Torturing the Saxophone

In 2014, celebrated Swedish free jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson sent a copy of his forthcoming album to one of his idols, the legendary comic book artist, record collector and musician Robert Crumb. Gustafsson’s upcoming record was a compilation of his experimental interpretations of some jazz classics by people such as Duke Ellington, Lars Gullin, and

Dear Person

It’s difficult to overstate my love for this wonderful letter of thanks, written in 1982 by the late Jack Lemmon. It was sent to friend and fellow actor, Burt Reynolds, in response to a donation made to the Jack Lemmon Burn Center—one can only hope that Lemmon thanked all donors in a similarly amusing manner. This precious

It’s the real thing

In March of 1970, having been shown an advertisement for the newly-published book in the New York Times, Coca-Cola brand manager Ira C. Herbert wrote to Grove Press and asked that they stop using the quote “it’s the real thing”—a slogan associated with the soft-drink since the 1940s—when promoting Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher, Jim Haskins‘ classic first-hand

Very untruly yours

In March of 1987, having paid a hefty licensing fee of $500’000 to Capital Records and Michael Jackson for the privilege, Nike released the first ever television commercial to feature a song from the Beatles‘ sacred back catalogue—in this case, Revolution. Rather unsurprisingly, the move was seen by many as a controversial one, particularly by

Just like that

The late, great Tommy Cooper was one of the most recognisable comedians in the world, his frantic act a perfectly delivered mixture of jokes and calamitous magic tricks that rarely failed to raise a laugh. I remember watching him as a kid, mesmerised, fully convinced that he was never out of character, that actually there

My wick hath a thief in it

In January of 1824, after weeks of intense suffering at the hands of what he later admitted was simply “a severe cold,” renowned essayist and poet Charles Lamb sent the following letter to his good friend and fellow poet, Bernard Barton — a hugely entertaining letter that contains what is surely one of the greatest, most over-dramatic descriptions of

Your road manager needs a POKE

In March of 1966, as their Australian tour came to an end, a few members of The Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts — decided to unwind by taking a short break in Fiji. It was during that visit, and due in no small part to a flippant remark made by their

Sin-sationally, Mae West

In 1942, midway through World War II, Hollywood actress Mae West discovered that RAF aircrew had taken to calling their life jackets “Mae Wests” — in part due to rhyming slang, and also as a result of their “bulging” shape when inflated. West, delighted to be playing even a minuscule part in proceedings, immediately wrote the following letter to the RAF. (Source: Air Force Association, 1943;

There is no money in answering letters

In 1961, comedian Groucho Marx and filmmaker Woody Allen met for the first time and embarked on a friendship that would last 16 years. Groucho—the elder of the pair by 45 years—reminded Woody of “a Jewish uncle in my family, a wisecracking Jewish uncle with a sarcastic wit,” whilst Woody was, according to Groucho in

I have not shot her yet

In 1927, the year after her first collection of poetry, Enough Rope, was published to rave reviews, the eternally sarcastic and rightly celebrated satirist, critic, and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker, found herself in hospital suffering from exhaustion—a condition brought on, in part, by a turbulent affair with American publisher Seward

Your pal, Lorne Michaels

Early-1976, a few months after Saturday Night Live made its debut as “NBC’s Saturday Night,” the following rejection letter was sent to hopeful writers. It was written and signed by the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels. Transcript follows. (Source: Saturday Night Live; Image: Lorne Michaels on air in 1976, offering the Beatles $3000 to reunite.) Transcript April

I am desperate to have some real fun

In January 1960, 9 years and 250 episodes after first being introduced to a baffled but delighted audience, The Goon Show’s final installment was broadcast on BBC radio, much to the dismay of its many fans. Written chiefly by Spike Milligan, the show’s 10 series had been a surreal mixture of sketches, music and general

Sure, go ahead

In February of 1945, James Thurber — much-loved New Yorker cartoonist and author of, most notably, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — delivered, quite brilliantly, a playful jab to his attorney and friend, Morris Ernst, by way of the following letter — written in response to a request from the lawyer to reprint some of Thurber’s drawings in a forthcoming book. (Source:

