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


Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.