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The Real Jack Handey


Stashed in: SNL, Writing!, comedy, Mark Twain, Awesome

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It seemed as if to them Handey is not just writing jokes but trying to achieve some kind of Platonic ideal of the joke form. “There is purity to his comedy,” Semple said. “His references are all grandmas and Martians and cowboys. It’s so completely free from topical references and pop culture that I feel like everyone who’s gonna make a Honey Boo Boo joke should do some penance and read Jack Handey.”

“For a lot of us, he was our favorite writer, and the one we were most in awe of,” said James Downey, who wrote for “S.N.L.” “When I was head writer there, my policy was just to let him do his thing and to make sure that nothing got in the way of him creating.”

“He was the purest writer,” Franken said. “It was pure humor, it wasn’t topical at all. It was Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.”

The humorist Ian Frazier, a friend of Handey’s, told me, “I see Jack as in the tradition of Mark Twain or Will Rogers. He writes jokes that just keep on going. They’re not gonna crash and burn because they’re about Don Johnson, and people forget who Don Johnson was. Jokes are by their nature perishable. If you can write a timeless joke, that’s an incredible thing.”

Al Franken was a writer on Saturday Night Live in the same era (1980s).

Al Franken was Stuart Smalley, the "gosh darn it people like me" guy.

Jack Handey went for zingers like this one:

jack handey quote

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