The Funniest Scene I’ve Ever Read

Today, I encountered the funniest fictional scene I’ve ever read. Prior to this, the funniest scene I’d ever encountered is a scene that took place in Stephen King’s 11/22/63, where Jake Epping is in Derry with a “a touch of the bug.” Today, a new scene overtook that as the funniest I’ve ever read.

While my computer was downloading patching and therefore, completely useless, I read more of A Prayer for Owen Meany, waiting for the patches to be installed. Those familiar with the book might guess the scene in question. Yes, it is the VW scene. The premise of the scene was amusing enough. But how rapidly things fell apart in that scene–I could see it playing out as though I was one of the students in the great hall, or near the marble staircase, seeing it unfold.

I laughed so hard that people walking passed my office had to stop to look in. I laughed so hard that it brought streams of tears to my eyes. I laughed so hard that, much like a nuclear chain reaction, it began a self-sustaining thing, a living, breathing thing. I fell off my chair and sat on the floor, laughing, crying, coughing, choking. I don’t know how much time passed before I finally settled down. The patches were still installing on my computer. But when I finally came out of it, I felt completely, and thoroughly revitalized. It was amazing.

And throughout the day, as I’ve played the scene over in mind, more laughter and snickers emerge. Had I seen that scene played out on the big screen, it would not have been as funny as it was in my imagination. It was the Platonic perfection of slapstick comedy barely disguised as literature. If you’ve never read the book, it is a fantastic read, but I would say that it is worth reading just for that scene.

My sides, my abdomen, my cheeks, and my lower back are all sore. That is how hard I was laughing.


    1. Dang, I need to read closer next time. Now I *have* to re-read this book just to refresh my memory.

  1. My son just got that book assigned for summer reading for his high school AP Lit class. Riffling through the 600 pages while looking out the window at a summer day perfect for throwing frisbees, he seemed a bit glum. I told him Irving books are always interesting — funny, weird, poignant and thought-provoking (World According to Garp remains a sentimental favorite) — but I’m sure he’ll be pleased to know there’s at least one serious side-splitter in there too. Thanks!

  2. I read A Prayer for Owen Meany as a senior in high school. It remains the only book I’ve ever read that’s reduced me both to helpless laughter and uncontrollable sobbing by the end. I read it in AP English Lit, and because of the way our academic year was structured (AP exams in May but still in school till late June), the class set about to write the Cliff’s Notes for it during our last month in class. I’m not sure if it ever got published (probably not), but we had a blast writing and organizing it.

    Ohhh, and! (Remembering back into the dim and distant past here…) One of my classmates, I think on a dare, actually got in touch with John Irving and explained how very much our teacher liked APfOM and that we were writing the Cliff’s Notes, and he actually called the classroom one morning. Our teacher was initially convinced she was being pranked by a colleague, but Mr. Irving eventually managed to convince her of his identity. They chatted for 30 minutes or so, and we have pictures of her after the fact, collapsed in a chair with a silly, disbelieving grin on her face. It was *glorious.*


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