Funniest Twain

**Lumpy **just quoted from Roughing It in the thread about breaking handcuffs with a bullet. Of the handful of Twains I read (seven or eight?), I remember Roughing It to be the funniest of them all–others had me chortling and snorting here and there (Puddin’ Head) and whatnot, but I remember honestly laughing out loud loudly at Roughing It.

But my reading depth is fairly minor compared to his overall works. What say ye Twain fans? If I was in the mood to laugh, what to read?

The acid with which Twain excoriates Fenimore Cooper’s novels is hilarious in my opinion.

The Story of the Good Little Boy and The Story of the Bad Little Boy.

“… and so the model boy George got thrashed, and Jim was glad of it because, you know, Jim hated moral boys. Jim said he was ‘down on them milk-sops.’”

Huck Finn always makes me laugh out loud. Meanwhile, “Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism” is good for some puerile sniggering.

My wife is a big Twain fan, she’s thinks the short stories are funnier than the novels but declines to commit. She says the “bad” parts of Huckleberry Finn – Tom and Huck trying to rescue Jim – are very silly and laugh-out-loud funny.

‘German Grammar’ has to be a classic.

It may or may not have the great line (appr) ‘They spell it Vinci and say it Vinchi; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce.’

“Thomas the Tank Engine” can be pretty funny, especially when he argues with the Fat Controller.

Oh, Twain!

As you were.

Political Economy has me in tears every time I read it.

Letters from Earth is for me hands down the most entertaining and, yes, the funniest. Although Roughing it and Innocents Abroad had their moments too.

The part of Innocents Abroad that has stayed with me (since reading it decades ago) is the description of Twain and his fellow travelers messing with the European guides.

Cannibalism in the Cars

The story is about a group of men trapped on a train during a snow storm. After a week, the men gradually realize that they must resort to cannibalism for survival. They hold ineffective elections to select candidates, and follow parliamentary procedure to a fault. The absurdity of these elections can be shown through the following quote: “…Mr. Harris was elected, all voting for him but himself… his election should be ratified by acclamation, which was lost, in consequence of his again voting against himself.”

Last year my wife and I went on a tour of Italy and I kept wanting to ask the tour guides “Is he dead?” Either that, or I wanted to point to things like an idiot and ask “Michael Angelo?”


This will get stuck in your head. You are then honour-bound to pass it on to someone else, or you shall hear it forever after.

In “A Ghost Story”, Twain meets the ghost of the Cardiff Giant. The ghost is just a little mixed up.

I think the title is “The Awful German Language”

When commenting on the use of gender in the German language I loved the comment “A young lady has no sex, but a cabbage does.”

Letters from the Earth is one of the most outrageously funny things I have ever read. Twain thought that it was so funny that it would not be safe to publish in his lifetime because people would seek him out and commit violence on him as revenge for making them laugh so hard. Pretty sure his daughter waited until she was dead to publish it for the same reason.

This is exactly what I was coming in to post. “Is–is he dead?” is something I love to say on tours.

Especially if there isn’t a person involved. The Hoover Dam was a hoot…well to me. Maybe not the other people on the tour.

Journalism in Tennessee is pretty funny.

I really didn’t discover Twain until after I saw him on TV. Or rather, Hal Holbrook:

Then I read everything I could get my hands on.