John is an admirable name

In February of 1892, after one of his plays was mauled by a drama critic, Oscar Wilde wrote the following letter to the publication’s editor and complained — not about the review itself, but about the critic’s insistence on naming him “John Wilde.” (Source: Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters; Image: Oscar Wilde, via.) 16 Tite

I’m unhappy, hope you’re unhappy too

Here we have the first letter sent by 21-year-old Morrissey to his Scottish pen-pal, Robert Mackie in 1980, in response to a personal ad in Sounds magazine. His note was written on the back of a James Dean photo (James Dean was of course the subject of a book written by Morrissey around that time), and

Regarding your dam complaint

In December of 1997, as a result of an official complaint from a neighbour, a Michigan resident named Stephen Tvedten received, indirectly, a stern warning from the region’s Department of Environmental Quality in the form of a letter—a letter in which he was given six weeks to remove two “unauthorized” and “hazardous” dams from the

Oh my ass burns like fire!

When he wasn’t busy composing some of the most beautiful music ever to seduce the human ear, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could often be found writing shockingly crude letters to his family. The fine example below (translated by Robert Spaethling) was penned to Mozart’s 19-year-old cousin and possible love interest,

Cowboys must be deranged

In July of 1964, a reader named Marian Forer wrote the following letter to John G. Fuller, the editor of a popular column in Saturday Review magazine called “Trade Winds” that collated whimsical news items and thought-provoking anecdotes from all corners. Forer’s letter was later featured, in part, in the column.  (Source: Dear Wit.) Winnipeg, ManitobaCanada

Oh Christ, the cook is dead

In February of 1977, a well-meaning teacher named Stephen Gard wrote to Spike Milligan after reading Monty, the third installment of Spike’s memoirs which focused on his life as a soldier in World War II, and asked some questions about the book. Says Stephen: “My letter was written as a fan, but it did ask

I have now no further use for a birthday

In 1891, 8 years after his classic novel, Treasure Island, was first published in book-form, author Robert Louis Stevenson learned that the 12-year-old daughter of Henry Clay Ide — then U. S. Commissioner to Samoa, where Stevenson lived — was unhappy that her birthday fell on Christmas Day. Stevenson immediately hatched a charming plan, and soon sent

My mother declared my bedroom a disaster area

As one would expect, Ronald Reagan was the recipient of thousands of letters each month during his presidency–a mailbag so voluminous, in fact, that a gang of patient volunteers were tasked with opening them all on his behalf and passing him approximately 30 each week to read and respond to. This is just one example,

Steve, I’ve got news

In July of 1988, a lawyer named Becky Klemt (above, pictured in 1990) of law firm Pence & MacMillan in Laramie, Wyoming, contacted several California attorneys and asked for assistance in collecting some outstanding child support on behalf of her client — a lady whose husband, the debtor, had recently moved to Los Angeles. Six weeks later, by which

The spectacle sickened me

In July of 1905, after attending a performance of Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, renowned playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw wrote a wonderful letter of complaint to The Times. His grievance didn’t concern the opera itself, but rather an extravagantly dressed lady seated in his line of sight. The letter,

Airman Thompson

In 1956, not long after enlisting with the United States Air Force, 19-year-old Hunter S. Thompson landed a job as Sports Editor for The Command Courier, Eglin Air Force Base‘s newspaper, and immediately began to ruffle feathers. The memo below was sent the next year, at which point his exaggerated reporting and rebellious attitude were causing

I am greatly troubled by what you say

In 1905, the “superintendent of the children’s department” at Brooklyn Public Library ordered that all copies of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn be removed from the room, due to their characters’ “coarseness, deceitfulness and mischievous practices.” Soon after, unhappy with the development, the librarian in charge of the “Department for the Blind,” Asa Don Dickinson, wrote

Ought women not to be abolished altogether?

