Author: Washington Irving
Areas Featured: Lower Manhattan
Though he's largely remembered today as the man who brought us children's stories starring memorable characters like Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane, Washington Irving's savage sense of satire was what actually cemented him as the first American literary icon.
Before his famous Sketch Book, Irving dropped this hilariously self-important local history as way to take shots at pompous historians and self-satisfied bureaucrats. New York is still so often the center of American social satire today; all of that began with Irving.
In addition to the on-point socio-political commentary, Irving's tactics in preparing the book for publication also remind us of something we might see from Colbert or Stewart. Irving took out ads in New York newspapers looking for information regarding the book's crusty Dutch academic protagonist, Deidrich Knickerbocker, and then answered the ads himself. All of this was done for both distraction and promotion while preparing the book for publication in Philly, catching his satirical targets in Gotham by surprise.
If the debt owed to Irving by American humorists from Twain to Vonnegut doesn't do it for you, remember that without this dude, for better or worse, the Knicks would have a different name. —BG