By Stewart Sutherland
It used to be that outside of simple joke books, comedy was a medium reserved for TV and radio. A fickle industry, it requires timing, shamelessness and that unique grain of truth to make it believable. To capture these elements and print them in a book is no easy task, but in 2004, the writers and talent of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart added their entry with the successful mock-encyclopaedia America (the Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction. A satirical telling of America’s founding, structuring and possible futures, it stands to reason the best way to top that would be to cover everything else in the next book: Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race.
Earth (the Book) presents itself as a parody text book once again, this time aimed at the alien visitors that will gaze upon our ruined civilization once we’re thoroughly extinct. This may immediately be a not-so-subtle reference to where we’re possibly heading, but for the better part it’s simply a structure tool to explain everything about us to people who shouldn’t know anything about us.
“The basic unit of human social life was the family – parents and their children. This arrangement was sometimes called the nuclear family, after how ballistic your parents went when they found out you pierced your nipples.” Chapter 4 – The Life Cycle: Family
This book downplays its connection to the show more than the first one: gone are the correspondent opinions and extras, and outside of the front cover and titles there’s little to no mentioning of The Daily Show. Some fans might feel a little disappointed with this but they shouldn’t be – the fast wit and wisdom of the show is present throughout the book. As chapter one dictates (to humans), aliens intelligent enough to decipher this text can obviously bring people back with DNA, so feel free to pluck a few hairs before continuing.
The next 239 pages are a skewed look at the world around us at best, a collection of pop culture references at worst. Either way, it’s a good book to read if your sense of humour is in tune with the flagship series. One of the successes of The Daily Show is that for better or worse, they tell the truth about whatever their target is. Maybe this is why I can’t help but read such absurd facts like “Pyjamas were special clothes people had to wear when their kids turned three” and have a chuckle.
“As a weapon, the falling safe was particularly effective when combined with animated birdseed.” Chapter 8 – Science: Weaponry
True to any “real” encyclopaedia, Earth (The Book)’s chapters cover the bare-basics of flora and fauna, mankind, the life cycle, society, commerce, religion, science, culture and multiple appendix. Beneath these headings are virtually every aspect of our lives, culture and future, told from the point of view of a wise-cracking smart alleck.
I can’t stress enough that this is a book, false-text or not, that only works with people who have a sense of humour and can abide by that unspoken law of comedy – if you can’t laugh at yourself, don’t laugh at other people. As easily as the writers have satirized everything from a. advertising to z. zodiac, they just as easily pull no punches with stereotyping nationalities, traditions and of course, religion. Again, it plays up to that little rule that if you’re laughing at every other gag and stumble when your own profession or sexuality is ridiculed, you might just want to give this a miss. That said, if your sense of humour is shameless (and you can stomach a nude-picture of Larry King in the anatomy section) I’d recommend buying Earth (The Book) while it’s still available in hardcover.
8 OUT OF 10
“We were obsessed with the moon and whether we could one day visit it. The day we finally walked on it was celebrated worldwide as perhaps man’s greatest achievement. But it was while we were there, gathering rocks from the moon’s desolate landscape, that we looked up and caught a glimpse of just how incredible our own planet was. It’s singular astonishing beauty. We called her Mother Earth. Because she gave birth to us, and then we sucked her dry.” – Jon Stewart