The Rich Are Different

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 that’s utterly fresh. The latest, Free-Range Chickens, is filled with jokes about the anxieties, fears, and misplaced passion of young, awkward boys; there’s 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: “I’ve wanted to kill him ever since he saw my movie.”) They’re also short. Here’s all of “Dalmatians,” which takes up a whole page: “Hey, look, the truck’s stopping./Did they take us to the park this time?/No … it’s a fire. Another horrible fire./What the hell is wrong with these people?” Here’s 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

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