If there’s one thing that can consistently keep me engaged in a story, it’s a great sense of humor. Humor, especially when you least expect it, can be disarming and encourages you to stay on your toes. The stories on this list are excellent in their own right, but they’re also stories I’m particularly fond of because they were able to genuinely make me laugh. Like, really hard. Prepare your ribs.
- “The Era” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
After reading the first couple lines of this story, it should be pretty obvious why it’s on the list. “The Era” is set in a postapocalyptic dystopian future where everyone says exactly what they’re thinking, with zero regard for anyone’s personal feelings. In fact, there’s no room for feelings in this world – only honesty, pride, and intelligence. Lying is what caused The Big Quick War, which came after the Long Big War. And if you have a problem with that, then maybe you need to inject some more of the mandated “Good” drug into your body. Yeah, it gets pretty weird and, as you can probably tell, pretty funny.
- “The Man Who Invented the Calendar” by B.J. Novak
Did you know that B.J. Novak, aka Ryan from The Office, writes short stories? Did you also know that they’re hilarious? “The Man Who Invented the Calendar” is about exactly that – some guy who comes up with the idea of dividing time into days, months, and years. Written in the form of a log over the course of the year, it follows all his ups and downs, successful pitches and abandoned ideas, and how it all lead to the creation of the calendar we know and love today (Did you hear about Neptember?) It’s very tongue-and-cheek and a pretty light read, so I’d highly recommend giving it a shot.
- “Tiffany” by Stacey Richter
This is by far the shortest story on the list, but definitely earns its place. Since it’s so short, I’ll try to avoid spoilers and just say: it follows a very unconventional narrator going through a quintessential human experience. Please read until the very end, it’s absolutely worth it.
- “Brownies” by ZZ Packer
This one has to come with a content warning for use of racial slurs and some potentially triggering depictions of disability. “Brownies” hooked me from the first line. It’s more of a promise, really: “By our second day at Camp Crescendo, the girls in my Brownie troop had decided to kick the a—es of each and every girl in Brownie Troop 909.” If that sounds like a good hook to you, then we are one and the same. Just another warning: it gets pretty heavy and goes somewhere you probably don’t expect. But the story is also undeniably funny. From the interactions between the girl scouts to the twisted use of dramatic irony, Packer creates a narrative that’s raw and extremely relevant to our culture, while still finding a sense of humor underneath it all.
- “Sophia” by B.J. Novak
That’s right, B.J. Novak gets two entries on this list! I mean, the guy wrote for The Office, of course he’s really funny. “Sophia” isn’t as consistently humorous as “Calendar”, even though the premise is probably even more ridiculous: a man who self identifies as a “romantic” buys a sex robot who then falls in love with him (the first robot to ever love), leading him to promptly return it. The narrator has this defensive tone throughout the whole story, as if he’s constantly aware that you’re judging him, which makes for some great moments of humor. It also catches you off-guard in more ways than one. Check it out!
Adrian Saavedra is double majoring in Creative Writing and Philosophy. He is working in the Fiction section and is currently on his 600th rewatch of Breaking Bad.