This is a rather strange collection of over sixty stories and magazine pieces published between 1916 (a Ring Lardner story) and 1982 (work by Garrison Keillor, Bruce McCall, John Mortimer and Calvin Trillin). By author birthdate (which is the order chosen to include the writings) it ranges from Stephen Leacock (born 1869) to Ian Frazier (born 1951). It includes works by well-known authors and humorists such as Stephen Leacock, H. L. Mencken, Damon Runyon, P.G. Wodehouse, Ring Lardner, Marianne Moore, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Groucho Marx, J. B. Morton (Beachcomber), James Thurber, E. B. White, Evelyn Waugh, S. J. Perelman, Eudora Welty, Peter De Vries, Flann O´Brien (Myles na Gopaleen), John Cheever, Saul Bellow, Jessica Mitford, Kingsley Amis, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Joseph Heller, Jean Kerr, Truman Capote, Thomas Berger, Art Buchwald, V. S. Naipaul, Tom Wolfe, Philip Roth, Woody Allen and Nora Ephron. However, I agree with with other Goodread reviewers in that it is a very disappointing collection in spite of an excellent forward written by the book´s editor Mordecai Richler. Many of the stories now appear hopelessly dated, but the worst thing about the collection is the number of works that simply fall flat, or at most manage to raise a fleeting and wan smile. It may be true that one person´s funny or ingenious is another person´s sad or even outrage or disgust, but I do wonder why this collection, as a whole, fails so miserably.

Many of the stories in the collection are parodies and some topics have probably been ridiculed to death (hippy back-to-nature communes for example). The success of parodies depend a great deal on knowledge of who or what is being parodied. and many of the satiricized originals (Eisenhower´s discoursive style for example) have faded out of public recognition -so unlessthe model somehow represents a type, as inA.J. Liebling´s highly effective report on the populist demagoguery of three-time Louisana governor Earl Long (Nothing but a little pissant), the humor may simply have faded away. The book includes parodies or satires on authors or topics such as Shakespeare (Maurice Baring´s King Lear´s Daughter), romances (Stephen Leacock´s Gertrude the governess or simple seventeen and Frank Sullivan´s The Cliché Expert testifies on Love), opera plots (Robert Benchley´s Opera synopses), Hemingway (E. B. White´s Across the street and into the grill), Raymond Chandler (S. J. Perelman´s Farewell, my lovely appetizer), William Faulkner (Peter de Vries´Requiem for a noun or Intruder in the dust and Kenneth Tynan´s Just plain folks), Francoise Sagan (Jean Kerr´s Toujours Tristesse), government bureacratese (Art Buchwald´s Saving paper), magazine interviews of bestseller authors (Wilfrid Sheed´s Four hacks), Eisenhower (Oliver Jensen´s The Gettysburg Address in Eisenhowerese), psychoanalysis (Marshall Brickman: The analytical napkin, popular pre-1950 magazines (Bruce McCall´s Mad-like illustrated Popular Workbench, Jewish mothers (Dan Greenburg´s How to be a Jewish Mother and even Human Rights manifestos (Garrison Keillor´s Shy Rights: Why not pretty soon?).

Surprisingly, it seems to me that Richler picked pretty much the worst of Leacock, Ring Lardner, George S. Kaufman, Marianne Moore, George S. Kaufman, Beachcomber and Evelyn Waugh, amongst others. John Cheever is represented by his cruel and mean-spirited The Chaste Clarissa, while the humor in some other stories can only be described as snickering, sophomoronic humor (John Mortimer´s Clinging to the wreckage), while other selections, such as Stanley Elkin´s Bernie Elkin story of a stalking are so obsessive, gross and devoid of humor as to be positively disturbing.

I recommend you search for the better stories elsewhere and steer clear of this very disappointing book.

Very funny... Five stars (2 selections)
-Groucho Marx: Letters to Warner Brothers-a Marx Brothers classic
-Woody Allen: The Kugelmass episode, his written forerunner of films such as Play it again Sam, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Midnight in Paris, in which the line between reality and fiction temporarily blurs.

