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My Brother Was An Only Child by Jack Douglas… a book filled with dad humor?

June 8, 2022

My Brother Was An Only Child by Jack Douglas is a cool book to own, but I don’t want to read the whole thing. From the title and the cover, this book looks like it’s filled with dad humor.

I should like dad humor, but I don’t, which might seem strange because I fit the dad humor demographic. I’m a dad. I like humor. Why wouldn’t I like dad humor?

First of all, dad humor exists because dads feel like they have to edit themselves. They can’t tell the jokes that they want to tell, that they used to tell, because there are kids around. Plus, women today will get (or act like they are) offended. Dads feel like they can’t talk the way they want to talk because they’re worried about offending somebody. Dad humor is harmless, and ‘harmless’ seems to be a good description My Brother Was An Only Child.

Since Jack Douglas, the author of My Brother Was An Only Child , was a comedy writer for Jack Paar, who was the host of The Tonight Show in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it makes sense that a book written by a television writer would feel restrained, hence the dad humor. Television humor was regulated heavily back then. I’m pretty sure Jack Douglas had to hold back and censor his jokes when he wrote this book.

Today, humorists are so desperate to shock that they put profanity in their book titles. At least there’s no profanity in the title of My Brother Was An Only Child. Back then profanity in the title would have been groundbreaking. Today, it comes across as desperate. I’d rather read a book filled with dad humor than a book filled with unnecessary profanity.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind profanity. I wrote “The Ten Worst Bad Words Ranked in Order, the U.S. Version,” and I spelled out all the words (except one). I’m a fan of strategic profanity, but unnecessary profanity is unnecessary.

I’m pretty sure the term ‘dad humor’ didn’t exist in 1960 when this copy of My Brother Was An Only Child was printed. There were still categories for humor, but the word ‘dad’ wasn’t in any of them. I wasn’t around in 1960, but ‘dad humor’ seems to be a recent term for lame humor. Lame humor has always existed. Just read the back book cover:

If you think of a guy with fake painted eyebrows and a fake painted mustache as you read this book, it might become funnier.

There are a bunch of references in this book that I’m not familiar with. Even though I could have used use a search engine to research a bunch of the stuff I didn’t know about, I instead focused on the stuff I actually understood to determine if the pop cultural references were funny or not (to me). Chapter 15 is called “The Private Mitty of Walter Thurber” which is a reference “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber.

Mixing up words for a pop culture joke is easy to do. I think it’s lazy. If the book had been longer, I would have understood using a lazy pop culture reference as humor, but this book is only 128 pages, and a lot of those pages aren’t even filled up.

On the other hand, I liked Chapter 19. Chapter 19 is famous for a reason. I didn’t want to take a picture of Chapter 19 because I’d have to spread the pages in this old paperback and that would damage the binding. Even though I have some complaints about this book, I don’t want to hurt it. That’s kind of my personality. I might complain, but I don’t want to harm anything.

Anyway, Chapter 19 says:

*****

Chapter 19

To hell with Chapter 19. Every damn book you pick up has a Chapter 19.

*****

That was it for Chapter 19.

Putting the words ‘damn’ and ‘hell’ in the same sentence was pretty hardcore for 1960. This might have caused most readers back then to gasp. Even Holden Caulfield thought Jack Douglas was pushing the boundaries a little bit.

I’m not sure that My Brother Was An Only Child holds up. If you were born before 1960, you might think it’s funny. If you were born after 1965, it might seem dated. Still, I think it’s a cool book to have. I like the cover. People my age might complain about the way things are now, but I’m glad there’s way more variety in humor than back then, even if there’s an over-reliance on profanity.

Just so you know, I’m almost done with my own book, the first book that I’m willing to commit to paper. It doesn’t have a Chapter 19.

Jack Douglas can rest easily, knowing that at least one (aspiring) author has taken his advice. To hell with Chapter 19. Jack Douglas got that part right.

3 Comments
  1. I have all of Jack Douglas books, I used to love to see him and his wife on Johnny Carson.

  2. I may or may not be in this books demographic. Please don’t ask how old I am – I might act like I’m offended 😉 As always, thanks for making me smile

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