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The Nerdiest, Wimpiest, Dorkiest I Funny Ever
With Chris Grabenstein
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Comedian Jamie Grimm can't help feeling like he's reached the top. But now he's taking his fame and fortune to international levels by competing in the upcoming world kid comic contest! Will Jamie prove that he's the funniest kid on earth—or does he stand (or sit!) to lose his crown?
Hilarious, moving, and thoughtful, this richly illustrated #1 bestseller is perfect for kids who love to laugh.
THE JOKE HEARD ROUND THE WORLD
So, have you ever been in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time?
For instance, have you ever tried to tell jokes to people who don’t speak your language, which means they’ll never laugh because they don’t understand a single word you’re saying?
This is why I’m sweating like a berserk Super Soaker.
This is also why I probably shouldn’t’ve accepted the invitation to address the United Nations. They wanted me to ask the assembled diplomats to play nice with each other for the sake of kids all around the world.
I think the last time some of these guys played nice, there were snakes involved.
Talk about your mission impossible.
Yes, I’ve done some amazingly incredible stuff in my young life. I’ve won the first-ever Planet’s Funniest Kid stand-up comedian contest even though, technically, I can’t stand up. And I wasn’t really up against the planet like I am now, just the United States. I have my own TV show on BNC. I’ve even kissed a few girls.
But telling jokes that’ll make all 193 member states of the UN General Assembly chuckle? It’s a nightmare.
“When you think about it,” I sputter into my microphone, “we humans are all one big family.”
Dozens of translators instantaneously repeat what I just said into the earpieces of hundreds of frowning foreign dignitaries.
I slide into a joke to soften them up. “Speaking of happy families, the other night, I cooked dinner for my family. It was going to be a surprise but the fire trucks showing up sort of ruined it.”
I smile. Nervously. And wait for the translators to finish my joke for me in all sorts of languages. When they’re done, I’m still smiling and sweating but nobody is laughing.
“Why does this boy set his house on fire?” demands one delegate in a thick Slovenian accent.
“Does he ask us to cook dinner for his family?” asks a German lady.
“I object!” proclaims the Chinese ambassador. “The Happy Family is a Chinese dish and must be stir-fried in a wok with bamboo shoots!”
“You guys?” I plead. “It’s just a joke!”
“Sacré bleu!” screams another diplomat. “Did this boy in the wheelchair call me a joke?” She pounds her desk with a shoe.
“You insult me,” cries that Slovenian guy, “and you insult my country.”
“Give him the hook!” shouts the American representative to the UN, the lady who invited me to speak in the first place. “Get him offstage!”
Finally, everybody at the United Nations is united around a common cause. They all agree on one thing: I Not Funny.
TUNNEL OF FEAR
Fortunately, that’s when I wake up.
Like I said, me speaking at the United Nations? It’s a nightmare. Only I’m having my nightmare in the middle of the day because I grabbed a quick catnap while the crew set up the scenery for the final shot of this season’s Jamie Funnie TV series. That’s one good thing about being stuck in a wheelchair. You always have a comfy seat when you want to nod off.
During the break, Nigel Bigglebottom, the British actor playing the TV version of my uncle Frankie, fixed himself a spot of tea along with some cookies, which he calls biscuits. That still confuses me, along with chips and crisps. Everybody else is guzzling coffee, water, and soda pop. When you work on a TV show, free snacks and beverages are everywhere.
“I can’t believe this will be our final scene for the entire season!” Nigel proclaims in a plummy British accent. Everything he says sounds supersnooty, even though he’s really friendly. Fortunately, he switches into a New Yawk accent when he plays Uncle Frankie. Otherwise it would just sound weird.
Actually, almost everything about starring in a TV show called Jamie Funnie based on my life is kind of weird. Good thing my best buds Joey Gaynor (he’s the one with the long hair and a nose ring), Jimmy Pierce (the total brainiac in the porkpie hat), and Gilda Gold (the curly-haired Boston Red Sox fan and comedy film fanatic) are working on the show with me. In fact, Gilda is our director. She’s also kind of my girlfriend. Maybe. Don’t quote me on that.
