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December 28, 2013

Mencken’s Tub & Hot Water

H. L. Mencken    (1880 - 1956)

H. L. Mencken
(1880 – 1956)

By Steve King

On this day in 1917 H. L. Mencken’s “A Neglected Anniversary,” his hoax article on the American invention of the bathtub, was published in the New York Evening Mail. Mencken’s lifelong campaign to deride and derail Main Street America — the “booboisie” — had a number of easy victories, but this joke at the expense of the squeaky-clean succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

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April 5, 2013

Mencken, the Prostitute & the Police

H. L. Mencken   (1880 - 1956)

H. L. Mencken
(1880 – 1956)

On this day in 1926, H. L. Mencken was arrested in Boston for selling indecent literature. The literature in question was the short story “Hatrack,” by Herbert Asbury, titled after its prostitute-heroine; this was published in Mencken’s American Mercury, as part of his longstanding war against Puritanism (i.e. “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”).

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February 3, 2013

Mencken, Arkansas, Blondes

H. L. Mencken

H. L. Mencken

On this day in 1931, the Arkansas legislature passed a motion to pray for the soul of H. L. Mencken. One of Mencken’s Laws was “Nature abhors a moron,” and one of his favorite pastimes was to attack the South; upon finding itself elevated to “the apex of moronia,” Arkansas had apparently had enough. One spin-off from the Arkansas-baiting was Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

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August 12, 2011

Who made comedian Andy Borowitz’s list of ’50 Funniest’ writers?

Andy Borowitz

By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY

Let the arguments begin, says Andy Borowitz, in his first interview about his book, The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor From Mark Twain to The Onion, (Library of America, $27.95, Oct. 13).

Who made it? Garrison Keillor, Larry Wilmore and Anita Loos. (full list below).

Who didn’t? Tina Fey, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart.

“Anytime you do a best-of list, people get mad, except for the people on the list,” says Borowitz, of the satirical website, “Lists are lightening rods. That’s the fun of it. And the most personal thing of all is deciding what’s funny.”

The list includes the usual suspects: O. Henry, H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker and Woody Allen, as well as more modern humorists including David Sedaris, Dave Barry and Sloane Crosley.

But what about the omissions?

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