Humor: A Reader for Writers


Not one but two “Funny Women” pieces are included in Oxford University Press’s Humor: A Reader for WritersErin Somers’s “Funny Women #99: Modern Vice” and Katie Burgess’s “Funny Women #102: How to Read a Poem” (only women whose last names end with “s” were considered, so do not feel bad if you were unfavorably named).

While editors Kathleen Volk Miller and Marion Wrenn developed Humor for a freshman composition course—hence the “interdisciplinary mix of public, academic, and cultural reading selections, providing students with the rhetorical knowledge and compositional skills required to participate effectively in discussions about humor,” unlike Adam Carolla—the impressive table of contents (including Rumpus columnist Steve Almond) make it required reading for everyone. (It’s available for purchase here and now.)

Humor also includes work from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,, Kugelmass: A Journal of Literary Humor, Painted Bride Quarterlythe New York Times, the Paris Review, and more. Erin and Katie’s jokes appear alongside jokes by Nora Ephron, George Saunders, David Sedaris, Lizz Winstead, and my friend’s mom’s crush Billy Collins.

The book’s no-joke description:

From Jerry Seinfeld’s legendary standup to Kristen Wiig’s sidesplitting impersonations, Humor: A Reader for Writers explores the key patterns and features within numerous comedic sources in order to show how jokes work. This survey looks at comedy in a variety of genres including popular media, academic essays, personal narratives, fiction, and poetry.

The anthology is part of a series that “approaches a topic of contemporary conversation from multiple perspectives,” which is necessary for comedy, because I said so.

Tangential origin story: the “Funny Women” column is a response to Christopher Hitchens’s Vanity Fair essay “Why Women Aren’t Funny” (also in the collection), as if to say, “Why They Are.” An anthology titled Humor: A Reader for Writers, published by Oxford University Press, which shows “how jokes work,” includes David Foster Wallace, and includes two “Funny Women” feels very “full circle”.

So read it for fun, for work, for help, for laughs, for bathroom interludes, in transit, or instead of human interaction.

And then submit your own funny writing to our Rumpus submission manager powered by Submittable. See first: the Funny Women Submission Guidelines.

Elissa Bassist edits the Funny Women column. She teaches humor writing at The New School and Catapult. Follow her on Twitter, and visit for more literary, feminist, and personal criticism. More from this author →