The Funny Man by John Warner

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The funny man is a middling comic in an unnamed city. By day he takes care of his infant son, by night he performs in small clubs, sandwiched between other aspiring comics. His wife waits tables to support the family. It doesn’t sound like much, but they’re happy, more or less. Until the day he comes up with it. His thing. His gimmick. And everything changes. He’s a headliner, and the venues get bigger fast. Pretty soon it’s Hollywood and a starring role in a blockbuster, all thanks to the gimmick.
Which is: He performs with his fist in his mouth to the wrist. Jokes, impressions, commercials—all with his fist in his mouth to the wrist. The people want him—are crazy for him—but only with his fist in his mouth.
And the funny man, he is tired of having his fist in his mouth.
Thus, as the novel begins, his career’s in tatters, his family’s left him, and he’s on trial for shooting an unarmed man six times. But for the second time in his life, against all odds, he’s found love. This time with another celebrity, who may or may not be sending him coded messages, and may or may not be equally in love—or even know he exists. A coruscating satire of our culture of celebrity, this debut novel documents one individual’s slide from everyman to monster, even as it reveals the potential for grace—and mercy—in his life.

About John Warner

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John Warner is the managing editor of McSweeney's Internet Tendency. His book, My First Presidentiary: A Scrapbook of George W. Bush (with Kevin Guilfoile) was a number one Washington Post bestseller. John is also the editor of three volumes of material culled from the website, Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans; Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists; and The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes. Warner teaches at Clemson University in South Carolina and is a consulting editor to the South Carolina Review.
Published September 27, 2011 by Soho Press. 288 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Funny Man

Kirkus Reviews

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Warner's cultural commentary is passé when not obvious, and in going after a George Saunders–type absurdism, he isn't especially funny or clever (the protagonist's fondness for Kick in the A$$, a reality show he invents on which volunteers get booted in the rear for money, is indistinguishable fr...

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Publishers Weekly

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This debut novel from the editor of McSweeney's Internet Tendency is a surprisingly tame takedown of celebrity culture.America's favorite comedian is on trial for manslaughter, and "the funny man"Â 's lawyer, Barry, has a unique defense: not guilty by way of celebrity.

Jul 04 2011 | Read Full Review of The Funny Man

New York Journal of Books

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The rise and fall of this Funny Man and his carnival trial comprise John Warner’s raucous debut novel, The Funny Man.Anyone who knows a little about Sam Kinnison, Richard Pryor, or Lenny Bruce understands that comedians can be more sad than funny.

Sep 27 2011 | Read Full Review of The Funny Man

Time Out Chicago

Apatow gave up trying to make that character empathic about halfway through the film, and Warner deserves credit for trying to inject some heart into his funny man—the domestic scenes are well drawn.

Oct 05 2011 | Read Full Review of The Funny Man

News Review.

The jury’s consensus is that the funny man is “untalented, successful, and a bad husband and father.” John Warner’s novel, The Funny Man, takes the reader into the mind of a budding but untalented comic who acquires “the thing,” a schtick that brings him overnight success and a role as a leading ...

Oct 27 2011 | Read Full Review of The Funny Man

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