Funny... Four stars (7 selections)
-Russell Baker: Bomb math,a savagely ironic, almost swiftean take on fomer JFK Defense Secretary Robert McNamara-like attitudes to planning war.
-Thomas Wolfe: The mid-Atlantic man
-Terry Southern: I am Mike Hammer, a very funny, tongue in cheek interview with Micky Spillane when he played his hard-boiled detective character, Mike Hammer, in the 1963 film The Girl Hunters.
-A.J. Liebling: Nothing but a little pissant
-Kingsley Amis: Another goddam Englishman
-Dan Greenberg: How to be a Jewish mother
-Art Buchwald: Saving paper

OK... Three stars (11 selections)
-J. B. Morton (Beachcomber): The intrusions of Captain Foulenough
-Flann O´Brien (Myles na Gopaleen): Keats and Chapman, which are simply some very elaborate and strained puns.
-Joseph Heller: Gold´s stepmother
-Eudora Welty: Why I live at the P.O.
-Saul Bellow: Excerpt from To Jerusalem and back
-Bruce Jay Friedman: The lonely guy´s apartment
-Wilfrid Sheed: Four hacks.
-V. S. Naipaul: The Mechanical Genius
-Marshall Brickman: The analytical napkin
-Garrison Keillor: Shy Rights: Why not pretty soon?
-Stephen Leacock: Gertrude the governess or simple seventeen

Faint smiles... Two stars (23 selections)
-Maurice Baring: King Lear´s Daughter
-Frank Sullivan: The Cliché Expert testifies on Love)
-Robert Benchley: Opera synopses -it seemed funnier to me the first time I read it...
-James Thurber: The breaking up of the Winships
-Damon Runyon: Butch minds the baby, dated but still readable.
-Donald Barthelme: Game
-Thomas Berger: Chef Reinhart
-Nora Ephron: A few words about breasts
-Jessica Mitford: Emigration
-P. G. Wodehouse: Ukridge´s accident syndicate
-Wolcott Gibbs: Time... Fortune... Life... Luce
-Stella Gibson: Excerpt from Cold Comfort Farm
-S. J. Perelman: Farewell, my lovely appetizer
-Leo Rosten: Mr. K*a*p*l*a*n, the comparative and the superlative
-Peter de Vries: Requiem for a noun or Intruder in the dust
-Oliver Jensen: The Gettysburg Address in Eisenhowerese -judging from this parody, I suspect Eisenhower might have been a pioneer in mealy-mouthed, politically correct language innovations.
-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: Report on the Barnhouse effect
-Jean Kerr: Toujours Tristesse
-Truman Capote: A day´s work
-Thomas Meehan: Yma dream
-Bruce McCall: Popular Workbench
-Calvin Trillin: Dinner at the De La Rentas´
-Alan Coren: Long ago and far away

Not funny... One star (21 selections)
-Ring Lardner: The Busher´s Honeymoon
-Marianne Moore: Correspondence with David Wallace
-Evelyn Waugh: Winner takes all
-Beryl Bainbridge: Dinner at Binny´s
-Cyra McFadden: Hip wedding on Mount Tam
-Ian Frazier: Dating your Mom
-H. L. Mencken: Recollections of Notable Cops
-George S. Kaufman: If men played cards as women do
-E. B. White: Across the street and into the grill
-Kenneth Tynan: Just plain folks
-Max Apple: The oranging of America
-Roy Blount Jr.: Trash no more
-Veronica Geng: My Mao
-Lynn Caraganis: America´s Cup ´83: The Sherpa Challenge
-Lisa Alther: The Commune
-John Mortimer: Clinging to the wreckage
-Fran Lebowitz: Notes on "Trick"
-Alexander Theroux: Mrs. Proby gets hers
-Philip Roth: Whacking off
-John Cheever: The Chaste Clarissa
-Stanley Elkin: Bernie Perk