The problem with comedy books is that they often seem to run out of material. You'd think there'd be no shame in making a shorter, better book, but no, publishers are determined to put out 350 pages no matter what, and so you end up with something like The Last Testament, which has entire chapters that are legitimately hilarious (and make me giggle to myself just thinking of them) but enough filler that if you asked me if it was a good book, I'd look back to all the time spent slogging through Leno-grade one-liners about Kim Kardashian's ass and my answer would have to be: "... Yeah... I guess?"
The Last Testament is written as a tell-all memoir by God, the monotheistic deity behind Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and (to His embarrassment) Mormonism. In God's first literary excursion since 1830, the King of the Universe Himself recounts some of his greatest hits and offers his judgment on topics like religion, natural disasters, sports, and the impending Apocalypse along the way. Everything from son Jesus' proverbs ("Do unto others as others would do unto thee the second thou turnest thy back, the bastards") to Old Testament classics like the story of Cain and Abel are re-told with a healthy dose of heavenly snark:
And afterward I did indeed ask Cain of Abel's whereabouts, and he did indeed reply, 'Am I my brother's keeper?'
Thus did Cain invent sarcasm; and lo, who is not eternally grateful to him for that?
(Incidentally, God explains early on that any biblical quotes will come from the King James Version, "it being not merely the most majestic translation, but the only one endorsed by basketball great LeBron James".)
The best parts play to former Daily Show head writer and Last Testament "co-author" David Javerbaum's strengths: Judeo-Christian culture, Biblical history, and heavy sarcasm; if I had to guess, I'd say the 11-time Emmy winner spent his fair share of time in Temple as a kid. Most fun are the chapters (er, "books") like "Againesis," in which God recounts his favorite bits of the Old Testament. (A great example of the book's strengths, a passage in which God explains how Adam and Eve really did start as Adam and Steve, can be found here.)
With references to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and Osama bin Laden's death, you can tell the book was written recently, but a bulk of the jokes in the chapters like "Glossy Ones" and "Games" seem canned and dated in the worst possible way—a whole ten pages, for example, are dedicated to one-liners about past-prime celebrities like Kate Gosselin and Sarah Palin. As a comedy writer, perhaps Javerbaum can't be blamed for thinking in monologue jokes, but it's these chapters that feel most stale. Lines like "I have seen Tara Reid attain a blood-alcohol percentage whose mathematical significance she could never have grasped, even stone-cold sober"? Not funny, especially in 2011.
Plus, The Last Testament shies away from anything remotely controversial (most discussion of Islam, for example), with an especially weird chapter about, but completely skirting the issue of, abortion. It's a shame because there's a lot to have fun with in the realm of both topics without being offensive, but it seems clear from the tone in certain passages that publisher Simon & Schuster was set on fencing in the book's content.
But anyway. The Last Testament is funny, sometimes very much so, and if you (or the agnostics on your Christmas list) can skim past the few pages of quippy filler—or, heaven forbid, even enjoy it—then I'd recommend giving it a read. You'll learn all sorts of things about the Lord thy God, King of the Universe—like that the Colorado potato beetle is his absolute favorite, that neither he nor his son Jesus "count" Unitarians and, most importantly, why he absolutely hates Buddhists.
The Last Testament: A Memoir by God is out today. Time to start holiday shopping!