"Emails from an A**hole: Real People Being Stupid"
By John Lindsay
Sterling, 216 pages, $14.95
"Sh*t My Dad Says"
By Justin Halpern
It Books, 158 pages, $15.99
The humor section of a bookstore can be a confusing place.
It's crowded with comics, commentaries, essay collections, Web site-turned-books and a lot of other uncategorizable, (hopefully) funny texts.
With "Emails from an A**hole: Real People Being Stupid" by John Lindsay and "Sh*t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern, we are dealing with the last two categories. Unfortunately, only one of these books is actually funny.
First the bad:
Lindsay, as the cover of his book, "Emails from an A**hole," says, is the "evil genius behind DontEvenReply.com." On the Web site, Lindsay posts a succession of funny e-mail exchanges between himself and unwitting classified ad-posters.
The exchanges start with Lindsay, who trolls the Internet for people who have posted ads looking to sell or acquire anything from a job to a pet to a TV to a car. He responds to their posted requests with outlandish offers and stories that seem to always end up with the original ad-poster cussing out Lindsay.
After reading about three of these exchanges, they quickly become draining.
For example, there is the ad from a male model that says he will do any type of modeling work to get his career off the ground. Lindsay responds to him with an offer to be in a shoot for a fake magazine covered in cow manure (the model turns it down). Then there is the 18-year-old looking for a job to save up for a car that Lindsay offers a gig killing and dismembering his faux barn full of horses. Or, finally, there is the little league coach looking for a team sponsor, which Lindsay responds to with an offer from the fake owner of porno company called "Barely Legal Super Sluts."
See what I mean?
Additionally, Lindsay seems to focus his attention on responding to posts that have misspellings or are written in all capitals. Does it surprise anyone that people posting ads for $40 big-screen HD TVs or $5,000 luxury SUVs may have a spelling problem?
Now to the good:
After his girlfriend leaves him, Justin Halpern is forced to move back into his childhood house in San Diego and take freelance writing jobs. This new existence means spending a lot of time with Sam, his retired father, who is, to put it mildly, direct with his opinions.
"Sh*t My Dad Says" began in 2009 as a twitter account where Halpern would post his father's off-color, yet hilarious, comments. The account quickly caught fire after several high-profile celebrities and comedians followed it. Today, "Sh*t My Dad Says" has over a million twitter followers, a book and a new TV show starring William Shatner and Chicago-local Jonathan Sadowski.
The book is divided into themed chapters that begin with a long-form comical story about Halpern's family life and end with a listing of Sam's opinions on various everyday topics. These listings look something like: "On Making a Christmas List: "You ranked the twenty-five presents you want, in order of how much you want them? Are you insane? I said tell me what you want for Christmas not make a college football poll.""
Here is a smattering of my favorites of these listings:
"On Feeling Comfortable in One's Own Skin: "It's my house, I'll wear clothes when I want to wear clothes, and I'll be naked when I want to be naked. The fact that your friends are coming over shortly is inconsequential to that - a.k.a. I don't give shit.""
"On the Varsity Baseball End-of-the-Year Fund-Raiser: "Just tell me how much money I have to give you to never leave this couch.""
"On Pringles Flavors: "I am not eating something called 'pizzalicious.' That's not even a fucking adjective. You can't just add 'licious' to nouns. That's bullshit.""
The book ends with a story as touching as the last few minutes of "Miracle on 34th Street." Why, when readers have fallen in love with this stubborn curmudgeon, do we see this other side of Sam?
"I guess I want people to know that maybe I'm not the warmest human being on the fucking planet," Sam tells Justin, "but I love the shit out of you."
This 'moral' is what defines the difference between "Emails from an A**hole: Real People Being Stupid" and "Sh*t My Dad Says." Even though both tickle readers' funny bones, Halpern's book tugs at their heartstrings. That is what will make "Sh*t My Dad Says" a book readers will come back to again and again - especially at this time of year when most need a bit of encouragement to make it through another family Thanksgiving dinner.
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