The Funniest Lines In Literature

"The story so far: In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."

- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Writing is hard. First, an idea is necessary. It must be compelling; it must be original. It must be worth a reader's time, and a writer must have the patience to commit the whole thing to paper. It's tedious work, and to do it with a dash of humor is the most difficult task of all.

Here at Dictionary.com, we like a bit of funny in our books. So, as an homage to those who do it well, we compiled a list of our favorite humorous quotes from literature.

This being the beginning of our slideshow, let's begin at the beginning. Douglas Adams wrote this line in 1980, and it's the opening of his novel The Restaurant at the Far End of the Universe. It's droll and dripping with wit. This line is as prescient today as it was when it was written. Open up the newspaper and what do you see? Day after day, it's nothing but bad news leading us to believe Adams was on to something when he penned it.

"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."

- Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson

Twain was widely regarded as the smartest person in the room, but this quote from the 1894 novel Pudd'nhead Wilson makes it clear that he had a sense of humor about himself. We've all been there: we're in the midst of dominating a friendly debate, and then bam, your friend hits you with a good example that leaves you dead in your tracks. It's infuriating—and oh so true.

"To lose one parent may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Let's be clear. This list could have been compiled with only Oscar Wilde quotes. However, this one from the 1895 play The Importance of Being Earnest is our favorite. Rereading this example of Wilde's sly humor makes him one of our favorite authors.

"You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do."

- David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

The sentiment of this quote has varied origins, but this particular version appears in the book everyone claims to have read (we know none of you have). The 1996 tome Infinite Jest touches at the heart of what we all feel. Deep down we're all self-conscious, and if taken to heart, Wallace's quote can help one overcome a case of self doubt. Like all good humor, there's a kernel of truth to its tongue-in-cheek delivery, and if you're ever feeling down about yourself, we recommend keeping this one in mind.

"Reality continues to ruin my life."

- Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes Collection

Comics are literature, right? We don't see why not. Bill Watterson's epic Calvin and Hobbes series ran from 1985–1995, and this line is a standout. We wake up in the morning feeling like a million bucks, then things start going wrong as soon as we get out of bed. It happens to the best of us, and Watterson recognized it.

"There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends."

- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

You might think Sylvia Plath's 1963 novel The Bell Jar isn't big on humor, but this line gets us anyway. Throwing up with somebody is a shared ordeal, and it has a way of making fast friends out of strangers. Plath's reference in the book was in reference to a case of food poisoning, but her point holds humorously true.

"Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind."

- Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Terry Pratchett was a comedic genius widely known for his whopping 41-novel Discworld series. This quote comes from his 1991 book Reaper Man. Word people know to use exclamation points sparingly, but we all have those friends who insist on sending a bevy of exclamation points and ALL CAPS in their text messages.

Factor in that he wrote this well before text messaging existed, and we embrace the shared disdain of excessive exclamation points.

"The capacity for friendship is God's way of apologizing for our families."

- Jay McInerney, The Last of the Savages

Picture this: You're sitting with the family around the dining room table. Dad is going on and on about his misguided views on immigration, and all you can think to yourself is you'd rather be out with your friends. We all know the feeling, and that's why this quote from Jay McInerney's 1996 novel The Last of the Savages is such a good punchline.

However, if you're a parent and reading this, don't worry. This one generally applies to adolescence. As we get older, we come to see that family really is worth a lot.

"If you think anyone is sane you just don't know enough about them."

- Christopher Moore, Practical Demonkeeping

Sometimes, truer words were never spoke, and in terms of this quote from Christopher Moore's 1992 novel Practical Demonkeeping, we couldn't agree more.

It's true; there isn't a soul among us who isn't a little bit crazy. Scratching the surface of anyone will reveal all sorts of interesting proclivities. None of us are what we seem, and in thirteen words Moore summed us up perfectly.

"If this typewriter can't do it, then f*** it, it can't be done."

- Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

This is the first line of Tom Robbins' 1980 novel Still Life with Woodpecker, and what a first line it is. If you write, then you've spent your time staring at a blank page. Your fingers are quiet, and your mind feels like cement. It's not working, and we're willing to bet you've thought something along the lines of this quote.

Though vulgar, Robbins' line is oh-so-very accurate when it comes to the craft of writing. And for that, it's one of our favorites.

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with weird words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Dictionary Is More Than The Word Of The Day

Enter your email for quizzes, quotes, and word facts in your inbox every day.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.