“We’re back,” Mr. Wetmore says through the ceiling speakers in the sound stage. Richard Wetmore is the show’s tech director. He’s up in the control booth with all the knobs, buttons, and levers. “We’re back” means we all need to go back to work. The crew has finished putting together the scenery. The studio audience applauds. They’re eager to see us shoot our final scene.
To be honest, it’s one I haven’t really been looking forward to. Not because the final scene of the final episode means we’ll be finished making funny TV shows for the year.
Nope. I’m dreading this scene for another reason.
It takes place at an amusement park. In the Tunnel of Love. You know, one of those romantic rides where you drift down a man-made stream in a dinky dinghy through a very dark passageway.
I might be fine if I were the only one in the scene. But I’m not. I’ll be sharing the boat with Donna Dinkle, the Hollywood sitcom star playing Jillda Jewel. Yes, that’s the TV version of Gilda Gold.
And guess what the script says we do at the end of the scene, when we come out of the Tunnel of Love?
That’s right. We’re supposed to kiss.
SAIL IT WITH A KISS
I’m sweating, of course.
When you kiss somebody in a TV show, several million total strangers see you do it. So does that studio audience.
“I put on an extra layer of lip gloss,” gushes Donna Dinkle.
She looooves the kissy-face scenes the writers are always putting into the Jamie Funnie scripts. Me? Not so much.
“It’s cotton candy flavor,” she whispers. “It kind of goes with the whole carnival feel of the scene. I hope you like it.”
I just nod. I’m glad she didn’t go with the even more carnival-ish hot-dog-and-pickle-relish-flavored lip goo.
While we’re inside the tunnel, a makeup team is supposed to stamp red lipstick smooch marks all over my face. That will make it look like Jillda and I have been kissing the whole time we’ve been off camera!
It might be fake, but Donna’s goo-goo eyes at me aren’t.
“You ready to roll, Jamie?” asks Gilda.
“Always,” I say as I nudge the wheels of my chair and power up a ramp to the love boat loading dock. When you’re the star of the show, you have to work a little harder than everybody else. When you’re in a wheelchair, you push yourself even more. Literally. You should see the size of my arm muscles.
Two burly stagehands grab hold of my armrests and hoist me into the boat. Once I’m in place, they secure my wheels to the boat’s bottom boards with safety straps.
Donna steps into the boat and sits down on the bench seat.
She’s clearly eager to start shooting.
“This reminds me of that ride at Disney World,” Donna coos. “It’s a Small World.”
Then she starts singing that song. The one where the lyrics keep repeating “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small world.”
Over and over and over. And over and over and over.
“It’s a small world—”
Thankfully, Gilda shouts, “Quiet on the set!”
A bell rings.
The boat slides into the tunnel. I forget what I’m supposed to say. I also forget my name and my home address. I forget everything I’ve ever known, even how to tie my shoes, which is fine because I mostly wear slip-on sneakers these days.
I’m panicking. Fortunately, Donna Dinkle is a pro. She did a ton of sitcoms before we cast her in Jamie Funnie. She covers for me by ad-libbing a version of my line. “No, Jamie, I don’t wish this were the Tunnel of Tacos.”
She snuggles up to my right wheel. The studio audience goes, “Wooooo!” The way they always do right before something mushy happens.
Our love boat glides into the dark tunnel entrance. The audience can’t see what we’re doing back there. So they keep wooing while the makeup team stamps smooch marks on my face, which isn’t easy because my skin is slick with sweat. Ten seconds later, our little boat comes out the other side.
The studio audience cracks up. Because my face is covered with red lip prints.
And Donna’s poised to give me one more.
The audience laughs. Donna smacks me—right on the lips. (It’s just about the only empty spot on my face. The makeup artists were very thorough.)
