John Swartzwelder – a tribute to the funniest comedy writer of all-time

Here are a ten facts about John Swartzwelder

1 He wrote 59 episodes of The Simpsons, more than twice the amount of any other writer.
Is responsible for some of the funniest Simpsons episodes: Homer at the bat, Homer the great, Rosebud, Bart’s comet, Krusty gets Kancelled and Homer vs. the 18th ammendment to name a few.
Adding up the first two facts with the fact that the show is the most successful in TV history and heavily syndicated means his jokes and gags have generated more laughter than any other human in history.
4 There are exactly 4 photos of him online; all from the early 90’s.
He is said to resemble the generic policeman from Charlie Chaplin movies, minus the uniform and billy club.
5 He would make an ideal target for Lisa’s ire in that he loves steaks, guns, smoking and doesn’t give a hoot about the environment.
6 Due to his constant smoking, he was banned from the writers’ office and forced to write in a local diner instead.
7 When no longer allowed to smoke and write in the diner due to smoking laws, he bought the complete diner booth and had it installed at his house.
8 When working from home he would often hand in his scripts by throwing them out the window to visitors.
9 His homepage looks like Geocities ca. 1997.
10 Has never given an interview or supplied audio commentary.

After the show’s quality began dipping in the 10th season, his number of scripts diminished and in 2003 he finally stopped writing for the show and started working on his new career as an author of humorous novels.

I have no idea why he decided to quit the show and launch a difficult career as a self-published humor writer, maybe he was bored and disappointed with the way the show was going, maybe it was his lifelong dream that he is fulfilling after becoming financially independent or maybe it’s a deal he struck with a powerful entity, but I sure am glad he is doing it.

I had heard about these books a few years back, but due to the fact that they were only available on Amazon and Ebay at prohibitive shipping costs to Europe, I never had a chance to read them.
Last year, thanks to my Amazon Kindle all that has changed, I can even say these books alone justified my purchase of the device.

Apart from the book titled ‘Double Wonderful’, all of the books focus on and are told from the point of view of Swartzwelder’s “hero”, private detective Frank Burly.

Burly is a lot like Homer Simpson would have been if he hadn’t lucked out with Marge.
He is big and overweight, lazy and stupid, he doesn’t have any friends or relatives and nobody seems to like and respect him.
Much of the humor comes from the sincere way he describes his series of failures and misadventures; In real life, people don’t tell you how much they suck at things without asking for sympathy and maybe a drink, but Burly is just being an honest narrator with a deadpan style.

Humor comes in many different forms in the books: we laugh at our hero’s stupidity and lack of compassion and at the absurd and unlikely situations he finds himself in.
There are lots of book and film references which are handled brilliantly and the writing reads like a cartoon script with no sentence wasted.
The plots are mostly based around familiar comic book or science fiction ideas, time travel and aliens feature heavily and there are some nice twists and payoffs in most novels.

All the novels are well worth reading, are funny upon repeated readings and will draw attention to you in public places.

Here is a brief outline of the books I read so far.

The Time machine Did It

Our introduction to Frank Burly.
Frank is not the greatest detective around, just to get to his office you have to pass the offices of three better detectives and he is having a bad stretch.
When a bum shows up and claims to have been the richest man in the city until he went to bed last night, Burly takes his case and runs into the mafia and crooked cops, not to mention a mad scientist and unexpected time travel.

After reading this book you will learn that the funniest word in the English language is the verb Frown.

How I conquered Your Planet

After being fired from his job as a bus driver, Burly becomes an unwitting spy and saboteur for the Martian invasion force.
When even he starts to suspect something, things go galactic and  many an Antenna is scratched.

This book contains my favorite bit from the whole series.
“In fact, everyone in my waiting room was gone except for one small gremliny-looking man, who I instantly recognized as Arthur Gremlin, the bookkeeper for Mr. Thorson, down at the bus company.
I said it was a small world and he said he thought so too.

“Small. And weak.”

The Exploding Detective

Using a jet-pack which he bought from Nazi Germany as a gimmick to get more customers, Frank is mistaken by the townspeople for a superhero.
Things start  looking good for our detective, until a real super villain with dastardly plans arrives on the scene and he is forced to fight him.
Dead Men Scare Me Stupid

Frank is visited by two expired ex-clients of his and as a result is sent to the loony bin, the spirit world and finally the other side of existence.
It’s a Wonderful Life is shamelessly plagiarized and Amelia Earhart and the king of Spain make a guest appearance.

Earth Vs. Everybody

Following a crummy vacation in “Mexifo”, Frank decides to switch to other side of the game: he joins the local crime organization.
Being big and indestructible, he makes it to the top as a bodyguard for the mob’s boss.
Richard Nixon,  an intergalactic war and time travel are just some of the highlights here.

The Last Detective Alive

Chasing a shifty counterfeiter, Frank runs into the worst kind of identity theft: the kind where you are the victim.
When his target mysteriously disappears, followed by everybody else in town and the planet, he must travel through time to restore the name Frank Burly to its former reputation.

The Fifty Foot Detective

Challenged by the theatrical Professor Moriarty (a Professor of  fourth grade Mathematics at an elementary school) to foil his “crime of the century”, Frank accidentally turns a science convention into a mad scientist fortress.
Many B-movie cliches are parodied and there’s a fantastic Willy Wonka tribute that will have you in stitches.

A new novel came out recently titled The Million Dollar policeman , but it isn’t available on the kindle yet so I haven’t read it.

Enjoy the books!

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One Response to John Swartzwelder – a tribute to the funniest comedy writer of all-time

  1. Daniel Pratt says:

    I’d still consider getting at least one copy from eBay. They’re signed (the invoice is also written and signed by John ‘Thanks!’ etc.) and the physical quality of the books are far superior to any other paperbacks I own. Admittedly, I did buy a couple before the delivery cost went up but I’m still tempted to get another in the future.

Happy for any comments!

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