I suppose that the high-water mark of my youth, in Columbus, Ohio, was the night the bed fell on my father. It makes a better recitation (unless, as some of my friends have said, one has heard it five or six times) than it does a piece of writing, for it is almost necessary to throw furniture around, shake doors and bark like a dog, to lend the proper atmosphere and verisimilitude to what is, admittedly, an incredible tale. Still, it did take place.
James Thurber’s hilarious short story “The Night The Bed Fell” comes recommended by Hamlette the Dame over at The Edge of the Precipice. She recommended this to me a little while ago after I had read another story by James Thurber. And I have to say that out of the handful of Thurber stories I’ve read, this is my favorite. In addition, this is probably one of the best examples of “written” physical comedy and just a plain funny story.
While laughing out loud when I was reading it, I couldn’t help thinking how difficult it would be to write a story that is based only on people doing things that are funny. I think filming physical comedy (like say The Dick Van Dyke Show) would be much easier than writing it down.
But writing it down is what Thurber does and he does it brilliantly. Like so many physical comedy sketches, it starts with a relatively innocent decision of the narrator’s father to sleep in the attic. From there, a domino effect ensues, continuing all the way to the end. I’ll mention again the laughing out loud as it happens. If this were “real life”, I think I would be listening to this story over and over again. And laughing every time.