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AUDIOBOOKS: Humor to beat the winter blues

By Saturday, Feb 23, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

Since everyone needs a chuckle once in a while, we’ve put together four humorous books to help you laugh away the winter blues. 

Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?
Billy Crystal; read by the author
Macmillan Audio; $29.99; seven CDs; eight hours; www.audible.com download, $20.99

Billy Crystal is getting on in years and like so many other baby boomers, he doesn’t much like it. He can, however, laugh about it and, for the most part, he makes us laugh, as well. Be warned, however: Billy often works blue. He swears often and does not shy away from the more disgusting aspects of aging, but he also can make you laugh out loud and really touch you with his poignant recollections. Part memoir and part stand-up, the audiobook combines live performances with Crystal’s finely honed narration. The live sets are well produced and sound just like any other chapter, except you can hear other people laughing with you. The seventh disc contains PDF photos found in the print version. Grade: A-minus

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
David Sedaris; read by the author
Hachette Audio; $29.98; six CDs, six hours and 25 minutes; www.audible.com dowload, $28.50

This collection of essays, all of which have preciously appeared elsewhere, runs the gamut from taxidermy to dentistry, and some of them will have you guffawing—just remember that Sedaris never shies away from the grotesque and is sometimes crude and occasionally curses. His essays are often personal as he talks about his longtime partner Hugh, or his father, with whom he has a prickly relationship, though some of the funniest pieces are simple observations about different cultures he made while travelling. The production is another story, as some of the essays were recorded live and the production quality is very poor, almost startlingly so. Sedaris really knows how to deliver a joke and, especially when he is in the studio, sounds polished and confident. Also, there is a lot of music used as filler, which drags on for too long. Grade: B-plus

Cold Comfort Farm
Stella Gibbons; read by a full cast
BBC Audiobooks; three hours and 35 minutes, only available as a download from www.audible.com, $14.91

I adore this audiobook and used to listen to a version read by British actress Eileen Atkins every few years. I was dismayed to find it no longer available, but a full cast recording that was presented in four parts over the BBC turned out to be a worthy replacement. Published in 1932, it parodies then-popular romantic novels that were always rural and always gloomy. Gibbons sends her protagonist to the Starkadders, a dour collection of relatives in Sussex and, much like our favorite Jane Austen heroines, she sets everything aright. What makes this so funny is that Gibbons’ mover and shaker, Flora Poste, sounds more like Dorothy Parker than a sweet young thing. The production, however, is heavy-handed and the sound quality is wildly uneven. It remains worth hearing, but one wishes for a more sublime version of this timeless spoof. Grade: B

My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places
Mary Roach; read by Angela Dawe
Brilliance Audio; four hours and 41 minutes, currently available only as a download from www.audible.com, $10.49

Mary Roach may have written several smart, savvy, witty books about science, but her Reader’s Digest column, “My Planet,” was cultural humor that included first dates, aging, hoarding and couples who compromise. Her husband, Ed, appears as both a compatriot and a foil, leaving us liking them both very much. This includes every essay she wrote for Reader’s Digest over many years and it is warm, smartly written, wryly humorous and very entertaining. However, it sounds like it was recorded in someone’s closet, as there is a strange, muffled quality to it. Also, Dawe reads too quickly and too emphatically, which erodes some of the humor. This grade was lowered solely because of the poor production values. Grade: B-minus

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