May 17, 2018

The Wodehouse Prize committee confirms that last year was a humorless clusterfuck


At last, there’s proof of just how unfunny the past year has been. We knew it. I mean, we lived it. Three hundred and sixty-five days tripped over themselves in unmitigated calamity. That the best comedy film was also a horror film was perhaps a sign of the times.

Surely much of the colorlessness came from the depressing state of our state, with a humorless buffoon flinging poop at us from his White Monkeyhouse. Donald Trump is not a jovial fella. CNN has found only one recording of him actually laughing. Even late night comedy monologues have become less laugh riots, more of an uneasy groans at “sweet burns.”

And the world of fiction writing hasn’t seemed up to the task of tickling our ribs either. This year, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction was not awarded because—surprise, surprise—none of the entries were funny enough. If this were a plot point in a Jeeves novel, Bertie Wooster would be bracing himself with a snifter of brandy and racing off to his aunt’s house for a first-rate meal. But since it’s not, and since humor might be the cartilage keeping the artificial knee of our sanity from slipping its joint, this news comes with a five-ton heart. That is to say, sadly.

As Alison Flood reports at the Guardian, “This year’s new novels are not much of a laugh — at least according to the judges of the UK’s only prize for comic fiction, who have taken the unprecedented decision to withhold the award after failing to be sufficiently amused by the books submitted.” While sixty-two titles were up for consideration, none chuckled loudly enough to be worthy of sitting beside P.G. Wodehouse.

Admittedly, the tastes of the judges might be worth exploring. Their year might have been worse than the rest of ours’. And after all, the Wodehouse has in the past been awarded to Ian McEwan’s Solar, a book that’s hardly side-splitting, and Howard Jacobson’s The Mighty Walzer, which reads like a drier Forrest Gump. Of course, the awards to Terry Pratchet and Marina Lewycka make complete and perfect sense.

To all the aspiring comedy novelists out there, better luck next year.



Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.