A war veteran has a crisis on a beach. A woman experiences the stopping of time and is humbled and energized. A family takes a trip through Virginia. A college graduate gets a job as a cook on a boat. A little girl selects a gift for her grandmother. A little boy has a halting conversation with his parents before he leaves the house. A woman remembers an affair. A house is struck by lightning.
Like a series of moments in a social media–like ‘feed,’ this collection of very short stories riffs on the form of ‘the joke,’ but as this might be understood by the best culture-critical comedians of our time: Andy Kaufman, Stephen Wright, Jon Stewart, Richard Pryor. Much like those stand-up artists who sanctified the joke-form, these stories deal with intense subjects, yet with a kind of SSRI-like placidity that allows readers to cling to each word as the narratives unfold.
Sad and funny, hopeful and ecstatic, nostalgic and cerebral, the vignettes in The Jokes offer a very personal, yet amazingly relatable entry-point into some of the big ideas that trouble our times—gender identity, sexuality, life and death, and ways of being in the world.
Watch the BookThug Author Interview with Stephen Thomas:
Listen to the Book Launch:
Watch the Book Launch and Reading:
Praise for The Jokes:
“Stephen Thomas is a writer who’s smart, thoughtful, engaging, but also mischievous, like a little kid who knows he shouldn’t misbehave, but does it anyway. His debut collection, The Jokes, feels to me like an absent-minded Lydia Davis trying to write deadpan comedy skits for Cartoon Network’s Tim & Eric. It’s anti-humour that’s actually funny, sketches in which nothing is ever resolved, mini-stories that start at Point A and then seem to forget what they were even talking about. This is a book full of surprises.” —Guillaume Morissette, author of New Tab
“Lydia Davis and Etgar Keret move in together and decide to adopt a son. They settle on Stephen Thomas. He has a pithy style and a funny bone. Years later, at the launch of his book The Jokes, Stephen reads a little story. It packs a novel’s worth of material into two short paragraphs. At the back of the room, sipping their red wine, Lydia and Etgar beam.” —Neil Smith, author of Boo
“Stephen Thomas writes little stories, but be wary of little things: they punch and expand and bruise and heal and break and reveal. They are revelatory. If you are an addict, the stories in Stephen Thomas’s The Jokes will be your next drug of choice. Not only can you not read just one, you must binge—and so you turn the page, blissful and aching.” —Lily Hoang, author of Changing
“The jokes (what else can you call them?) in The Jokes, Stephen Thomas’s double- (triple-, quadruple-) taking book of serrated sentences, ignite the slowest of slow burns, the deadest pan you can imagine on steroids. These muscle-bound bons mots are the love children of Nietzschean aphorisms and stoned status updates. They capture eloquently the X-Acto-knifed, juxtaposed, collaged to smithereens language we negotiate everyday via the electromagnetic soup in which we now all inhabit.” —Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Winesburg, Indiana
“The Jokes invokes those seemingly banal experiences that unexpectedly suggest realms beyond our understanding.” —Pasha Malla, The Globe and Mail
“Stephen Thomas’ The Jokes is not funny-haha, but funny-hmmm. It’s not meant to be funny-haha either, although many of the stories are designed to make readers think about other funny-haha moments (or make them reconsider what makes a story funny-haha in the first place).” —Buried in Print
“This collection of one-page stories, which could double as an absurdist joke book, highlight the nuances of humanity—the loneliness, fear of abandonment, facing one’s own mortality—to show how, well, absurd, human nature can be.” —Cassandra Baim, Queen Mob’s Teahouse
Interviews and Profiles:
Something Totally New: Part One of Stephen Thomas in Conversation with Jess Taylor —Open Book Toronto
Telling a Story that Works: Part Two of Stephen Thomas in Conversation with Jess Taylor —Open Book Toronto
The Lucky Seven Interview with Stephen Thomas —Open Book Toronto
First Fiction Friday: The Jokes by Stephen Thomas —All Lit Up
“The Don’t Want You to Write Emotionally”: Fawn Parker and Stephen Thomas in Conversation —The Town Crier
What Rhymes with ‘clickbait’? The News of 2016 in Poetry —Toronto Star
‘Ahhh, Now I Can Finally Concentrate’ by Stephen Thomas —McSweeney’s
‘In the Bubble’ sketch —Saturday Night Live
Stephen Thomas is a Toronto-based writer of fiction, nonfiction, plays, and Facebook statuses. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Hazlitt, The Atlantic’s CityLab blog, Little Brother, The Seneca Review, The Fanzine, and The Puritan. He has been awarded a Truman Capote Scholarship and an Edward F. Albee Fellowship. The Jokes was shortlisted for the Metatron Prize for Rising Authors of Contemporary Literature. Learn more at www.stephenthomaswriter.com.