February 25, 1949|
San Antonio, Texas
Jack Handey (born February 25, 1949) is an American humorist. He is best known for his "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey", a large body of surrealistic one-liner jokes, as well as his "Fuzzy Memories" and "My Big Thick Novel" shorts. Although many people assume otherwise, Handey is a real person, not a pen name or character.
Handey's earliest writing job was for a newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News. He lost the job, in his words, after writing "an article that offended local car dealerships". His first comic writing was with comedian Steve Martin. According to Martin, Handey got a job writing for Saturday Night Live after Martin introduced Handey to the show's creator, Lorne Michaels. For several years Handey worked on other television projects: the Canadian sketch series Bizarre in 1980; the 1980 TV special Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty; and Lorne Michaels' short-lived sketch show on NBC called The New Show in 1984. Handey returned to Saturday Night Live in 1985 as a writer.
In April 1984, National Lampoon published the first of Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts. Additional Deep Thoughts appeared in the October and November 1984 editions as well as in the short-lived comedy magazine Army Man, while more appeared in 1988 in The Santa Fe New Mexican. The one-liners were to become Handey's signature work, notable for their concise humor and their outlandish hypothetical situations. For example:
- If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.
- "The crows seem to be calling my name", thought Caw.
Handey's work next showed up in the Michael Nesmith-produced TV series Television Parts in the format which would later become famous on Saturday Night Live (though in Television Parts, Nesmith provided the narration). Some of these segments appeared in the compilation video of that program, Doctor Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce.
Between 1989 and 1990, Deep Thoughts were shown during commercial breaks on The Comedy Channel with Handey's narration.
Between 1991 and 1998, Saturday Night Live included Deep Thoughts on the show as an interstitial segment between sketches. Introduced by Phil Hartman and read live by Handey (neither actually appeared on screen), the one-liners proved to be extremely popular. Hartman would intone "And now, Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey...", and peaceful easy listening music would play while the screen showed soothing pastoral scenes, much like a New Age relaxation video. Handey would then read the Deep Thought as the text to it scrolled across the screen. They became an enduring feature of SNL, which often had multiple Thoughts in each episode, and made Handey a well-known name.
Other SNL work
Other Handey creations that appeared on SNL include the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, "Fuzzy Memories" which depicted reenactments of a twisted childhood memory and aired in the late 1990s, and the short-lived "My Big Thick Novel", which were spoken excerpts from a very long book in the style of "Deep Thoughts" and which aired during the 2001–03 seasons of SNL.
Handey is also credited with creating Toonces, the cat who could drive a car, although badly ("See, I told you he could drive! Just not very well!"). The recurring skit originated in 1989 with Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson as the crash-prone kitty's owners. In 1992 NBC aired a half-hour Toonces special. Handey, who owned a real cat by the same name, once said he could not remember exactly how he dreamed up the premise. He said, "It was just one of those free association ideas you write down and look at later and think, 'Maybe.'"
In early April 2008, Handey published his first collection of magazine humor pieces, "What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats". The Associated Press critic Jake Coyle wrote, "With absurdist musings such as these, Handey has established himself as the strangest of birds: a famous comedian whose platform is not the stage or screen, but the page." Handey subsequently became a regular contributor to The New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs section.
Handey was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1949. His family later moved to El Paso, Texas, where Handey attended Eastwood High School (where he was editor of Sabre, the school newspaper) and the University of Texas at El Paso.
- Handey, Jack (1992). Deep thoughts. Berkley.
- Deeper Thoughts: All New, All Crispy (1993). Hyperion, ISBN 1-56282-840-1
- Deepest Thoughts: So Deep they Squeak (1994). Hyperion, ISBN 0-7868-8044-9
- Fuzzy Memories (1996). Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 0-8362-1040-9 – a collection of "stories from Handey's childhood"
- Fuzzy Memories: CD-Rom (2003). Disc Us Books Inc, ISBN 1-58444-078-3 - An Emersa*Plus Reader/Viewer E-book that contains all of the text and pictures from the original book plus "new memories," 28 videos of "Jack's home movies", and 60 audio files of Jack reading selected stories.
- The Lost Deep Thoughts: Don't Fight the Deepness (1998), Hyperion, ISBN 0-7868-8305-7
- What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats (2008), Hyperion, ISBN 978-1-4013-2266-3
- The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure (2013), Grand Central, ISBN 978-1-4555-2238-5
Essays and reporting
- Handey, Jack (November 24, 2008). "The plan". Shouts & Murmurs. The New Yorker. 84 (38): 62. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- — (July 22, 2013). "Guards' complaints about Spartacus". Shouts & Murmurs. The New Yorker. 89 (21): 33. Retrieved 2014-10-29.
- — (May 4, 2015). "Execution days". Shouts & Murmurs. The New Yorker. 91 (11): 33. Retrieved 2015-06-30.
- — (August 3, 2015). "Apocalypse". Shouts & Murmurs. The New Yorker. 91 (22): 29. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
- Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty! (1980)
- Prime Times (1983)
- The New Show (1984)
- Television Parts Home Companion (1985) - sequel to Elephant Parts by Michael Nesmith)
- Doctor Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce (1986) - another sequel to Elephant Parts by Michael Nesmith
- Saturday Night Live (1985–1998 and 2001–2002)
- Sacks, Mike (2009). And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft. Writer's Digest Books. pp. 309–310. ISBN 1-58297-989-8.
- Handey, Jack (January 2002). Deep Thoughts about Me: Questions I Am Often Asked (and My Answers)", Texas Monthly.
- Coyle, Jake (April 12, 2008). "Jack Handey's Thoughts Get Deeper". USA Today. AP. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
- Handey, Jack (1992). Deep Thoughts. Berkley Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0425133651.
- Handey, Jack (1993). Deeper Thoughts: All New, All Crispy. Hyperion. ISBN 978-1562828400.
- Carman, John (February 14, 1992). "We Paws for This Message", San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Contributors: Jack Handey". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
- "The Stench of Honolulu". Kirkus. July 5, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
- "Biography" Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey website. Accessed June 6, 2008. Archived May 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Jack Handey|
- Official website
- Jack Handey at the Internet Movie Database
- Thorn, Jesse (May 30, 2008). "Jack Handey, Author, TV Writer and Creator of "Deep Thoughts"". Maximum Fun (Podcast). The Sound of Young America.
- "My Speech To The Martians" (Podcast). Studio 360. May 5, 2006.
- "In Praise of the Human Body". Outside online. May 1, 2005.
- Jack Handey's articles at the The New Yorker
- Kois, Dan (July 21, 2013). "Jack Handey Is the Envy of Every Comedy Writer in America". The New York Times.