitter. I say it in person. I don’t want to have any damn kids!?!” So instead of telling everyone to go to hell for the next few years, she wrote a book, which was the better choice because you can’t option telling people “Go to hell!” for movie and TV rights.

I talked to Kirkman about “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself” for a published Q-and-A. You can read it here. I received an advanced copy of the book, and it’s so her. Kirkman perfectly captures how absolutely insane it is to ask anyone a question as deeply personal as, “Do you plan to have kids?”

Kirkman bleeds the world’s lack of propriety and manners of all its nonsense and mixes in her own humor, logic and neurosis. Men and women who don’t want to have kids will find comfort in this book and in knowing they have such a prominent and ballsy ally.

A few weeks ago we spoke for an hour on the phone prior to a stand-up show in San Diego. As so often happens, lots of stuff from the interview, for various reasons, did not make it into the final published Q&A. So I pulled the most interesting tidbits left on the cutting room floor and and shared them with you below.

Our discussion starts with her traumatic reaction to The Day After, a movie that scared the hell out of both of us when we were kids.

When you wrote about The Day After, I was nodding my head the entire time. I was like, ‘Yes, that happened to me.’ I could not stop thinking about nuclear war in the 1980s. Terrified me.

You’re the first person I’ve talked to that referenced that part, and that’s my favorite part of the book.

Oh, is it? I think it’s mine too.

That part of the book was actually another book I had wanted to write before this idea about not wanting kids came up, which was essays about my life growing up and how that shaped who I became. I became a different kind of kid because of that experience, but anyway, that’s kind of my favorite part of the book because I just think that’s when my whole world changed. I was like, ‘Everyone’s crazy. What is going on? This is such a crazy world.’

Continue reading “Outtakes From the Jen Kirkman Interview”


I Was Unsure How to Avoid Huge Ships, And Then I Found This Book

The Amazon reviews for How to Avoid Tall Ships are hilarious.

avoid-tall-shipsOK, it’s official. The funniest writers on the Internet are currently Amazon reviewers. Following on the heels of the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer comes the epic How to Avoid Huge Ships.

My favorite review:

As the father of two teenagers, I found this book invaluable. I’m sure other parents here can empathize when I say I shudder at the thought of the increasing influence and presence of huge ships in the lives my children. I certainly remember the strain I caused so long ago for my own parents when I began experimenting with huge ships. The long inter-continental voyages that kept my mom and dad up all night with worry. Don’t even get me started on the international protocols when transporting perishable cargo. To think, I was even younger than my kids are now! huge ships are everywhere and it doesn’t help that the tv and movies make huge ships seem glamorous and cool. This book helped me really approach the subject of huge ships with my kids in an honest, open and non judgmental way. Because of the insights this book provided, I can sleep a little better and cope with the reality that I can’t always be there to protect my kids from huge ships, especially as they become adults. I’m confident that my teens, when confronted by a huge ship, are much better prepared to make wiser decisions than I did. At the very least my children certainly know that they can always come to me if they have any concerns, questions or just need my support when it comes to the topic of huge ships.


Quick Book Review: How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman)

Read The Humor Columnist’s review of The Oatmeal’s “How to tell if your cat is trying to kill you.”


The best thing about the latest book from The Oatmeal, How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You, isn’t the cartoons, but that it was published at all.

Matthew Inman’s latest book has it all — cats, office intrigue, more cats. As you would expect from The Oatmeal, the book is funny, smart, low-brow and definitely Internet-friendly.

The Oatmeal has discovered humor formulas that work online, and he should be applauded for the same reasons stand-up comics and movie directors should be when they have mastered a medium. Because The Oatmeal’s normal medium — the Internet — is part of the Distraction Media Complex, some people feel they can dispel it or attack it (because is it really valuable content if it’s something you look at while at work?), but what The Oatmeal does is, on some levels, more difficult than what a stand-up comic does, because when you go to a comedy club, you can’t click away from the current stand-up and select a new one. (Damn, that was a long sentence. Also, wouldn’t that be awesome if you could? Get on this, Zany’s!)

The Oatmeal has to battle itchy mouse fingers all day, and he is winning that battle by providing a take on common annoyances that large groups of people can relate to and enjoy by giving them easily digestible humor that incites a reaction, one that often compels people to share. It sounds easy, but it takes a certain type of genius to pull that off consistently. (Or else everyone would be able to do it.)

