Even as a religious watcher of SNL in high school and into college, I had no idea Jack Handey was a real person until much later. So this profile of him comes in handy (ahem).
This idea — the notion of real jokes and the existence of pure comedy — came up again and again when I asked other writers about Handey. It seemed as if to them Handey is not just writing jokes but trying to achieve some kind of Platonic ideal of the joke form. “There is purity to his comedy,” Semple said. “His references are all grandmas and Martians and cowboys. It’s 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.”
“For a lot of us, he was our favorite writer, and the one we were most in awe of,” said James Downey, who wrote for “S.N.L.” “When I was head writer there, my policy was just to let him do his thing and to make sure that nothing got in the way of him creating.”
“He was the purest writer,” Franken said. “It was pure humor, it wasn’t topical at all. It was Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.”