On March 28th of 1912, an eminent bacteriologist named Almroth Wright wrote a lengthy, pompous letter to The Times in which he argued that women should not be allowed to vote, and in fact should be kept away from politics altogether, due to their supposed psychological and physiological deficiencies. Unsurprisingly his opinion generated many responses, the best

John Cleese vs The Sun

In 1982, British tabloid The Sun reported that filming on Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life had been marred by an incident involving John Cleese and a group of extras dressed as Zulu warriors. According to the article, Cleese, frustrated that bad weather was slowing the shoot, had “leaped about among the extras demanding ‘Which one

Iorz feixfuli, M. J. Yilz

In January of 1971, a gentleman named M. J. Shields wrote the wonderful letter seen below to The Economist, on the subject of spelling reform — an idea famously championed by George Bernard Shaw, who even funded, posthumously, the development of a new alphabet. It’s a brilliant, amusing letter and one which I have, I think, managed to

Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech

As an outspoken stand-up comedian with strong, unbending views on the most divisive of subjects, the late-Bill Hicks was no stranger to controversy during his all-too-brief career. In May of 1993, less than a year before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 32, a live recording of Hicks’ Revelations show was broadcast

Greetings Worm

From the pages of Diane Keaton‘s memoir, Then Again, come four brief and unsurprisingly entertaining letters from the inimitable Woody Allen. Says Keaton: I was his endearing oaf. He was my “White Thing.” […] We thrived on demeaning each other. His insights into my character were dead on and—duh!—hilarious. This bond remains the core of our

Illiterately yours

The following intro and genuine exchange of letters forms the dedication to Will Rogers‘ 1924 book, The Illiterate Digest. Image of Will Rogers via iCollector. “Most Books have to have an Excuse by some one for the Author, but this is the only Book ever written that has to have an Alibi for the Title,

You children write illiterate letters

In 1958, a schoolboy named Robert Leifert wrote to the author and humourist, James Thurber, and asked for some assistance with a school project. Sadly for Robert (or luckily for Robert, depending on your viewpoint) it seems he caught Thurber on a bad day, and before long the youngster was the proud owner of the following delightfully

His heart is not in his work

Before becoming a full-time author, Sherwood Anderson worked as a copy-writer for a Chicago-based advertising agency named Taylor Critchfield Co, and it wasn’t until 1918, by which time he was 41 years of age, that he was able to take the leap and devote himself to his craft. When it came to resigning from the

Scientifically yours

I think it’s safe to assume that after NASA successfully landed two rovers on Mars in January of 2004, the momentous event was quickly eclipsed by the following letter of congratulations, sent to the JPL days later by a certain Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his accident-prone assistant, Beaker. Note: Although the Spirit rover’s initial problems were overcome, it’s unknown

I should like more money

The great Al Hirschfeld had been supplying his much-loved caricatures to the New York Times for 37 years when, in 1962, tipped over the edge by the newspaper’s accounting department, he sent the following amusing letter to the Sunday editor, Lester Markel. His request for a raise was granted. Transcript follows. (Source: The Paper’s Papers: A

Go easy with my money

In April of 1961, the inimitable Groucho Marx received a glossy annual report from the Franklin Corporation, a company in which he had recently become an investor. After flicking through the report, Groucho had some concerns, and so wrote the following letter to the company’s President, Herman Goodman, to inform him. (Source: The Groucho Letters;

Never from so many at once

In 1932, a Mrs Randolph Frothingham, then President of the “Woman Patriot Corporation,” wrote a lengthy letter to the US government and demanded that Albert Einstein be barred from the country due to his being “affiliated with more anarchist and Communist groups than Josef Stalin himself.” The charges against him spanned 16 pages, and included

Happy Birthday, Dickens

Image: Charles Dickens, via Lenin Imports Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of someone who, hopefully, needs no introduction: Charles Dickens — a man who wrote so many letters (some 15’000 have survived) it’s a wonder he ever found time to write the novels he did. Last month I featured the bleakest of letters, in

