Monday, September 23, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 153: Susan Orlean, Shiftless Little Loafers (#94)

Susan Orlean, "Shiftless Little Loafers" (1996) from The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion:

This short New Yorker piece is included in the Andy Borowitz-edited LoA book on humor, which feels somewhat... narrow? Limiting? If I take this out to the streets of San Angelo and tell everyone the joke here--wouldn't it be hilarious if we treated babies like loafers who ought to get jobs?--I'm not sure I'd get the same reaction I'm sure this got in the New Yorker office. Or even worse: it might get the exact same reaction--a polite smile, a nod, a "look at the time."

Because the idea is cute, and in Thurber-esque fashion, that central idea lets Orlean hang a bunch of funny moments on it--why do babies love to push their own strollers?, this baby gave me the same cold shoulder that I practice on the bus to make people leave me alone, babies in sunglasses look as pompous as Italian film producers, etc. But at the end of the day, what do we really take away from this? It's like Swift without the bite. This is safe comedy, like emailing someone a picture of a pie instead of hitting them in the face with a real pie. What really gets me about this style of comedy is simply that it causes a chuckle rather than a laugh. Yeah, from an objective POV, babies sure are little loafers-cum-shitheads. Just let Louis C. K. tell you all about it.

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