cover image Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories

Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories

Alan Zweibel. Villard Books, $22 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-345-50086-1

Saturday Night Live writing alum and Thurber Prize winner Zweibel (The Other Shulman) returns with a collection of essays, short stories and ephemera that should solidify his place among American satirists. The books starts off strong with ""Letters From an Annoying Man,"" a fictional tete-a-tete between Zweibel and a misguided fan that quickly escalates (with shades of Curb Your Enthusiasm, another show Zweibel has written for); the title essay, detailing Zweibel's trip to a nudist resort; and ""Herb Sargent,"" a meditation on the mercurial qualities of friendship. At its best, Zweibel's work has depth and a respect for his subjects commiserate with his self-deprecating sense of humor; instead of laughing at nudists, readers laugh at Zweibel as he struggles with an erection in the swimming pool, or suffers the indignity of being beaten in the New York City Marathon by a runner dressed as a polar bear, or the litany of abuse he endures as a Little League commissioner. Though some pieces run long (""Comic Dialogue,"" ""Happy""), comedy fans will appreciate Zweibel's range, as well as his ability to convey tender moments. Many humor books are consumed and forgotten; this is one to read and revisit.