Ben Doyle, Alexander Michael Finkelstein Barry '20 Premium for Humor for 2021

With an eye on the origins of our forms in comedy, it is incumbent on us to remember how powerful and insurrectionary comic writing can often be. Ben Doyle’s story collection is in this very way single-minded in its appreciation of, and commitment to, the comic examples of the last century, and in this way this collection reminds us of a literary inclination that we more rarely see in the classrooms of contemporary writing. You can feel in Doyle’s writing—hilarious, tender, anarchic—echoes of Thurber, Perlman, the Algonquin Round Table, several generations of writers for Saturday Night Live, McSweeney’s, as well as, e.g., the entire span of The Simpsons. No cow is sacred, no political bromide unworthy of being tweaked, no deeply held commitment to truth and beauty is unworthy of mockery, and everyone is suspect, including, above all, Ben Doyle himself. Doyle’s stories are memorable and scurrilous and accomplished, but perhaps nothing about them is more admirable than the simple fact of Doyle’s belief in the form, his refusal to apologize for comic writing, and his patient, decided, and sincere self-improvement on the road to what is self-evidently going to be a life in the arts as a comic writer. His work is a laugh-out-loud bravura selection of his best pieces from the last couple of years. Few if any recent collections by undergraduates have been as funny, and as shrewdly ambitious.