The dark humor of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ — what’s the best line?


Ansel Elgort, from left, Nat Wolff, and Shailene Woodley, throwing eggs. (James Bridges/AP/20th Century Fox)

Hazel: “If you want me to be a teenager, don’t send me to Support Group. Buy me a fake ID so I can go to clubs, drink vodka and take pot.”
Hazel’s mom: “You don’t *take* pot, for starters.”
Hazel: “See, that’s the kind of thing I’d know if you got me a fake ID.”

John Green’s novel “The Fault in Our Stars” might be a tale of two teenagers with terminal cancer, but it also — maybe surprisingly — has some pretty funny lines. This is intentional: After all, humor is a very powerful way to get through horribly stressful situations.

For example, characters use words like “cancertastic.” Hazel talks about naming her oxygen tank Philip, “Because it just kind of looks like a Philip,” while Gus refers to his prosthetic leg as “old Prosty.” This is the sort of dry line that populates the bestselling novel: “Depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)”

[Related: 'The Fault in Our Stars' review: A terrific addition to the canon of doomed young love]

Okay, so it’s not a line that’s meant to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it certainly lightens the mood of the extremely sad book. As the movie hits theaters, we started wondering: What’s the best “funny” line in the book? We transcribed a few of our favorites:

“I didn’t cut this fella off for the sheer unadulterated pleasure of it, although it is an excellent weight-loss strategy. Legs are heavy!” — Gus explaining his Osteosarcoma diagnosis and subsequent limb removal to Hazel’s dad

“When they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure one in five … so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.” — Hazel at Support Group

“Oh, I’m grand — I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.” — Gus on how he’s doing at Support Group

“I was bit of a Victorian lady, fainting-wise.” — Hazel on how dysfunctional lungs means she gets tired very easily

“Girls think they’re only allowed to wear dresses on formal occasions, but I like a woman who says, you know, I’m going over to see a boy who is having a nervous breakdown, a boy whose connection to the sense of sight itself is tenuous, and gosh dang it, I am going to wear a dress for him.” — Gus complimenting Hazel’s outfit when she comes over to help Isaac through his breakdown

Gus’s text to Hazel: “Isaac out of surgery. It went well. He’s officially NEC.” Follow-up text: “I mean, he’s blind. So that’s unfortunate.”

Isaac after surgery and he can’t tell who entered the room: “People keep saying my other senses will improve to compensate, but CLEARLY NOT YET. Hi, Support Group Hazel. Come over here so I can examine your face with my hands and see deeper into your soul than a sighted person ever could.”
“He’s kidding,” the nurse said.
“Yes,”  I said. “I realize.”

“I had a moral opposition to eating before dawn on the grounds that I was not a nineteenth-century Russian peasant fortifying myself for a day in the fields.” — Hazel refusing to eat breakfast before an early morning flight

“ I can’t believe I have a crush on a girl with such cliché wishes.” — Gus, upon finding out Hazel blew her Genie wish on a trip to Disney World

“That metaphor is prohibited on today’s flight.” — a flight attendant not falling for Gus’s rationale behind putting a cigarette in his mouth (“You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”)

“I’m gonna try to get me some eye cancer just so I can make this guys’ acquaintance.” — Hazel’s response to Isaac’s special tale about his humorless doctor

RELATED READING

‘The Fault in Our Stars’ author John Green spends his days focused on devastating topics. He wouldn’t trade it for anything.

‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by the numbers: Just how huge is this movie going to be?

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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