Jack Handey might be the greatest pure joke writer in the history of Saturday Night Live. The creator of “Deep Thoughts” is generally credited as a writer’s writer, frequently landing sketches in the 12:45 spot right before the end of the episode, where particularly zany humor had a home. This week’s edition of the New York Times Magazine features a profile of Handey, timed with the release of his first novel, The Stench Of Honolulu. Since leaving television, Handey hasn’t kept up with the comedy scene—when Dan Kois mentions Patton Oswalt, Amy Schumer, and Key & Peele to him, Handey doesn’t have a reference point—but he’s still revered by other writers for his classical joke writing, instead of material that “smells like a joke.” Maria Semple, a former SNL and Arrested Development writer, sums up Handey’s style as “so completely free from topical references and pop culture that I feel like everyone who’s gonna make a Honey Boo Boo joke should do some penance and read Jack Handey.” There are quotes from Al Franken and other SNL vets throughout the piece, which shines a light on a writer most people think is just a fake name.
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