A comic saga of a creative writing professor and his letters of recommendation, written by Julie Schumacher, won this year’s Thurber Prize for American Humor. She is the first woman to win the prize, established in 1996.
Schumacher received $5,000 and a crystal plaque for her novel “Dear Committee Members.” She was honored Monday at the New York comedy club Caroline’s on Broadway. The award is named for the late humorist and cartoonist James Thurber.
Because all the finalists were women, that one won came as no surprise. Eight women were previously finalists, but only men had won.
Schumacher, the author of five books for young readers, teaches at the University of Minnesota. “I know lots of women who are funny,” she told Minnesota Public Radio. “Women have always been funny. Maybe men didn’t notice before.”
The two runners-up were Roz Chast for her memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” a graphic memoir of caring for her elderly parents, and Annabelle Gurwitch for “I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50,” which features pink see-through granny panties on the cover.
This year’s panel of judges included two women who were Thurber finalists, according to The Washington Post: Sloane Crosby (“I Was Told There’d Be Cake”), who was shortlisted in 2009, and cartoonist-editor Liza Donnelly (“Women on Men”), who was a finalist last year.
Noting that all three finalists are older than 50, Crosby told the Post, “Can we therefore extract from this shortlist the idea that not only are women funny but that they get funnier as time passes?”
Previous winners include Jon Stewart and the writers of “The Daily Show,” David Sedaris and Calvin Trillin.
Al Jazeera with The Associated Press