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Author of the week: Jack Handey

Jack Handey would like you to know he’s a real person.

Jack Handey would like you to know he’s a real person, said Hamilton Nolan in Gawker.com. During his years writing for Saturday Night Live, the comedy writer inspired awe among his peers for his ability to come up with surreal, uproariously funny one-liners. Yet his most famous sketch, “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey,” fooled some SNL watchers into thinking that “Jack Handey,” the sensitive soul who offered ill-conceived advice, was entirely fictional. “It actually is a made-up name—it was made up by my parents,” says Handey, 64. He finds fans’ confusion both amusing and frustrating. “You finally get your tiny slice of fame, and then people think it’s a made-up name,” he says. “I wish my creditors thought it was.”

Handey has been thinking even deeper thoughts lately, said Steve Marsh in New York magazine. His debut novel, The Stench of Honolulu, follows his fictional alter-ego on a treasure hunt in the Hawaiian Islands. “I think it was because Hawaii is like paradise and so perfect,” says Handey, “that I kinda wanted to see what kind of damage the ‘Deep Thoughts’ character could do if he was set loose over there.” The shift from writing jokes to a novel, he says, was challenging. “You have to spend time on the narrative arc that you would’ve kind of preferred just spending being funny,” he says. Even though he’s so focused on being funny, Handey finds the adulation that other humorists heap on him puzzling. “I’m sure there are writers out there who do what I do better than me. But they’d better keep their heads down until I die.”

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