Inman now has two books to his credit–his debut 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) and this latest offering. If you like The Oatmeal, you will certainly enjoy How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you, because not only is it funny, and not only does it provide keen insights into the world of business cats, but buying it makes you feel like you’re investing in what is right with the Internet.

Joe Donatelli is a freelance journalist who publishes The Humor Columnist. Follow him @joedonatelli.


The Balding Handbook: Combover Varieties

Read a funny excerpt from David Stern’s Balding Handbook on combover varieties.

Editor’s note: Writer David Stern has written a very important book about a very important issue: male pattern baldness. As a fellow member of the follically challenged, Stern reached out to me to ask if he could promote his book on The Humor Columnist. This is is an exclusive excerpt from The Balding Handbook: The 5 Stages of Grieving for Your Hair Loss. 

“But Dave,” you might say, “I definitely do not have a combover.”

Are you 100 percent sure about that? Combovers come in all shapes and sizes. Here are just a few different types, and it’s not even an all-inclusive list.

The original combover trademarked by Frank Smith is commonly referred to as The Flip at our balding conventions.

It’s also quite commonly used at another convention held every four years.

If you’re spending an hour after every shower flipping your hair from one side to the other, you may not be a Republican, but you’re most definitely sporting the Republican Party’s combover of choice ever since former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani “flipped” his way into the hearts of voters nationwide after 9/11.

The Frontal Tuft Fluff Up is probably the most sophisticated combover. A FTFU wearer takes the few remaining hairs on his frontal scalp, and teases them or “fluffs them up” above the forehead to disguise the vast wasteland behind the tuft.

The Frontal Tuft Fluff Up became the Democratic Party’s combover of choice when former Vice President Gore used a tiny little tuft of frontal hair to create the magical illusion of a full head of hair. Unlike most FTFUers, Gore managed to pull it off by never allowing photographs to be taken from behind, and employing round-the-clock hair magicians to make his trees look like a forest.

Unless you’ve got the Secret Service protecting you from rogue photographers (which you don’t), invented the internet (which you didn’t), you’ve got millions to waste on hair magicians (which you don’t), or you’re planning on participating in thousands of police lineups, the only thing your FTFU will create is a maximum amount of snickering behind your back.

After all, anyone looking at you from that angle can see how ridiculous you look.

The Taliban, also known as The Swirl and The Soft Serve Ice Cream, is one of the more creative combovers. The hair is grown especially long on one side, just like The Flip, but instead of simply flipping the hair, the Talibaner swirls his hair into a hair mat on top of his head.

Former University of Illinois and New Mexico State basketball coach Lou Henson was probably the most famous devotee of this technique. He was also widely mocked. On the other hand, the Taliban has been around for hundreds of years in the Middle East. Some historians believe it was the original inspiration for the turban.

The Trump (see top image) is probably the most recent combover innovation. Trumpers grow their hair really long in the back, flip it toward the front, and keep it in place with ozone-layer-killing industrial strength hairspray. There’s no need to see the certificate of the bozo that “birthed” this movement, but suffice it to say that baldologists everywhere get a certain glee when they tell their clients that this ridiculous combover must be told: “You’re fired!”

Personal Pain…

I, too, have experienced the unrelenting pain. It was Memorial Day 1992 when a couple of buddies and I attended a Chicago White Sox game. After a beautiful color guard presentation honoring our fallen, we all stood in reverence for the Star Spangled Banner. Right around the time the ramparts were gallantly streaming, a Green Beret behind me requested I remove my cap. Mired in the throes of denial, I refused. He yanked my hat off, revealing my impressive Taliban combover. I woke up during the eighth inning. Those were confusing times.

You can purchase The Balding Handbook by David Stern here. Stern is donating some money from the sales of the book to The Happiness Plunge to help buy wigs for kids who are going through cancer treatments.

UPDATE: Congrats, David, for breaking onto Amazon’s Best Sellers in Parodies list.

UPDATE: David has created a White House petition to to “rename our incredibly insensitively named national symbol the, ‘Bald Eagle, to the ‘Follicly-Challenged” Eagle.'” This is important stuff, America.


My Top 2012 Books of 2012

Read a list of the top 2012 books of 2012.

OK, I didn’t read 2,012 books in 2012. That would be nuts. Who has the kind of time to read that many books? Besides Kim Kardashian, that is. And does she use that time to read books? No. Time squanderer! But I did read a bunch of books this year that I enjoyed, and if you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas, you should consider these.

