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Simon Rich's Free-Range Chickens

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 3, 2008

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Simon Rich's Free-Range Chickens is really funny and absolutely worth reading, but you'll have to get beyond his alarming author photo first: His hair looks like it's been scrambled by a Flowbee and his shirt seems four sizes too big. I'm used to getting my humorous essays from dour bald men like Nick Hornby, not a kid who can't shave yet. But damn if Simon Rich isn't hilarious. The son of The New York Times' Frank Rich, Simon is a writer for Saturday Night Live, but he's much funnier than that (thank god) in this book, which is divided into sections like Growing Up, Relationships, Animals and God. The mini essays in Growing Up take familiar tropes of childhood and turn them upside down. In "A conversation between the people who hid in my closet every night when I was seven," Freddie Krueger, Chucky, Dead Uncle Whose Body I Saw At An Open Casket Funeral, and Murderer From the Six O'Clock News all discuss how they should kill him. "Frogs" is a dialogue between dead frogs reviewing Rich's ninth-grade dissection report. They say things like, "He couldn't come up with one more page of observations about our dead bodies?" and "He didn't even bother to run it through spell check." This early work is the best, but Rich has a good ear all around. Each piece is exceedingly short--think Mitch Hedberg or Steven Wright--but that's the beauty of them. No concept is overworked or tired. In fact, some mini essays will leave you feeling a little empty. But the book had me laughing out loud. What a nice young boy.

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