Family-oriented, family-directed humor from the longtime Prairie Home Companion head writer.
What’s a terrible place to take your family on vacation? Why, for one, “Vladimir Putin’s House of Fun.” And, for another, “Walmart.” Papa kids; he jokes; he japes, always within a G- (or, in daring moments, PG-) rated milieu. The formula is pure post-Keillor-ian Midwestern, Mort Sahl toned way down: Start with an observation (“men are ruthless and aggressive and powerful”), joke it away (“that’s how we kept wild animals from eating the children”), and then carry it over to a secondary observation (“this is why putting this animal instinct aside and acting like a ‘great guy’ is a fraud”) And again: “Fish are great. You always know where they are, you’re never going to find a fish eating out of your garbage, and they don’t jump up on the kitchen table and start licking plates.” It’s shtick, but within its own narrow confines, it works just fine. It’s not too challenging or too topical, and it draws people in with an in-on-the-joke “oh, yeah.” If you’re a parent, you’re already in on a big swath of Papa’s humor; it makes eminent good business sense, on that front, to buy into his idea of a restaurant for kids called Plain Pasta: “Anyone with a child would be making reservations months in advance, planning their birthday parties and ordering take-out.” No doubt. And no one with a child will contest the author’s position that of all the categories of relatives one might have, the aunt is the coolest. In small doses the groaners are great, but in larger ones—well, it’s like being around someone much older and forcing a smile to keep the peace.
If Lawrence Welk had been a comedian, this is the book he might have written—pleasing for a certain demographic.