The Funny Man by John Warner

29th August 2011

*I received an e-galley of this book through NetGalley from Soho Press. Publication date is 09/06/11. Preorder from Indiebound here. I wrote this review immediately after reading it about a month ago.

The funny man has always been funny enough. As a kid, he didn’t know the word for someone who makes people laugh, but he asked. Comic. At first the laughs come in small clubs late at night while his wife and baby wait for him at home, his wife exhausted from her waitressing job.

One day, his stay-at-home-dad routine pays off. The kid sticks his hand in his mouth and makes a noise, laughing, and the funny guy repeats the gag, complete with impressions of celebrities, for an agent, and then to bigger audiences for larger amounts of money and then on the film screen for obscene amounts of money, until the funny man is no longer amused by sticking his fist in his own mouth. Yet sticking his fist in his mouth and talking is the only way people pay him. The funny man begins breaking under the pressure, using different arrays of pills to numb his physical and psychological pain, until he loses his wife and child, his adoring fans, and eventually his freedom, after he shoots a man who tries to mug him.

I just – not ten minutes ago – finished this book, and though I usually like to sit with my thoughts after I finish a book, this was the sort that made me realize I had to write off the cuff, getting my initial impressions down immediately. When I saw this book offered on NetGalley, I was expecting a graphic novel. Why? Apparently  because I can be a real dumbass when I judge books only by their covers. What I found was a true American novel – one that has its pulse on our sometimes-ridiculous, oft-ludicrous, more-often-than-not sad culture (am I allowed to use that many hyphens?).

Told from the funny man’s unreliable perspective (dude is on all sorts of drugs), his mind drifts in jail and during his trial to the sets of circumstances leading up to his incarceration, all while planning an escape to be with a young tennis player he watches obsessively on DVR.

In turns funny, brutally honest, and downright depressing, The Funny Man holds a mirror up to celebrity and comes away with a bleak reflection tinged with a dark humor. Though not unkind, Warner also criticizes the masses who so willingly seek out and drive the insanity of the rich and famous. (If you doubt me, turn on the TV or walk past a newsstand and try NOT to learn about Kim Kardashian’s wedding.)

This is the kind of book that will:

-make you stay up all night reading and blinking rapidly in disbelief at the lives of the rich and famous.

-make you wish you were independently wealthy so you can stay home and read.

-make you wonder what’s for dinner.

-make you wonder what’s on TV.

-make you want to smack someone, usually the characters.


  • Love your review. I, too, am a complete ass when it comes to judging books by their covers and knowing this, am STILL not cured by this affliction.

    • Ah, so glad to know I’m not the only one. 🙂

  • I am a classic judger of covers and even though it has led to mixed reading results, I still do it. I would have passed on this based on the cover — vaguely too hipster for me — but as usual, you’ve made me challenge my opinions and now I’m thinking I need this one!

    • See, I loved the cover, but I was totally wanting/expecting a graphic novel. For some reason, I think you would really like this book. As a hater of all things reality television and celeb, it made me cringe, grimace, and then slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y feel for this guy. Totally not my typical read, but I really feel like John Warner pegged it with this novel.

  • Jen

    Wow- love the review! Definitely makes me want to read this now! Looking forward to it and I will be reviewing this as well. It is true that we tend to have a fascination with the rich and famous, whether or not we say we like them (love/hate relationship would be putting it mildy for some.) Seems to be a very thought-provoking book and cannot wait for the 6th! (any way reviewers can get it sooner? LOL….for real though? haha)

    Love your blog and am now following.


    • Thanks so much! I would say yes, most people are fascinated by rich people. I get to stay away from that, mostly because I don’t have cable. BUT – that doesn’t mean I don’t see it. I mean, heck – like I say in the review: Kim Kardashian is everywhere. I just don’t know why. 🙂

      I really enjoyed it and got it from NetGalley. If you have an ereader just register. That one is an automatic download. Can’t wait to see what you think about it.

      And thanks so much for the words of encouragement. 🙂

  • Great review and sounds like a great read – love funny and do not fear depressing; a combo sounds quite good. I do like that cover.

    • Well then if that’s your winning combo, definitely pick it up.

      Thanks so much!

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