For a fledgling magazine only on Issue 2, Kugelmass has snagged some pretty impressive comedic authors. It offers 13 writers of essays, stories and “whatnot” and starts us off with “nonsense from the editor,” David Holub. It promises uncompromised humor, and it definitely delivers. It’s not humor in the slapstick sense, but in the emotionally distressed, heartbroken psychosis variety, which makes for some pretty hilarious thought processes woven into essays and stories.
First we must receive a lesson in funny from the “Ask Dr. Funny” column by Jonathan Silverman. He shows us there is a science to funny and that jokes can be deconstructed to find that they are actually anti-jokes (“a joke whose aim is not to be funny in its content but in its telling”), such as the old “Why did the chicken cross the road” joke. He explains, “The joke’s power is in its transitive power not in the actual telling. It’s similar to someone rubbing a pencil lead on a quarter and having you roll it down your face.” Silverman’s dry, empirical explanations for what is funny end up being ironically hilarious themselves, as he even questions his own funniness and has a moment of self-doubt. His column sets the stage for the ridiculousness to come.
There is something so comforting in being able to laugh at the misery of others. This issue is delectable in that fashion. Dan Kennedy’s “I Believe This Was the End of My Clothing Catalogue Copywriting Job” is pathetically raw. He gives us three examples of the ads he got fired over, each one progressively sappier. A poor recently-dumped guy just trying to make it through his workday, writing an ad for a cashmere skirt that goes something like this: “Tomorrow when you’re gone, I swear to God, I’m right back to being dead. Upper-waist of wool and cashmere blend. Trimmed with woven fringe. Dry clean only.”
“On having Small Hands and Feet” by Daniel Nester is an earnest defense from a man with small hands, letting us know that he is aware of the fact he has small hands, and he is working on accepting the stereotypes that come with it. Sleuthing around for answers for his small hands, he writes, “After reading a book on birth defects, I asked my mother if she smoked while she was pregnant. ‘Why would you ask me such a thing?’ she says, and takes another drag of her Marlboro Light 100.” The absurdity of this piece is what makes Nester so endearing, small hands and all.
Ellen Ferguson’s “Tina Fey Ruined My Beach Vacation” is an insanely hilarious satire about a woman on vacation who turns slightly into a stalker when she spots Tina Fey on the beach beside her. Of course, she blames Tina for her crazy antics. Her stalker journal reads:
On Wednesday she went by for more ice cream while I sat at a sidewalk café eating shrimp Caesar salad, so I had to send my daughter to the ice cream place, and have her buy another T-shirt, while I paid my bill hurriedly—I had to use cash, Tina, since I had to get to you, and my funds were dwindling, and I did not appreciate this. Whatever.
This can’t be a humor journal without some good-old one-liners, and there is one at the bottom of each page such as, “One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen is a robot in a wheelchair.” You can almost hear someone hitting a microphone and saying, “Is this thing on?” Warning: Do not read this journal while in a busy coffee shop. You may get strange looks from people as you shoot coffee through your nose with tears streaming down your face and a stomach ache from laughing so hard. I’m not saying that happened to me, but I’m not denying it, either.