“Awwwww!” The audience swoons. I nearly faint. The parts of my face that aren’t already red with lipstick turn pink.
I remember my last line. “Now can we go visit the Tunnel of Tacos?”
The audience cracks up. Gilda calls, “Cut! That’s a wrap! Good work this year, everybody!”
The audience gives us a standing ovation (something I haven’t been able to give myself in years).
Gilda comes over as the crew guys haul me out of the boat.
“You were brilliant, Jamie!” she tells me.
Then she kisses me, too! On the cheek.
Now my face turns purple.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR. SO IS MY B.O.
A group of Japanese tourists streams down to the stage after Gilda calls the wrap.
I hope they don’t smell how much I’ve been sweating. One day, I am going to launch my own brand of deodorant: I Sweaty.
Seems being in the studio audience for Jamie Funnie was part of the tour group’s “Hollywood in New York City” VIP package. Meeting me was part of that package, too.
“We donate all the VIP visit fees to charity,” explains Latoya Sherron, a producer on my show.
“Cool,” I say. A lot of the money we make on Jamie Funnie goes to the Hope Trust Foundation, which runs the hospital where I went for physical therapy right after the horrible car accident that put me in my chair. The doctors up there studied my case and decided that laughter would be my best medicine. So they kept giving me joke books and classic comedy DVDs.
They saved my life. They also helped make me who I am today. The least I can do is try to give back a little so they can help some other kids in even worse shape than I was.
“You funny!” says the Japanese tour guide, while his group surrounds me on the stage.
“No,” I say, “I’m Jamie.”
The tour guide does a quick translation.
A dozen of my Japanese fans crack up.
So I pop a wheelie and pull a funny face.
Now they’re doubled over with laughter. It’s true. Laughter is the universal language. It’s something everybody everywhere does the same. And if you do something physically funny, you don’t even need a translator. That’s probably why Charlie Chaplin, the silent movie comedian, was the biggest movie star the world has ever known.
I pose for selfies, sign a bunch of autographs, do one more funny face, and then head into my dressing room to (finally) wipe off all those smooch marks.
Uncle Frankie is waiting for me. (The real one who twirls yo-yos, not the British actor who plays him on TV.) He sees my lipstick-plastered face and whistles.
“Wow, Jamie. Exactly how many times did Donna Dinkle smooch you when you two were offstage in that tunnel?”
“Just once,” I say. “The makeup crew gave me all the other ones.”
He nods. “They have the hots for you, too, huh?”
I shake my head and laugh. I know he’s joking.
“Say, speaking of love,” Uncle Frankie says, kind of randomly, since, technically, we were speaking of kisses, not love. “I have some big news, kiddo.”
“You’re entering another yo-yo contest?” (When he was younger, Uncle Frankie was a world-class yo-yo champion. Now he calls yo-yos “the original fidget spinners.”)
“Nope,” he says. “This is even bigger.”
“You’re adding a triple-decker burger to the diner menu?”
“Quadruple-decker? Four meat patties with cheese in between?”
“Nope. Flora and I are getting married! Next weekend!”
MARRIAGE. IT HAS A NICE RING TO IT.
Flora Denning is the librarian at Long Beach Middle School, where I go when I’m not taping TV shows. She’s smart and nice, and I liked her right away.
Not too long ago, my friends and I (with a little nudge from Uncle Frankie) helped Ms. Denning save her library from the scheming principal, who had diabolical plans to turn the heart of the school (that’s what a library is) into a sweat room for his wrestling team. He’s the ex-principal now because of all that scheming and diabolical planning.
“Jamie,” says Uncle Frankie, fixing me with a superserious look. “I want you to be my best man.”
“B-b-best man? But I’m just a kid. I’m not sure I can, officially, be a man, especially not the best one. Isn’t that against the rules?”
“Rules, schmules. I want you to stand up for me, Jamie.”
