In his breezy, imaginative humor anthology, Your Wildest Dreams Within Reason, Vanity Fair’s Mike Sacks taps into the sketch-comedy peculiarities of Mr. Show and Kids In The Hall. Wildest Dreams is populated with oddball characters on the fringe of society, with Sacks devoting great care to the idiosyncratic worlds they occupy. “Rules For My Cuddle Party” explains the ironclad restrictions of a makeshift orgy while delving into the filthy mistakes of previous “parties.” “O, Matty Parker: My Roommate, My Patron!” chronicles a lonely New Yorker who takes on a recent NYU grad to chronicle his every move. A bunch of letters to famous authors, penned by a desperate wannabe, all start with “I am a writer named Rhon Penny (silent h), and I am no longer married.” In just a few words, Sacks composes three-dimensional pieces that draw humor from punchlines and character eccentricities alike.
Your Wildest Dreams explores many avenues for Sacks’ sensibilities. There are letters, lists, diagrams, screenplays, and out-of-office e-mail replies, all of which fare equally well as Sacks builds out the jokes. In “From The Sea Journal Of The Esteemed Dr. Ridley L. Honeycomb (On Board His Majesty’s Sloop Winslow),” Sacks imagines what the diary of a pirate psychologist might look like as he treats gaping wounds with therapist catchphrases. The piece’s outrageous premise is matched by its agility at playing toward, then subverting, expectations of what a pirate psychologist might encounter. Then it’s effortlessly on to “What In The Hell Is That Thing?”, the saga of a sad-sack temp building a robot—or something.
Given that the pieces included in this collection were pulled from various publications (The New Yorker, Esquire, McSweeney’s) at various times, Your Wildest Dreams remains surprisingly cohesive. Only the lists, a McSweeney’s staple, present a challenge: Most are unwieldy, the jokes muddled in too many entries. “Things You Must Do Before You Grow Too Old,” for example, has some funny one-off bits (“Dance like nobody’s watching or laughing or throwing garbage at you”) but lacks the singular, creepy perspective of “A Few Things I’ve Discovered About Teenagers.” The fun in Your Wildest Dreams is watching Sacks unpack his weirdness, and there’s plenty of weirdness to unpack.