Being a comedian or a humor writer is a difficult job. We all have different concepts of what is funny. Isn’t responding to a comic writer or actor based on at least a similar sense of humor, and perhaps on a similar view of the absurdities of life?
My two favorite comedy writers are/were David Sedaris and (sigh) Robin Williams. Both have a somewhat slanted point of view; while Sedaris may write about dysfunctional families and oddities of behavior, Williams could be downright raunchy, as he was in his hilarious, fast-paced, off-color performance DVDs. Suggestive, witty, incredibly fast-paced. Often ad lib, seldom about his life.
This comedy writer, Matt Geiger, the author of Raised by Wolves, is not like Sedaris or Williams. Not in the least. (By the way, no one was raised by wild canines
here, to my disappointment! But a large dog lives with the author and family, so that almost qualifies as an accepted topic for canine-lovers.) Geiger favors a kind of sweet comedy; not that what he writes isn’t funny--it’s not rude. It’s not off-center.
It’s not making fun of people except possibly himself. His stories won’t make you blush or guffaw for five minutes. They’ll make you chuckle or think, “Where has this guy been? Did this truly happen?” He lives at a slower pace in Wisconsin. Think American cheese and white bread. Mind you, I love cheese, and Matt Geiger is not white bread; he just likes a quieter life than might take place in
larger, more cosmopolitan places. He wants his wife, daughter and animals to lead a more rural, less stressful life.
What we know is this: he is a large, bearded man; he loves animals, his wife, and especially his daughter, named Hadley. Did I mention he loves Ernest Hemingway, whose first wife was named, uh-hum, Hadley? Matt Geiger has received several awards for these essays and other pieces of straightforward journalism.
He has written for publications in the U.K., Florida and Wisconsin.
To my mind, his funniest stories are about his daughter, a toddler who loves to eat dog kibble, about various creatures (especially his sometimes-malicious 25-pound cat Peter, “the equivalent of a feral wolverine living in our home"), and about himself
and a friend doing a construction project with almost no background or knowledge
of any tools or techniques. They had the temerity to hoist a house, built in the
1800s and on the historic record, to work on its foundation, with dozens of car
Or there is the time when he attended a sleepover at a friend’s house, where he discovered the family was nudist: “Their home was like a little nudist colony, where people ambled about, unhindered by itchy cotton fabric, munching on pretzels and sipping little cups of apple juice.”
However, not all his reminiscences are funny; many are bittersweet. Now that he is a father, he thinks of his own mortality. He has an amazing treasure trove of stories to tell, some almost unbelievable, but not offensive, just amazing and, frankly, human.
When he is thinking of Hadley’s future, especially for the years after he has died, he assembles a list of “must read” books for his daughter: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cormac McCarthy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ernest Hemingway, and Lao Tsu among them. Perhaps he ought to add his
own book to this list, to re-introduce himself to his daughter and to provide a bit of levity.