February 25, 1949 |
San Antonio, Texas
Jack Handey (born February 25, 1949) is an American humorist. He is best known for his "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey", a large body of surrealistic one-liner jokes, as well as his "Fuzzy Memories" and "My Big Thick Novel" shorts, and for his deadpan delivery. Although many people assume otherwise, Handey is a real person, not a pen name or character.
Handey's earliest writing job was for a newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News. He lost the job, in his words, after writing an article that "offended local car dealerships". His first comic writing was with comedian Steve Martin. According to Martin, Handey got a job writing for Saturday Night Live after Martin introduced Handey to the show's creator, Lorne Michaels. For several years Handey worked on other television projects: the Canadian sketch series Bizarre in 1980; the 1980 Steve Martin television special Comedy Is Not Pretty!; and Lorne Michaels' short-lived sketch show on NBC called The New Show in 1984. Handey returned to Saturday Night Live in 1985 as a writer.
In April 1984, National Lampoon published the first of Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts. Additional Deep Thoughts appeared in the October and November 1984 editions as well as in the short-lived comedy magazine Army Man, while more appeared in 1988 in The Santa Fe New Mexican. The one-liners were to become Handey's signature work, notable for their concise humor and their outlandish hypothetical situations. For example:
Handey's work next showed up in the Michael Nesmith-produced TV series Television Parts in the format which would later become famous on Saturday Night Live (though in Television Parts, Nesmith provided the narration). Some of these segments appeared in the compilation video of that program, Doctor Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce.
Between 1989 and 1990, Deep Thoughts were shown during commercial breaks on The Comedy Channel with Handey's narration.
Between 1991 and 1998, Saturday Night Live included Deep Thoughts on the show as an interstitial segment between sketches. Introduced by Phil Hartman and read live by Handey (neither actually appeared on screen), the one-liners proved to be extremely popular. Hartman would intone "And now, Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey...", and peaceful easy listening music would play while the screen showed soothing pastoral scenes, much like a New Age relaxation video. Handey would then read the Deep Thought as the text to it scrolled across the screen. They became an enduring feature of SNL, which often had multiple Thoughts in each episode, and made Handey a well-known name.
Other Handey creations that appeared on SNL include the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, "Fuzzy Memories" which depicted reenactments of a twisted childhood memory and aired in the late 1990s, and the short-lived "My Big Thick Novel", which were spoken excerpts from a very long book in the style of "Deep Thoughts" and which aired during the 2001-03 seasons of SNL.
Handey is also credited with creating Toonces the Driving Cat, the cat who could drive a car, although badly ("See, I told you he could drive! Just not very well!"). The recurring skit originated in 1989 with Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson as the crash-prone kitten's owners. In 1992 NBC aired a half-hour Toonces special. Handey, who owned a real cat by the same name, once said he could not remember exactly how he dreamed up the premise. He said, "It was just one of those free association ideas you write down and look at later and think, 'Maybe.'"
In early April 2008, Handey published his first collection of magazine humor pieces, "What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats". Associated Press critic Jake Coyle wrote, "With absurdist musings such as these, Handey has established himself as the strangest of birds: a famous comedian whose platform is not the stage or screen, but the page." Handey subsequently became a regular contributor to The New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs section.
On July 16, 2013 Handey's first novel, The Stench of Honolulu, was released.
Handey was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1949. His family later moved to El Paso, Texas, where Handey attended Eastwood High School (where he was editor of Sabre, the school newspaper) and the University of Texas at El Paso.