By December 1, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

A Shorter, Faster, Funnier Book Group

I doubt that many book groups have tried a volume like the Eric Lane and Nina Shengold edited Shorter, Faster, Funnier: Comic Plays and Monologues. After all, the authors collected within are not terribly well known outside certain circles (with perhaps the exceptions of Christopher Durang, Warren Leight, and Mary Louise Wilson). The works within are short, not full length. And it’s a book of theater pieces… who reads those?!

Sadly, these characteristics that would probably stop most groups from picking up Shorter, Faster, Funnier are exactly those that make it such a fine selection. Anthologies are a great way to explore new writers. Short works like this are a great choice for groups, especially in months like this when reading time is hard for many to come by. And theatrical pieces have the wonderful side benefit of being loads of fun to read out loud. Because these works are quick, you could pick out several and read them over the course of the evening, interspersing your dramatic adventures with discussion and plenty of laughter.

Did I mention funny? There’s something for every sense of humor in this collection. I particular liked Reunions, by Billy Aronson, which begins like a typical high school reunion piece, until we discover that some of the attendees have become pirates, a giraffe, and even Santa Claus. What makes the piece especially droll is that despite these exotic occupations, they still have the same insecurities and grudges that people often carry with them to reunions.

There are some hilarious monologues. I particularly enjoyed Edwin Sanchez’s Ernesto the Magnificent, about a rather pathetic sword swallower, and Mary Louise Wilson’s Tirade, a clever look at jealousy between actors.

Garth Wingfield’s Mary Just Broke Up with This Guy reads like the most manic episode of speed dating ever. Eric Coble’s H. R. puts a humorous spin on the very real modern predicament of facing yet another round of cutbacks at the office. And Ean Miles Kessler takes a funny look at Brotherly Love, in which one brother, a he-man type, reacts to the other’s announcement that he’s coming out of the closet. The results are crass, often lamely stupid, but very believable behavior for siblings. Or you might try the sly Particle Board, in which Elizabeth Meriwether invents an imaginary form of historical black humor, which involves punishing oneself for dumb comments by self-flagellation with a piece of cheap wood. The play is a pseudo-documentary about this lost humor, and it’s not just funny, but laden with wry commentary about race and humor.

You might read this book and choose an entirely different set of pieces to highlight, and that subjectivity is all part of the fun when discussing what makes us laugh. You could read many of these pieces in as much time as it takes me to describe them, so pick up Shorter, Faster, Funnier and get started. If you can’t find copies of this particular book, try a local library, as many will have a shelf of similar one-act plays, comic monologues, or other short humor pieces.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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