funniest sentence in literature, IMO

It’s on this page. I first read it 25 years ago. Whenver I think of it I chuckle. Never have I run across a funnier line, actually, the last two sentences of this passage from P.G. Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves. Bertie Wooster is the narrator and is speaking of his Uncle Tom, whose gifted French chef, Anatole, has just given notice:

I would be interested to hear others’ favorites. I like to keep a humorous book going and they are hard to find.

“Jack, you have debauched my sloth!”

  • said by Stephen Maturin to Jack Aubrey in “HMS Surprise”.

Catch-22 is full of them:

Those are some pretty long sentences, dude… :smiley:

“My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.”

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

I came in to add another P G Wodehouse:

‘Bingo uttered a startled woofle, like a bulldog refused cake.’

It was the first (but by no means the last) PGW line to make me laugh out loud.

I don’t know any bulldogs, so I had to mentally substitute my Aunt’s obese Cavalier King Charles spaniel - then put down the book until I stopped laughing.

I have this habit of giving away all the books I’ve read that I’ve liked a lot. “Here, take this. You’ve gotta read it.” Especially the ones that have really made me laugh. So without the original, this quote is as close as I can remember.

I was about fourteen and reading, after bedtime, under the covers with a flashlight. The book was Auntie Mame. Patrick was required to slip out of his boarding school and walk a very pregnant Gooch up and down the roads at night. Suddenly, a car is coming and he drags Gooch off the road and into a muddy ditch. As the car goes by, he realizes it is his headmaster “…in the Nashcan, headed off to Irma’s to get his ashes hauled.”

It is so painful to laugh without making any noise.

By the by, if any Dopers have a copy of the novel and can write out the full quote, I’d be as happy as if I had brains.

Via Amazon’s Search Inside.!

This passage comes from a work of nonfiction, so perhaps it doesn’t qualify as literature. But when I first read it, I was giggling for days.

-G. K. Chesterton in What is Wrong with the World

I don’t have a copy of the book, but some sentences accompanying the graphs in Cryptonomicon would earn the honor, particularly those associated with the graph of masturbation and productivity.

Bertie’s sentences become short and clipped when speaking with Jeeves (as are Jeeves’s) but then return to their wandering, zigzagging, comma-filled length when he, reverting back to narrator, analyzes the foregoing conversation, as if relieved to be back in that role after yet another tension-filled back-and-forth with his manservant.

Wodehouse is breaking a rule of writing with his long sentences. But artists make the rules and break the rules. All his sentences are finely crafted. These particular ones seem to wander, keeping us off-balance, then hit us with the gag at unexpected times.

“Suck my fat one, you cheap dimestore hood” from Stephen King’s story “The Body.”

It might not be an exact quote, I don’t have the book here right now.

“The ugly yellow somethings hung in the air in precisely the way that bricks don’t.”

“The machine produced a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”

  • Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

When Max was arraigned for attempted murder, nobody laughed when the judge said “You have the right to remain silent.” Everybody knew that Max the Silent never attempted to murder anybody."

Andrew Vachss’s Flood

Most of the sentences in any of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books is funny, and some are true, too. The only one I remember off the top of my head, however, is

“Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs, and then you had the urge to pass it on.”

From Soul Music, in which Death quits and his daughter must take over the job. Great satire on rock ‘n’ roll aspirants, too.

Pratchett is often compared with Wodehouse as one of the funniest writers ever. I have to be in the right mood for reading P.G. Wodehouse, but I always find Pratchett laugh out loud funny. The Discworld series, read in order, got me through all the long hours in waiting rooms during my father’s cancer surgeries and chemo and radiation treatments.

Those are great. That second really has become a classic. I am familiar with it, but did not know its source, or its source subject, tea. It’s versatile in that almost anything could be its subject.

Don’t have a copy on hand, but if you like classic farce involving ludicrous sexual situations, Joe Keenan’s (who wrote the funniest episodes of Frasier and none of the dull ones) Blue Heaven is a hoot. (Sequels not so good).

Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll try Pratchett. I agree with what you say about Wodehouse, but I don’t think it’s my (or your) moods. I think his work was very unevenly funny. It was not unevenly written though. He wrote regularly and to a formula. I always put it down to the evanescent nature of humor. Even the best humorists produce it irregularly.

One that comes readily to mind is from Breslin’s Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

paraphrased from memory, it describes a gangster who “died of natural causes. His heart stopped beating, after someone slipped into his bedroom while he was sleeping and stuck an icepick into it several times.”

Maybe not that hysterical, but a funny enough turn of phrase to have stuck with me for 20-30 years.

Don’t have time to go looking for any, but surely anything by David Sedaris qualifies for this thread. Particularly “The Santaland Diaries.”