I can’t resist the comedic softball Uncle Frankie just lobbed my way. “And I’d love to stand up for you, too. Heck, I’d love to stand up for anybody. I’d even love to stand in line at the post office, but the docs tell me it would take a medical miracle.”
“You know what I mean, kiddo.” Uncle Frankie puts his hand on my shoulder. “This is going to be one of the happiest days of my life. I need you there by my side. Flora wants you to be my best man, too. If it weren’t for you… for what you guys did… Flora and I…”
Now he’s stammering. His eyes are getting kind of moist. Mine, too.
“I’m in,” I say as quickly as I can so neither one of us starts blubbering. “Are you guys going to exchange yo-yos instead of rings?”
“We might, kiddo,” Uncle Frankie says with a wink and a smile. “We just might.”
Uncle Frankie and Flora are going to make such a happy couple. At the risk of sounding too schmaltzy, they’re lucky to have found someone they want to spend the rest of their life with. I wonder if I’ll ever get to be that lucky one day.
Eager to spread the happy news, I hurry home to Smileyville, which is what I call my aunt and uncle Kosgrov’s place. I call the Kosgrov house Smileyville because none of them ever smile. Not even the dog.
You know how I said laughter was the universal language? The Smileys never got the memo.
I’ve been living with the Smileys ever since I moved to Long Beach on Long Island not so long ago. I sleep in the garage, which, by the way, is awesome. There are no steps. I don’t even need a ramp. I can just roll up the doors with my remote and roll on in.
Also, I’ve turned the place into my kid cave, which is kind of like a man cave, only better—with more video game gear, a flat-screen TV, tons of joke books, and a nacho cheese dispenser.
Smileyville is also where my cousin Stevie lives.
Maybe you’ve heard of him. Or seen his face on a wanted poster.
Because Stevie Kosgrov holds the record for being Long Beach Middle School’s biggest bully.
And I hold the record for being his biggest target.
THERE’S A NEW STEVIE IN TOWN
The good news?
My cousin the bully has changed his ways. Ever since we did a comedy team act together at the Hope Trust Children’s Rehabilitation Center, he’s channeled all his pent-up aggression into protecting me. He’s like my live-in bodyguard. The only people he threatens these days are the ones who don’t laugh at my jokes.
“Yo, Jamie,” he says after politely knocking on the door that connects my garage to the rest of the house.
“What’s up, Stevie?”
“Security alert. Mom’s making green bean casserole for dinner.” He pounds his fist into the palm of his open hand. “You want I should go have a word with her? Maybe discuss your menu options?”
“No, thanks. I don’t mind your mom’s green bean casserole.”
“It’s the one with the cream of mushroom soup and burnt cornflake crumbs on top.”
“It’s fine, Stevie.”
Stevie pulls out a little notebook and licks the tip of a stubby pencil. “Anybody give you grief on the set today?”
“Nope. No problems on the set.”
“How about that Donna Dingle? She can be a real pain in the patootie.”
“She was fine.”
“And Joe Amodio, your big-shot producer?”
“He’s fine, too,” I tell Stevie. “In fact, our final episode is in the can. We wrapped for the season.”
“You guys did a rap? In the can? Was there toilets involved?”
“Sure,” I say.
Because it’s easier.
That night, over dinner, I tell the Smileys what I know about Uncle Frankie’s upcoming wedding.
“The service will be next Saturday at the church. The reception will be at the diner with a full burger and meat loaf buffet. Instead of gifts, they want everybody to donate a book to the middle school library.”
The Smileys nod. They do not smile.
“I’m sure it will be a very emotional wedding,” I say. “I bet even the cake will be in tiers.”
Silence. Guess they forgot that tiers are what you call the layers in a layer cake.
So I try a few more wedding zingers.
“When the TV repairman got married, I hear the reception was amazing. Hey, do you know what they call a melon that’s not allowed to marry? A cantaloupe.”
I tug at my collar. I’m bombing. Again.
Stevie squints at his family.
