And Other Ways to Read These Stories
By Alan Zweibel
Villard, Hardcover, 9780345500861, 272pp.
Publication Date: September 16, 2008
“Garry, it’s Alan. Look, I’m calling because I just felt the need to tell someone that I’m forty-four years old, and about an hour ago, for the first time in my life, I put suntan lotion on my ass. I’ll explain later. Bye.”
In Clothing Optional, Alan Zweibel offers a collection of laugh-out-loud personal narratives, essays, short fiction, dialogues, and even a few whimsical drawings. Zweibel first made a name for himself as one of the original writers for Saturday Night Live, but his career’s humble beginnings included creating one-liners for Catskill comedians at seven dollars a pop. That experience is only one of the hysterically inspired anecdotes (“Comic Dialogue”) in this quirky compilation.
Zweibel confesses his first love, as a young Hebrew school student, for Abraham’s wife, Sarah (“At this point, Sarah’s husband had been dead for more than three thousand years–so, really, who would I be hurting?”); recounts the time he was sent to a nudist resort to write an article (“The fact that I brought luggage is, in itself, worthy of some discussion”); offers a touching tribute to Saturday Night Live writer and mentor Herb Sargent (“Herb was New York. But an older, more romantic New York that took place in black and white like the kind of TV I grew up on and wanted to be a part of someday”); and imagines a scenario in which Sergeant Joe Friday, the stiff, monotoned character from Dragnet, is inexplicably partnered with Snoop Dogg (“Damn, Friday. You gotta learn to chill. Take some free time and kick it with your boys”)
Every piece is punctuated with the same wit and insight that have come to define Zweibel’s humor.
Unhinged and hilarious, Clothing Optional is an unguided tour through the uniquely peculiar life and mind of a man who The New York Times said “has earned a place in the pantheon of American pop culture.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Saturday Night Live writing alum and Thurber Prize winner Zweibel (The Other Shulman) returns with a collection of essays, short stories and ephemera that should solidify his place among American satirists. The books starts off strong with “Letters From an Annoying Man,” a fictional tete-a-tete between Zweibel and a misguided fan that quickly escalates (with shades of Curb Your Enthusiasm, another show Zweibel has written for); the title essay, detailing Zweibel’s trip to a nudist resort; and “Herb Sargent,” a meditation on the mercurial qualities of friendship. At its best, Zweibel’s work has depth and a respect for his subjects commiserate with his self-deprecating sense of humor; instead of laughing at nudists, readers laugh at Zweibel as he struggles with an erection in the swimming pool, or suffers the indignity of being beaten in the New York City Marathon by a runner dressed as a polar bear, or the litany of abuse he endures as a Little League commissioner. Though some pieces run long (“Comic Dialogue,” “Happy”), comedy fans will appreciate Zweibel’s range, as well as his ability to convey tender moments. Many humor books are consumed and forgotten; this is one to read and revisit.
Praise for CLOTHING OPTIONAL
"Humor writer, author, playwright. But enough about me. Alan Zweibel's book made me laugh out loud!"
"If you're only going to read one book this year, well, you're a moron and this is definitely not the book for you. If, however, you're depressed, agitated, bitter, horny, bi-polar, a layabout, or a pathological liar, then, like me, you have much in common with the depraved soul who wrote these stories and owe it to yourself and whatever loved ones you probably don't have, to read it."
"Alan Zweibel is the funniest writer in the world. He might be even funnier when he's naked, but I'm afraid to find out."
"I've known Alan Zweibel since 1975, and I've always had this sneaking suspicion that he might possess a sense of humor. After reading CLOTHING OPTIONAL, I'm almost sure he does."
"So funny, so smart. I can't wait to re-read Alan's book with the TV off."
"Read Alan Zweibel and you'll be reminded of the likes of Robert Benchley and S.J. Perelman. You can't help but be moved by his warmth and insight even as you laugh your ass off."
"Reading Alan Zweibel makes me laugh out loud. And yet it is not a particularly funny name."
"This new work by my lifelong pal proves two things. One, he deserves his iconic status as a humorist and two, he needs hospitalization.”
"This book made me sick - that l didn't write it."
"That Alan Zweibel is deeply funny is a given. The thing that I really love about this collection is Alan's humanity. Read it. It's wise, hilarious and original."
Praise for Alan Zweibel’s The Other Shulman
“Entertaining, funny . . . winning deadpan humor . . . [Zweibel] writes with a jaundiced satirical eye.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A style that successfully blends the woebegone humor of Woody Allen with the whiplash sarcasm of Jerry Seinfeld.”
“[Zweibel has] a deft humorous touch.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“An amazing comic novel that is every bit as novel as it is comic.”
–Larry David, creator of Curb Your Enthusiasm
“Wonderfully inventive . . . hilarious, emotional, and powerful.”