Jack Handey

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Jack Handey
Born (1949-02-25) February 25, 1949 (age 66)
San Antonio, Texas
Website deepthoughtsbyjackhandey.com

Jack Handey (born February 25, 1949) is an American humorist. He is best known for his Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey, a large body of surrealistic one-liner jokes, as well as his "Fuzzy Memories" and "My Big Thick Novel" shorts. Although many people assume otherwise,[1][dead link][2] Handey is a real person, not a pen name or character.

Early years[edit]

Handey was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1949. His family later moved to El Paso, Texas, where Handey attended Eastwood High School (where he was editor of Sabre, the school newspaper) and the University of Texas at El Paso.

Handey's earliest writing job was for a newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News. He lost the job, in his words, after writing "an article that offended local car dealerships".[2] His first comic writing was with comedian Steve Martin. According to Martin, Handey got a job writing for Saturday Night Live after Martin introduced Handey to the show's creator, Lorne Michaels.[3] For several years Handey worked on other television projects: the Canadian sketch series Bizarre in 1980; the 1980 TV special Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty; and Lorne Michaels' short-lived sketch show on NBC called The New Show in 1984. Handey returned to Saturday Night Live in 1985 as a writer and co-producer.[4]

Deep Thoughts[edit]

In April 1984, National Lampoon published the first of Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts. Additional Deep Thoughts appeared in the October and November 1984 editions as well as in the short-lived comedy magazine Army Man, while more appeared in 1988 in The New Mexican. The one-liners were to become Handey's signature work, notable for their concise humor and their outlandish hypothetical situations. For example:

  • If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.[5][dead link][6]

Handey's work next showed up in the Michael Nesmith-produced TV series Television Parts in the format which would later become famous on Saturday Night Live (though in Television Parts, Nesmith provided the narration). Some of these bits appeared in the compilation video of that program, Doctor Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce.

Between 1991 and 1998, Saturday Night Live included Deep Thoughts on the show as an interstitial segment between sketches. Introduced by Phil Hartman and read live by Handey (neither actually appeared on screen), the one-liners proved to be extremely popular. Hartman would intone "And now, Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey...", and peaceful easy listening music would play while the screen showed soothing pastoral scenes, much like a New Age relaxation video. Handey would then read the Deep Thought as the text to it scrolled across the screen. They became an enduring feature of SNL, which often had multiple Thoughts in each episode, and made Handey a well-known name.

Other SNL work[edit]

Other Handey pieces that appeared on SNL included Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer,[10] "Fuzzy Memories" which depicted reenactments of a twisted childhood memory and aired in the late 1990s, and the short-lived "My Big Thick Novel", which were spoken excerpts from a very long book in the style of "Deep Thoughts" and which aired during the 2001–03 seasons of SNL.

Handey is also credited with creating Toonces, the cat who could drive a car, although badly ("See, I told you he could drive! Just not very well!").[11] The recurring skit originated in 1989 with Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson as the crash-prone kitty's owners. In 1992 NBC aired a half-hour Toonces special. Handey, who owned a real cat by the same name, once said he couldn't remember exactly how he dreamed up the premise. He said, "It was just one of those free association ideas you write down and look at later and think, 'Maybe.'"[11]

Recent life[edit]

Jack Handey lives with his wife, Marta Chavez Handey,[6] in Santa Fe, New Mexico.[1][dead link] Previously, the Handeys had lived in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.[2]

Several short humor pieces of his have appeared in The New Yorker's "Shouts & Murmurs" section: "What I'd Say to the Martians," in the issue of August 8 & 15, 2005; "This Is No Game," in the issue of January 9, 2006; "Ideas for Paintings," in the issue of March 20, 2006;[12] "My First Day In Hell", in the issue of October 30, 2006;[13] "My Nature Documentary", in the issue of July 2, 2007;[14] "How Things Even Out", in the issue of March 3, 2008,[15] "How I Want To Be Remembered," in the issue of March 31, 2008,[16] "The Symbols on My Flag (And What They Mean)" in the issue of May 19, 2008 and "The Plan" in the issue of November 24, 2008.[17] Handey has written and performed segments on the radio program Studio 360.

In early April 2008, Handey published his first collection of magazine humor pieces, What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats. The Associated Press critic Jake Coyle wrote, "With absurdist musings such as these, Handey has established himself as the strangest of birds: a famous comedian whose platform is not the stage or screen, but the page."[18]

After four quiet years, Handey's piece "Alexander the Great" appeared in the March 12, 2012 issue of the New Yorker.[19] It was followed by "Guards Complaints About Spartacus" July 22, 2013, "Luau" October 21, 2013, "Tales of Old Santa Fe" July 7, 2014 and "Execution Days" on May 4, 2015. [20]

On July 16, 2013 Handey's first novel, The Stench of Honolulu, was released.



  1. ^ a b Biography, "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey" Website, http://www.deepthoughtsbyjackhandey.com/answer.html. Accessed June 6, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Handey, Jack: "Deep Thoughts about Me: Questions I Am Often Asked (and My Answers)", Texas Monthly, January 2002.
  3. ^ "Martin Writes Off Fried Shrimp Days," New York Post, October 1, 1999.
  4. ^ Jack Handey at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Handey, Jack (October 12, 1991). "The SNL Archives: "Deep Thoughts" Episode 17.3". 
  6. ^ a b Handey, Jack: Deep Thoughts (1992). Berkley Publishing Group, n.p.
  7. ^ Handey, Jack (October 21, 1991). "The SNL Archives: "Deep Thoughts" Episode 18.7". 
  8. ^ Handey, Jack: "Deep Thoughts," Saturday Night Live Episode 18.7, October 21, 1992. Cited online in The SNL Archives, [1].
  9. ^ Handey, Jack: Deeper Thoughts: All New, All Crispy (1993). Hyperion, n.p.
  10. ^ "Deep Thoughts' man offers 'What I'd Say to the Martians'" from CNN
  11. ^ a b Carman, John: "We Paws for This Message", San Francisco Chronicle, February 14, 1992
  12. ^ Handey, Jack: "Ideas for Paintings", New Yorker, March 20, 2006]
  13. ^ Handey, Jack: "My First Day In Hell", New Yorker, October 30, 2006
  14. ^ "My Nature Documentary", New Yorker, July 2, 2007
  15. ^ "How Things Even Out", New Yorker, March 3, 2008
  16. ^ "How I Want To Be Remembered", March 31, 2008
  17. ^ "The Plan", New Yorker, November 24, 2008
  18. ^ "Jack Handey's Thoughts Get Deeper", Jake Coyle, AP, April 12, 2008.
  19. ^ "Alexander the Great", New Yorker, March 12, 2012
  20. ^ [2] "New Yorker", Jack Handy

External links[edit]