“Laugh, people!” he bellows.
“Why?” asks his little brother. “Did somebody fart?”
Nobody chuckles. Except, of course, me.
Stevie sighs and shakes his head. “Sorry, Jamie. These people are impossible.”
“Nah,” I say. “These people are my family.”
When I say that, Aunt Smiley doesn’t laugh.
But she does smile.
THE PLANET’S FUNNIEST KID COMIC, VERSION 2.0
That weekend, I head to Radio City Music Hall in New York City to host the Second Annual Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic competition.
That’s the contest I won last year. That means I’ll be turning over my crown to a new kid comic tonight.
Uncle Frankie and his fiancée come into the city with me. We arrive in the souped-up limo-van that Joe Amodio sent out to Long Island to pick us up. It’s very wheelchair-accessible. We’re talking hydraulic lifts.
“Will this year’s winner get their own TV show, too?” asks Ms. Denning.
Gulp. Did not think of that.
Is Joe Amodio, the producer of the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic Contest and Jamie Funnie, looking to replace me?
“If they do get their own show,” says Uncle Frankie, “it’ll never be as funny as Jamie’s.”
“Thanks,” I say.
Uncle Frankie shrugs. “Hey, how could it be? Their show wouldn’t have an Uncle Frankie in it.”
He sees the look on my face. I’m giving him my sad puppy dog eyes.
“I’m kidding, Jamie. What the new kid’s show would be missing is you!”
He claps me on the back and we head through the stage door. Jacky Hart, from Saturday Night Live, is in the hallway with her daughters, Tina and Grace. Jacky Ha-Ha (that’s what everybody called her when she was my age) is going to be my cohost for the live broadcast of the kid comedy competition.
“Hiya, Jamie,” she says.
Her daughters squeal. “Jamie!”
What can I say? They’re big fans. Grace wants me to autograph her forehead. Tina wants me to sign her shoe. I do.
Joe Amodio, the big-time TV producer, strolls up the hallway.
“There they are! My two favorite funny people!”
“You mean Grace and Tina?” I say. They giggle. Mr. Amodio slaps me on the back.
“Kid, you still crack me up. Seriously, Jamie. You do. But this year’s competition? Tonight’s just the start.”
“I thought these were the finals,” says Jacky.
“They are,” says Mr. Amodio.
Then he winks.
“For the USA competition. Whoever wins tonight? They’re moving on to the brand-new, superexciting international round. And guess what, Jamie?”
“You’re going with them!”
An international competition where nobody understands a single word I’m saying? Sheesh. Welcome back to my United Nations nightmare.
IT’S NEWS TO ME
Mr. Amodio flicks his wrist to check his watch. It’s one of those sleek ones that count your steps. That’s why I’ll never own one.
“We’ll talk, bubelah,” he says with a grin. “But the big international competition won’t start for a few weeks. Right now, I need you to focus on being funny and hosting this new crop of kids.”
Praise for The Nerdiest, Wimpiest, Dorkiest I Funny Ever:A #1 National Bestseller!
- Praise for the I Funny series:
- "....Poignant.... Readers learn about [Jamie's] devastating loss and recovery from a tragic event....The affecting ending, which reveals a more vulnerable Jamie behind the guise of his humor, celebrates Jamie's resilient spirit."—Kirkus Reviews
- "The broad humor that runs throughout this heavily illustrated story... masks personal pain, demonstrating resiliency in the face of tragedy."—Publishers Weekly
- "Play[s] readers' heartstrings like a banjo... In all, a brimming bucket of bada-bing!"
- "The wisecrack-laced narrative is enhanced by lots of pen-and-ink cartoons with added dialogue."—Booklist
- "Patterson and Grabenstein pay homage to the timeless comedy of Abbott and Costello, Groucho Marx, and other greats, while introducing new jokes that speak directly to the middle school experience. "—School Library Journal
- On Sale
- May 7, 2018
- Hachette Audio