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The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm: A Lexicon for Those of Us Who are Better and Smarter than the Rest of You by James Napoli

Your minimum daily requirement of sarcasm

February 4, 2014  |  4:00pm
<i>The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm: A Lexicon for Those of Us Who are Better and Smarter than the Rest of You</i> by James Napoli

The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm delivers the perfect bathroom reading material. Not that you give a crap, as the author might say.

James Napoli, who bills himself on the cover as executive vice president of the National Sarcasm Society, has cobbled together 367 pages of mostly snappy sarcastic definitions, ranging from: “AARP: American Association of Retired Persons. An organization that sends out welcome letters to people over fifty to remind them that they will soon be dead” to “Zygote: The approximate developmental stage of the little twerp to whom they just gave your old job.”

Napoli also produced a companion piece —“The Official Calendar of Sarcasm”—so you can be assured of a laugh or two each day at the job you’re about to lose. He really zeroes in on the precarious nature of life in our ruined economy.

Napoli has carved out a career as a wildly productive humorist: blogging for The Huffington Post, publishing seven books, taking part in several short films and starring as “Mr. Paul Maul,” a satirical self-help guru on the Internet.

A video on Napoli’s website shows Paul Maul exhorting a crowd to imagine money coming out of their rear ends.

“I’ve got money coming out of my ass!” the audience shouts three times at his request. He then excites them even more: “[W]hen that fantastic cash comes rocketing out of your butt crack, you have to be ready—to grab it!” Then he dryly flexes his fist.

A talented comedy writer always goes for the pithy stuff, and Napoli shines when he keeps his book’s definitions short:
•“Buzzkill: Someone who brings up the subject of world hunger during a lap dance.”
•“Chaste: Morally pure; decent. A quality known in the dating scene as a waste of your time and effort.”
•“Dress: Something that does not, I said not, make you look fat.”
•“Health: A type of insurance plan that covers everything but the rare condition you managed to come down with.”
•“Queer: A word that used to mean anything out of the ordinary and now means anyone who is ordinarily out.”
•“Vegetarian: A vegan who doesn’t have the balls to give up cheese.”

At his best, Napoli writes with the zany quality that keeps MAD Magazine in business. But when he goes long, you’re grateful he writes without hecklers in the room.

“Knowledge: Wisdom gained through study or experience. Knowledge comes in handy during one’s school years, when one can use it to puke back a bunch of facts on multiple-choice tests to get through the ordeal known as one’s education. Knowledge is then completely ignored during one’s adulthood, as courtship, marriage, and family consume the mind. Finally, in one’s golden years, one can share all the accumulated knowledge of a lifetime with a bunch of ungrateful young people who assume you are senile and who pay little attention. Incidentally, many of these young people may well be your coworkers at the McDonald’s at which you were forced to work to generate the retirement income you need to supplement your rapidly dwindling Social Security.”

Dude! Take a breath!

A big disappointment awaits political junkies who want to measure Napoli’s take on America’s dysfunctional political parties. He doesn’t tackle them. What kind of satirist doesn’t rip into the raging psychotics of the Republican Party, the spineless policy wonks of the Democratic Party, or the dope-addled conspiracy theorists who call themselves Libertarians?

However, Napoli does define “Conservative: Someone who hates liberals because they have, at least once, seen themselves naked” and “Liberal: A person who advocates a loose attitude toward certain societal constraints even though he or she will probably burn in Hell for it.”

Napoli has produced a magnum opus of sarcasm, at times hilarious, at other times not so much. But for a guy who has filled almost 400 pages with original comedy material, his batting average is pretty damn high—especially for bathroom reading as cash comes rocketing out of your butt crack.

Doug Monroe writes and teaches in Milledgeville, Ga.

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