She doesn’t answer the phone

In 1951, E. B. White — the novelist responsible for, most notably, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little — was accused by the ASPCA of not paying his dog tax and, as a result, “harboring” an unlicensed dog. He responded by way of the following delightful letter. (Source: Letters of a Nation; Image: E. B. White with

To the next Burglar

As he slept upstairs on September 8th of 1908, two young burglars entered Mark Twain‘s home, took an entire sideboard into the garden and proceeded to break it open. They were eventually caught by police with a stash of silverware. The next day, with the help of an aspiring young artist named Dorothy Sturgis, Twain

For Aspiring Editors

Young novelist William Saroyan dreamed of one day editing a magazine, and so in 1936 sought advice on that very aspiration from the great H. L. Mencken, a hugely influential man who had, in the 1920s, founded and edited his own title. Saroyan sent him a polite letter. Mencken responded with the priceless reply seen below.

Aida will gather dust in the archives

In May of 1872, having recently travelled twice to watch Aida, a disappointed Italian gentleman named Prospero Bertani decided to write a letter of complaint to the opera’s composer, Verdi, and ask for his money back; not just for the show, but for his expenses too. Amused, Verdi responded by forwarding the letter to his

Merry Christmas!

I’ve decided to break with tradition today as this is the last post of 2011. Rather than feature a letter, I’ve chosen a couple of charming Christmas cards that were sent to family and friends, circa 1920, by Harry Houdini. They’re both delightful. I’m taking a short break now. Letters of Note — and Lists

America is pretty empty without you kids

Groucho Marx wrote this lovely letter to U.S. troops stationed in Suriname in 1943, in response to a request from a Corporal Darrow to send a morale-boosting message. Groucho doesn’t disappoint, and cracks a couple of gentle jokes about life back home and his attempt to grow some vegetables; there are even a few genuinely

Stephen Hawking on Time Travel

In 1995, with their forthcoming 15th anniversary issue in mind, The Face magazine approached Stephen Hawking and asked him for a time travel formula. They soon received the following response by fax. Transcript follows. (Source: The Face’s former editors, Richard Benson & Johnny Davis; Image: Stephen Hawking, via.) Transcript UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGEDepartment of Applied Mathematics and

Dear Princeton Law School

Early-1957, Harvey Wax — a young man hoping to one day become a lawyer — sent an application letter to Princeton University‘s Law School and crossed his fingers. A short time later, he received the following rejection letter. It never fails to amuse me. It’s worth noting that Mr. Wax subsequently applied to Harvard’s Law

Everyone has to be a child

Back in 1998, The Economist ran an article which resulted in a record amount of feedback for its author. The subject at hand was children: For children, just like cigarettes or mobile phones, clearly impose a negative externality on people who are near them. Anybody who has suffered a 12-hour flight with a bawling baby

My belly is too much swelling with jackfruit

In 1909, after missing his train due to an ultimately disastrous trip to the lavatory at Ahmedpur station, an embarrassed, angry young man named Okhil Chandra Sen sent an unintentionally amusing letter of complaint to the Sahibganj divisional railway office in West Bengal. The letter proved to be an important one as, according to the

Dejobbed, bewifed, and much childrenised

On February 2nd of 1929, the following hilarious letter of complaint was sent to a government official in Calabar, Nigeria, by a “bewifed” and “much childrenised” ex-employee who had recently been “dejobbed” due to his apparent laziness. It is unknown whether he was subsequently “rejobulated.” The letter is now held at the National Archives, is

It’s more likely that I was doing 911km/h

When Auckland resident Justin Lee received the above speeding ticket back in 2004, he noticed a typo: according to said notice, the infringement in question had taken place 30 years beforehand, in 1974, on the day he was born. His entertaining response can be read below, followed by the subsequent reply from the New Zealand Police. Transcript

My Pilot days are closing in

Late-2000, in an effort to find a sponsor for his act, stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg wrote to the makers of his new favourite pen, The Uni-Ball Gel Impact, and suggested such a partnership. His amusing letter — or, more specifically, a draft of it as written on tour with his wife, Lynn — can be seen below.

