Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Thursday Night Letters

P.K. Munroe and the Thursday night regulars at his favorite London pubs have been doing more than talking football and women for the last two decades. It seems that they have spent a considerable amount of time trying to dream up the next big thing, an invention or idea that would make them all rich and provide them with even more time to sit around in pubs dreaming their dreams.

The Thursday Night Letters is a collection of letters written by Munroe to present some of their ideas to a few of the best known companies in the world, companies that often seemed more than a bit confused by the plan presented to them. And why wouldn't they be confused? Munroe's letters walk such a fine line between common sense and comedy that the reader often finds himself laughing out loud only to wonder, on second thought, why some of his proposals, with just a little tweaking, wouldn't work, after all. I suspect that several of the recipients of Munroe's letters first tossed them aside with a sneer, only to pick them up a few minutes later for a little head-scratching as all the possibilities presented themselves.

The book presents facsimiles of the actual letters that Munroe used to present 46 of the best ideas and of the responses that he received from his targeted companies. And he received a surprising number of polite responses to his letters, something I attributed to the well known British tendency to remain polite under the most bizarre conditions until I noticed a few responses from American corporate types, as well. Perhaps they enjoyed receiving Munroe's letters as much as I enjoyed reading them.

Among my favorite of Munroe's letters is the one he wrote to British Airways proposing that the company set up a division of BA to be known as "Atheist Airlines," an airline that would only allow passengers to fly after they had denounced the existence of God by signing a written declaration that insulted every major religion in the world. Passengers could then have a completely relaxed flight knowing that they were surrounded by fellow passengers "holding only the mildest of beliefs and opinions." In all fairness, however, Munroe does point out the one drawback to his plan, saying that "Some non-believers might be too scared to fly with Atheist Airlines, in case there is a God after all and He/She decides to smite the plane." Sadly, he received no response from British Airways.

And who can argue with Munroe's proposal to General Mills that it produce a new breakfast food called "Breakfast Cereal Killers" composed of puffed wheat likenesses of famous serial killers from world history, an idea that he thinks would go over especially well with the teenage market? Or his letter to Kraft Foods proposing that they market a new sandwich spread to be called "Middle Age Spread," a healthy, low calorie combination of vegetables whose label would be peppered with buzz words like "Diet," "Low Calorie," "Organic," and the like?

If your sense of humor tends to be a little on the wacky side, this book is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud more than once, only to later scratch your head and think, "but, what if..."

You can check out P.K. Munroe's website here.

Rated at: 4.0

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