Simon Rich got a two-book deal from Random House before he even left college, where he was president of the Harvard Lampoon, a position that set him up nicely for his current gig writing for SNL, all of which is appropriate for the son of New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich. Yes, he has a résumé. But Rich, who looks like a young Pete Doherty without the vascular damage and the sweating, knocked out both comedy books with a style thats utterly fresh. The latest, Free-Range Chickens, is filled with jokes about the anxieties, fears, and misplaced passion of young, awkward boys; theres also some God, animals, and Count Dracula. Most are composed of simple dialogue, like the discussion he had with his mom about the tooth fairy (Is she a cannibal?) and the conversation among the people who hid in his closet when he was seven (Freddy Krueger: Ive wanted to kill him ever since he saw my movie.) Theyre also short. Heres all of Dalmatians, which takes up a whole page: Hey, look, the trucks stopping./Did they take us to the park this time?/No its a fire. Another horrible fire./What the hell is wrong with these people? Heres a third of Terrifying Childhood Experiences: Peek-a-boo!/Jesus Christ, you came out of nowhere. Not ironic, not windy, not mean-spirited, but still funny Rich figured it out.
Wed., May 27, 7 p.m., 2009