The Nevermind Happy Meal

Nirvana‘s second album — the immeasurably influential and multi-million selling Nevermind — somehow turns 20 tomorrow. The band sent out the following handwritten letter to a number of fans during the run-up to its release on September 24th of 1991, and jokingly referred to, amongst other things, a tie-in with McDonald’s whereby copies of the forthcoming album would

SEVEN LITTLE MEN HELP A GIRL

When, in early-1986, Disney executives decided to change the title of their upcoming animated feature from ‘Basil of Baker Street’ to the less ambiguous ‘The Great Mouse Detective‘, its production team were less than pleased. One animator in particular, Ed Gombert, harnessed his displeasure to comical effect by creating, and circulating, the following: a fake memo

We must stop not meeting like this

The following ridiculous letter — and I mean that in the best possible sense — was written in 1982 by chat show host Michael Parkinson, and sent to a friend and much-loved comedian who was an interviewee of his on numerous occasions: Spike Milligan. I’m afraid I have nothing to offer in terms of context, however

Dear Loser

Here, in all its glory, is the form rejection letter sent to unsuccessful acts in the 1990s by legendary record label Sub Pop. Just to clarify: “Dear Loser” appeared at the top of all Sub Pop rejection letters. What’s not to love? Transcript follows. Image courtesy of MoLo_trash at Flickr. Image: MoLo_trash Transcript From… Sub

Handy Nervous Breakdown Avoider

Irving Hoffman was a busy man in the 1950s and as a Broadway publicist, columnist for the Hollywood Reporter and cartoonist, he reportedly wrote and received hundreds of letters each week to and from all manner of people. However, he only had so much time. For those occasions when a personally written reply just wasn’t possible, Hoffman instead

COPY TO HUGH HEFNER

When he wasn’t making the population laugh as part of Monty Python, the late-Graham Chapman could sometimes be found penning amusing letters. Below are just two brief examples — the first written by Chapman to his bank manager; the second to an amorous female fan. Enjoy. Transcripts follow each image, both of which are from the

Amateur comedy is too “On the nail”

Back in 1997, aged 19, then-aspiring comedian Mike Scott sent a letter to one of his biggest influences, Phil Hartman, along with a selection of his amateur comedy sketches on an audio tape. The letter spoke at length of his hopes and dreams, and politely sought any advice Hartman was able to give. Four months later the following

To Our Very Best Pal JOHN WAYNE (Or Occupant)

It seems the jokes didn’t end when the cameras stopped rolling on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the much-loved NBC comedy sketch show that originally ran from 1968 until 1973 and, over the course of its 140 episodes, featured countless appearances by celebrities. One such guest was John Wayne. He received the following fantastic letter of

I pity you

A highly unflattering Rolling Stone article about Queen‘s South American tour in 1981 — excerpt here — prompted the following scathing letter; originally written in a fit of rage by the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor, on an airline sickness bag. Unfortunately I’m unable to locate a picture of said sick-bag, so this image of the

Subject: Toilet Paper

On June 11th of 1942 (not 1943, as the memo’s opening typo states), the Commanding Officer of USS Skipjack, Lt. Commander James Wiggins Coe, sent the following sarcastic memo to the Navy’s supply department at Mare Island. At this point it had been almost a year since crew aboard the submarine had placed a simple

I have just written you a long letter

The late, great Lt. Col. Alfred D. Wintle was opinionated, brave, comical, intelligent, and, most importantly, hugely entertaining. A true “character.” He once attempted to escape a hospital dressed as a female nurse in order to rejoin the war effort, but his monocle gave him away; as a prisoner of war in France during World War

Try again, won’t you?

