Taking inspiration from the comedy greats
This article is from 2010.
Simon Rich makes his first appearance as a fully fledged novelist at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. Although the 24-year-old Harvard graduate has written two anecdotal non-fiction comedy books in the past three years – Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations and Free-Range Chickens – Elliot Allagash is his first foray into the world of comedy fiction. For a writer who counts Monty Python, Evelyn Waugh and ‘anyone who’s ever written for The Simpsons’ as his inspiration, Rich’s humour is both fresh and cynical, appealing across the board to teens and adults alike.
The novel is his take on the traditional teenage transformation story, following the story of geeky Seymour Herson as the ludicrously wealthy teenage Elliot turns him into the most popular boy in school. ‘I’ve always been an obsessive fan of funny novelists like Roald Dahl, Douglas Adams and PG Wodehouse,’ says Rich. ‘Elliot Allagash is my attempt to rip them off as much as possible while avoiding legal plagiarism.’
In his other occupation as the youngest-ever writer for Saturday Night Live, Rich must also work out how to pen for different audiences. ‘They each have their own advantages. When you’re writing a sketch for SNL, and it’s not going well, you can just write “Justin Timberlake enters” and you know the thing will work,’ he explains. ‘Novels have their benefits too, though. Only authors can write “the world exploded” and not have to worry about production costs.’ For now, it seems Rich is succeeding at both.
19 Aug (with Paul Murray), 8.30pm, £10 (£8).