It was sort of a coincidence that I stumbled upon the fact that S.J. Perelman was born today in 1904 (he died in 1979), but going and checking out his Wikipedia page wasn’t — it’s something I usually do when I find out it’s the anniversary of someones birth or death.
With all this talk about “comic novels,” I’ve been getting more and more interested in reading older humor pieces, and have taken a serious interest in Perelman’s work. Considering his connections to The New Yorker and The Marx Brothers, it would make sense. Also, the man’s hand in making Yiddish “funny” to people who didn’t speak it was invaluable, as is his influence on Woody Allen and Philip Roth.
Perelman also had a hand in making Catch-22 the huge success it was/is:
Perelman was indirectly responsible for the success of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22. When first published, this novel received lukewarm reviews and indifferent sales. A few months later, Perelman was interviewed for a national publication. The interviewer asked Perelman if he had read anything funny lately. Perelman—a man not noted for generosity with his praise—went to considerable lengths to commend Catch-22. After the interview was published, sales of Heller’s novel skyrocketed.