In the mid-1940s, before breaking through to become the successful novelist and prolific short-story writer many now remember, the late-John D. MacDonald was the recipient of countless dreaded rejection letters. Undeterred, he ploughed on. Some years later — at which point his services were very much in demand and he was selling his short stories

You’re a schmuck

In October of 1974, to celebrate his post-retirement comeback, 59-year-old Frank Sinatra appeared in a televised concert at Madison Square Garden, New York. Reviews were mixed, but one person who was particularly unkind to Ol’ Blue Eyes was critic Rex Reed, who immediately savaged Sinatra’s voice, supposed arrogance, and appearance in his syndicated column. He even called Sinatra “Porky

Your ever gracious tenant, Bruce Springsteen

Early-1975, just months before the release of Born to Run — the breakthrough album that would see him almost immediately catapulted to mega-stardom — Bruce Springsteen was hand-writing apologetic notes to his “landlordess,” Marilyn Rocky, due to late rent payments. The autograph practice was soon put to good use as, according to Marilyn, by August of that year

It is a good thing to be laughed at

Although tame by today’s standards, when it was first aired by the BBC in 1962, the late-night satirical TV show That Was The Week That Was broke new ground as its incredibly talented cast and crew mocked the political establishment in a manner previously unseen on television, live to millions of viewers. Unsurprisingly, the reaction from

The human race is incurably idiotic

Few letters have entertained me more than this one, sent by noted writer H. L. Mencken to artist Charles Green Shaw in 1927. Written in list-form, the letter acts as a Mencken biography of sorts as he briefly — and more often than not, humorously — offers his views on a whole host of subjects, topics

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me

If you had the opportunity to write to your 16-year-old self, what would you say? That was the question put to a number of celebrities in 2009 when, in an effort to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, a book filled with such letters was planned. The end product, Dear Me: A Letter

I have no interest in you or your life

Back in 1994, then aged 14, Tom Stuart wrote a letter to Lee and Herring — the British comedy duo behind one of his favourite shows, Fist of Fun — and, after introducing himself as a young fan of their work, asked a few questions. A fairly lengthy reply soon arrived, the vast majority of

I would like to point out…

The following note was written by Eric Idle to fellow-Python Graham Chapman in the late-1970s. I apologise for providing an intro so lacking in context but I, and the person who submitted it for inclusion, know nothing else of it. If you can add some background, please do so in the comments below. That said,

I want us to break up the act

At their peak during the late-60s/70s, Morecambe and Wise were arguably Britain’s most celebrated comedy act. The duo regularly attracted the biggest names in showbiz to appear on their show (Elton John, The Beatles and Tom Jones, to name but a few); the Morecambe & Wise Show Christmas Special of 1977 famously pulled in a record-breaking audience

On bureaucratese and gobbledygook

As a result of his influential stint as chairman of the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board in the 1970s, economist Alfred Kahn rightly became known as the “Father of Deregulation.” However, he also made a lasting impression on many due to the wider publication — initially in the Washington Star, and then the Post — of the following internal

Best wishes my dear friend

[Do not read the following if easily offended] In June of 2008, an autograph hunter named Dan emailed a member of Rik Mayall‘s management team in an effort to gain a copy of the Young One‘s signature for his collection. He received the following note, written and signed by Mayall on a printout of his original email,

Buttocks or Crotch?

Courtesy of Letters from a Nut — an often hilarious collection of “prank” correspondence, written in the mid-90s by comedian Barry Marder to a selection of unsuspecting recipients — comes a letter in which, under his pseudonym Ted L. Nancy, he asks a sensitive question of one Albert Meyer, then-President of the American Seating Company.

Seat 29E

Mid-flight on December 21st, 2004, a Continental Airlines passenger — “disgusted” with the location of his seat due to its proximity to the lavatory — humorously wrote the following letter of complaint to the airline’s headquarters. The now-famous letter, complete with illustrations and vivid descriptions of the passenger’s stench-filled discomfort, found its way onto the

Is there a Hustler for kids?

Back in 2001, writer and humorist Bill Geerhart posed as a 10-year-old boy and wrote to Larry Flynt, founder of the pornographic magazine Hustler. Below is his letter, and Flynt’s response. Thankfully Flynt wasn’t the only recipient of a letter from little Billy, and in fact Geerhart sent similarly amusing missives to a number of

Older mistresses are so grateful!!

