The Last Laugh: Essay and Oddities in the News


118 pages
ISBN 0-920151-94-9
DDC 081





Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


The Last Laugh contains humorous essays on everything from awful poetry
to the scientific process that turns old newspapers into chicken feed.
All the essays were inspired by some offbeat news story that caught
Barber’s attention while working as a journalist at the Kingston-Whig

The essays are arranged in chapters by general subject, and Barber can
wring a laugh from just about anything. In “Literary Lapses,” he
bounces the reader from Bede to Shakespeare to T.S. Eliot. In “The
Importance of Buying Ernest,” he deftly parodies Ernest Hemingway’s
writing style while poking fun at Hemingway’s descendants who are
trying to make a quick buck by licensing Papa’s name for outdoor
merchandise. In “Rhyme Without Reason,” Barber parodies Michael
Drayton’s “The Battle of Agincourt”: “Fair stood the wind for
France / When we our sails advance; / ...And wave goodbye to aunts. /
Some look at us askance, / As on the deck we prance, / In silk or satin
pants / (or cotton ones, perchance).”

Other topics include shark repellent, MBA sex manuals, space monsters,
Playboy centrefolds, dodgy biblical interpretation, and a proposal to
build a new Stone Hedge. The essays are as informative as they are
witty. Those starved for a little intelligent humor will find much to
feast on here.


Barber, David W., “The Last Laugh: Essay and Oddities in the News,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,