History as Comedy
By Chip Bagnall
I am plummeting from the ivory tower I never actually stood upon – at a great rate of speed.
We’ve all read, or at least attempted to, the dense tomes that inundate the bookshelves of our respective institutions of higher education. In my case it was mostly of the historical ilk. And I wanted a part of it. Growing up in a small college town, I basked in the shadows of Georgian architecture and shades of tweed. As soon as my undergraduate career got under way, I was utterly infatuated with the dry, objective world of academic historians. I became a purist, and anything that entered the realm of narrative history was quickly deemed sacrilegious. My mind was directly headed to a PhD American History program shortly after graduation. However, there was a slight pain in the side of my head. The knowledge that I may be buried in scholarly monographs and the cyclical nature of academic literature scared the crap out of me – a world of dust and death.
At about the same time I had a similar passion, a greater one in fact, for improvisational comedy. Reading Gordon Wood and Howard Zinn during the day, and then expounding on the hilarities of poop jokes in the evening. It was a dilemma. Either go to graduate school and become socially inept, or move to Chicago and become a professional clown. I chose the latter much to the silent chagrin of my perpetually supportive parents. Still, years down the road I experienced that same itch; a passion not yet fully satisfied. Thus the inception of Half-Baked History, my first volume of short comedic renderings of some of the most notable events in American and World History. Even though I respected the career of a historian (and I certainly still do idolize the lifestyle), I was always cynical of the back and forth nature of the subject – there were infinite possibilities to interpret one event. So, why not mesh my two passions together and deface one of them?
Some of the best works I have ever read – whether it is fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry – often hint at the author’s other passions in this earthly life. James Joyce, for example, artfully places his love of the Latin language and Italian culture within the pages of Ulysses. I, on the other hand, slather my enjoyment of history onto the pages of a humor book. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m gunning for you Joyce. Write what you love.
Description of Half-Baked History (Available for just $2.99 on the Kindle and coming soon in paperback for $6.99):
By clicking on the above link you can peruse a few of the chapters before buying – or not buying because you hate it. Half-Baked History is a 20,000-word collection of 37 historical events, spanning both time period and geographical location. Boring? No. Half-Baked History is a satire of some of history’s most notable and notorious events. Posing as the esteemed Professor Chip Bagnall, the supposed scholar takes historical facts and bluntly labels them as myth. Dr. Bagnall has one sole motive: to rectify the purported “facts” that have cursed the pages of our children’s history textbooks. Reeducate yourself so the next time you try to impress your boss, a love interest, or even Professor Bagnall with a fun fact from the history annals, you don’t seem like an idiot.
Biography: Chip Bagnall, originally from Davidson, North Carolina, is a comedian, writer, and history-buff living in Chicago. After graduating from Colorado College with a BA in History and failed attempts at entering a PhD program in Early American History, Bagnall decided to intertwine his two passions: history and comedy.