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself
This book about how dumb I am is the smartest book I read in 2012, and I say that as someone who read Mike Polk’s Damn Right I’m From Cleveland (more on that one later). This book uses psychology to explain why human beings are a bunch of delusional freaks who make things like bad bosses, tall tales, Joe Biden and Fox News possible.

Especially valuable is the chapter on confirmation bias, which explains that people seek out news that comforts them. Yes, this means we live in a world in which Bill O’Reilly comforts people. I told you we were a bunch of freaks.

Steve Jobs
This fascinating book does not have a subtitle, but if it did, it would be “Steve Jobs: The Life of An Emotionally Abusive Dickhead Who Terrorized People Into Making Neat Things.”

Joe Tait: It’s Been a Real Ball: Stories from a Hall-of-Fame Sports Broadcasting Career
I grew up listening to Joe Tait call Cleveland Cavs games on WWWE during the 1980s. I usually watched the East Coast games on television. The Mountain and Pacific games were on when my parents watched television and — this being back when families only had one television — I was sent off to my room to listen to Tait describe the action on the court in rich detail. Thank God mom and dad never wanted to miss an episode of “L.A. Law.” Otherwise Joe Tait would not have been such a big part of my young life.

“Joe Tait: It’s Been a Real Ball” by Joe Tait and Terry Pluto gives Cleveland sports fans such as myself a glimpse of the man away from the microphone. Tait had a most impressive career. He created opportunities for himself, did his work the right way and touched a lot of lives. It wasn’t all roses. He was divorced. He watched a lot of bad baseball and basketball. He worked for Ted Stepien, insomuch as anyone could work for Ted Stepien. But he always gave the fans his best.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a must-read for anyone who has ever yelled “Line to the lane” or “Bingo!” or ”Three ball … GOT IT!” while playing hoops.

Oh, and I make a brief appearance in the book, but do not let that fact affect your decision to purchase this book either way.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
There are two schools of thought on willpower. It is either limited or unlimited. Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney write that willpower is finite–you only have so much willpower-giving glucose in your brain–and it can be used up, which is why I am writing this blog post while eating a fairly large sandwich. This book emphasizes the importance of willpower and shares several hacks on how to increase it. I was so inspired by this book I wrote this article about willpower for Livestrong.

Damn Right I’m From Cleveland
I reviewed it recently here. If you love Cleveland or hate Cleveland you will totally enjoy this book.

Oh, Title!
I enjoy all of my brother Dan’s work, and not just because I taught him everything he knows about writing, baseball and witty high-society repartee. This book of short stories is my favorite. You can check out a sample chapter of his patented brand of dark comedy here.

andy borowitzThe 50 Funniest American Writers
I gave this one a gushing review. An excerpt: “This book is best enjoyed slowly, taken in over the course of many weeks, so that each piece can be fully breathed in, not unlike a fine scotch, or a photograph of Mitt Romney mowing the lawn. That’s why it has taken so long for me to review it. I never do this with books. I usually power right through them. But you don’t just power right through H.L. Mencken. You’ll miss the way he makes fun of everything and everyone, including you.”

The Three Dollar Scholar – Awesome Advice for Acing Life’s Major Decisions and Mindless Debates
Jon Finkel, whom I interviewed, gives some great advice in this book. His bit about why you should always ask a woman the age of her cat before you start dating is inspired–and typical.

III Sovereigns
What would happen if the Three Wise Men from the birth of Christ were basically ninjas who walked in on a three-sided conflict among the creeping Roman annexation of Judea, the area’s upper class sycophantic Jews and the lower class Jews who’ve had quite enough of both of the other groups? Awesomeness involving swords and the baby Jesus, that’s what. If there is any justice in the world, this graphic novel will be a movie someday.

Faith and the Camp Snob: # 1 (Team Cheer)
I am not a middle school girl who wants to be a cheerleader (anymore), but if I was, I would devour the Team Cheer series. Written by my wife, Jen Jones Donatelli, these books–unlike so much of what is being aimed at young girls–are wholesome, entertaining fun in which no one cuts themselves, has an unwanted pregnancy or is forced to hunt other children for sport.

Ohio University 1804-2004: Spirit Of Singular Place
Finally got around to reading the history of my alma mater, Ohio University, and all I can say is college students today are a bunch of wimps. Back in the day, students had to hike through unforgiving wilderness just to get to Athens where, if they were lucky, only part of the campus would be washed away by floods every year. Do not let the fact that the top of my head can be seen in a photo in this book influence your buying decision either way.

Joe Donatelli is a freelance journalist who publishes The Humor Columnist. Follow him on Twitter