On June 25th of 1745, Benjamin Franklin wrote the following letter of advice to Cadwallader Colden. The first paragraph sees Franklin suggesting marriage as the best remedy for Colden’s sexual urges; what follows is an eight-strong list detailing the advantages of an older mistress which, due to its “obscene” nature, resulted in the letter being omitted from published

You were of course the outstanding candidate

In May of 2006, armed only with a glittering virtual career on Football Manager 2005 and limited success in charge of a local under-11s team, then-25-year-old John Boileau made the leap and applied — with tongue firmly in cheek — to become the new manager of Middlesbrough Football Club. Below are his covering letter and

I had to turn down BLACK SPRING

On September 8th of 1936, Bennett Cerf – co-founder of Random House – wrote the following letter to author Henry Miller. In it, he rejected Miller’s third novel, Black Spring, adding that it hadn’t “the faintest chance of achieving commercial success in America.” Miller’s reaction to Cerf’s appraisal can be seen by way his brief handwritten annotation at the foot of the

Regarding your stupid complaint

In November of 1974, an attorney named Dale Cox wrote to his favourite American football club, the Cleveland Browns, and informed them that a number of the team’s fans were regularly throwing paper aeroplanes in the stadium — a potentially “dangerous” activity that could, he warned, cause “serious eye injury” to innocent fans such as himself. His stern letter

Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

Author and poet Gertrude Stein had an approach to writing that divided audiences, the unimpressed of whom found her rhythmical repetition and stream-of-consciousness style simply impenetrable and nonsensical. For others, it was, and remains, a breath of fresh air; something unique, to be savoured. In 1912, having just read one of her more repetitive manuscripts,

A Not-so-fond Farewell

On March 27th, 1990, with 34 episodes and a string of clashes with its main star under his belt, an exasperated Jeff Harris announced his resignation as executive producer on Roseanne by taking out a full-page ad in Daily Variety. On it was printed the following farewell letter. Breaking point was apparently reached when Roseanne Barr‘s new husband, Tom

The mass audience will never learn

On April 14th, 1960, comedian Steve Allen wrote the following letter to journalist Nat Hentoff, congratulating him on his latest Village Voice column (available to read here) in which Hentoff questioned some unfavourable reviews of Lenny Bruce‘s stand-up act. Bruce, recently a guest of Allen’s on his prime-time talk show, had caused widespread controversy following his

A drunken evening with Groucho Marx

On December 17th of 1957, having recently attended the world premiere of Peyton Place, the ever-witty Groucho Marx sent the following brief letter to the movie’s producer, Jerry Wald. Essentially a congratulatory note of thanks, Groucho’s unflagging sense of humour shines through as, after first mentioning the ongoing Leonard Ewing Scott murder case, he proceeds

Mark Twain on proofreaders

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proof-readers.” – Mark Twain, 1893. The inimitable Mark Twain, never one to bite his tongue, had a notoriously turbulent relationship with his countless editors, printers and proofreaders — the very people tasked with ensuring his written words were fit to print. The following letter

Cal Tech students are primitive little shits

From the early-1960s, a brief but characteristically humorous letter from Dorothy Parker. At this late point in her life – having previously founded the Algonquin Round Table; penned much poetry; worked as an Oscar-nominated screenwriter; and written for numerous publications including Vanity Fair and The New Yorker – Parker was sporadically reviewing books for Esquire magazine and, it seems, teaching at Caltech. Judging

Drinking, Smoking & Storytelling

Courtesy of the pharmaceutical manager of now-defunct importing firm Fairbairn Wright comes an amusing letter, written in 1972 to announce the interoffice transfer of a member of staff by the name of Enid Havercort. Following three years of head office experience in the city of Wellington, New Zealand, Enid was now ready to begin her career and

