This is not just a Book Review

I’ve just finished reading “John Dies at the End” by David Wong, and I have to say, it is one of the funniest books I’ve read in years.  Stupid, juvenile stuff—and yet—well written enough (unlike SNL skits) to have me laughing too hard to catch my breath and wiping away the tears so I can keep reading. Literally, Rolling on the Floor Laughing funny. (It was the part about shaving the dog).

So here I am, almost 52 years old, admitting that I enjoyed reading something aimed at an audience half my age, and even I am wondering – Why am I (a supposedly mature adult) still laughing out loud at stupid puns, fart jokes, crotch shots and ridiculous scenarios with monsters blowing up at regular intervals? Really! What is the matter with me?

It took the author’s Afterword at the very end of the book (Kindle e-reader version) for me to figure it out.  And then I knew why I was laughing at this type of humour… It was my dentist’s fault.

As a child of the 60s and 70s I had the kind of oral care that was typical of that day and age. We were the leading edge of the “Crest” generation, but my parents were immigrants with more children than dental plan, and I admit I wasn’t the most diligent brusher. (I’m not even sure dental floss had been invented.)  And sure, I went to the dentist, but it was all about being chastised for having too many cavities and getting my molars repaired with black fillings.

I did not like our dentist. I remember him as a big, gruff guy with no chair-side manner, little tolerance for paediatric dentistry and even less for dealing with teens. He also had a German last name, but that was immaterial because I never saw Marathon Man with  Laurence Olivier as Dr. Szell until later.

At one point in my teens I was sitting there waiting for the needle full of Novocaine and the inevitable drilling and Dr. M____ offered something relatively new to dentistry. Nitrous Oxide, laughing gas. I had heard about the stuff – some plot point in an old Batman and Robin episode – and I was willing to give it a try. Heck, why not? I grabbed the mask, breathed the gas and expected happy-happy, joy-joy.  Instead, I began feeling weird and sad, and really, really bad. Ba-a-a-a-d. Crying and suicidal bad. Seriously, a few minutes later I was bawling, totally depressed, but still wearing the mask, waiting for the gas to kick in and make me enjoy being at the dentist.

Dr. M___ came in and found me crying. He took the mask away and made sure I was okay, he seemed uncharacteristically full of concern. Maybe there was something in the literature that came with the Nitrous oxide canister about this particular side effect and he knew it could happen. The bad feelings went away once I stopped inhaling the gas. Phew!  All better, except that I still hated being at the dentist. That’s when Dr. M___ handed me a MAD magazine. It was freaking hilarious, and I was hooked. (Possibly some left over effect from the gas?)

MAD magazine became my new Archie Double Digest – a reason to babysit bratty kids and do extra chores to eke out more allowance money. As a young adult I still enjoyed the humour, but money was tight after college and my favourite cartoonists moved on, or retired. My MAD magazine days passed into history, but the long term side effects still linger. Now, when I read something totally juvenile, full of fart jokes and crotch shots, I can’t help but laugh. Crass humour makes me laugh out loud and it’s all the dentist’s fault that I have a weakness for the genre.

Just as a note, the nitrous oxide thing has a Part 2.  Many years later – married and at the hospital in labour with my son – I was offered N2O again. You know, just to help me relax between contractions.
I was willing to give it a try again because more than a decade had passed since that whole incident at  Dr. M___’s office.  Urghh-hhh, same effect.  Fortunately my husband knew about my previous reaction to laughing gas and saved me from an over zealous nurse who wanted me to keep using it. (He nicely offered to inhale some of the gas on my behalf but was denied.)  Lesson learned. Laughing gas—bad. MAD Magazine—good.

And David Wong? Good too! He worked ridiculous hours doing data entry jobs and still found the time and energy to write funny stories and share them on the internet. Word of mouth, persistent writing and patience have made his crazy stories a huge hit. He is also an editor for Cracked.com. I remember Cracked magazine was a rival to my favourite MAD back in the day, and therefore the connection.

John Dies at the End” and its sequel “This Book is Full of Spiders” will appeal to anyone who has a love of the absurd and is not offended by juvenile humour or off colour language. Well done Mr. Wong. Keep up the good work.

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