I will never be the next Rene Zellwegger

Today, a short but humorous letter of thanks – and briefly annotated envelope – from 2003; sent by Zach Galifianakis to Ryan McKee and Ron Babcock, founders of a fledgling comedy magazine named Modest Proposal that ran for just six issues until its demise in 2006. Galifianakis had recently been interviewed for the publication and

The Tiger Oil Memos

From the offices of the now-defunct but at one time Houston-based Tiger Oil Company come a batch of curiously entertaining memos, all sent by the firm’s irascible, tactless, and undeniably amusing CEO, Edward “Tiger Mike” Davis, to his staff. Tiger Mike’s management style was no secret within the industry; however, in the early-2000s, 25 years

A Mad Rejection

There’s nothing like a helping of light-hearted humour to ease the pain of rejection, as evidenced by this form letter from the offices of Mad magazine, one of the most influential humour publications ever released. The letter was sent to all unsuccessful submitters of material during the much-lauded reign of Al Feldstein. Transcript follows. Enormous thanks

You’re chaining up far too many women

Particularly during its infancy in the 1940s, the sight of its numerous characters being bound, dominated and disciplined was an incredibly common occurrence for readers of the Wonder Woman comic. However, it was a certain method of restriction – being chained, specifically – and its repeated usage that sparked the following glorious letter to the strip’s

I’m afraid I thought this one as dire as its title

In May of 1974, after reading through a pilot script written by John Cleese and his then-wife, Connie Booth, a clearly unimpressed ‘comedy script editor’ by the name of Ian Main sent the following memo to BBC Television‘s Head of Comedy and Light Entertainment. Luckily for the general population, and thanks in no small part

Dear Rear Admiral

Harry Allen Smith, an American journalist, author and humorist whose work was particularly popular in the 1940s and 50s, wrote the following letter of thanks in 1975 to a Dr. Aubrey Wilcox. Wilcox was apparently Smith’s proctologist, and it seems the brains behind an aptly shaped Christmas gift opened the previous day. Transcript follows. Source Transcript December

Try not to make an ass of yourself

On the evening of July 6th, 1984, The Jacksons reunited and embarked on a 55-date tour of the U.S. and Canada. Prior to the Victory Tour‘s first show, the following “Good Luck” telegram was sent to Michael Jackson by his friend, Marlon Brando. Transcript follows. (Source: Heritage Auctions; Image of Brando & Jackson, via.) Transcript

Could you send me a little something?

Hot on the heels of Steve Martin’s personal letter comes another fan mail response — again with a humorous post-script — but this time courtesy of Martin’s sorely missed Planes, Trains and Automobiles co-star: the late, great, John Candy. It was sent in December of 1984, just months after Candy’s breakout role in Splash had hit the screens, and

A Personal Letter From Steve Martin

Celebrities are faced with a dilemma as their star ascends: the fan mail that used to trickle to the front door now needs its own home, and replying to those messages of support is suddenly a full-time job of its own. A small few battle on valiantly, determined to respond personally to each and every

Wills are subject to change

During his final fourteen years, actor W. C. Fields enjoyed an oft-turbulent relationship with Carlotta Monti, a minor actress who became his mistress in the early 1930s. In 1939, midway through their affair and with marriage out of the question (Fields, although separated, still had a wife), Monti informed Fields of her intention to marry another

How to wash George Harrison’s car

In 1962, Beatles guitarist George Harrison wrote the following humorous letter — a tongue-in-cheek, step-by-step guide to washing his car — to a young Beatles fanatic by the name of Susan Houghton. It’s worth noting that the owner of the soon-to-be-grime-covered Ford Classic at Forthlin Road, as mentioned in step 7, was a certain Mr. McCartney. Transcript

Popeye’s favorit tree

Here’s an utterly charming letter from Popeye in which he ponders an apple tree’s life cycle, written and drawn by Bill Zaboly in 1942. Zaboly was one of the artists responsible for the comic strip following Elzie Segar‘s death in 1938 and lovingly produced this piece for a fan by the name of Jennette Winterhalter. Reading the