The Funniest Stories We've Ever Told

If you need a good laugh, we've got you covered

Guaranteed to make you smile (Left to right: Hannah McCaughey, Ronald Woan, Eleni Kalorkoti, Jake Stangel, and Getty Images)
Photo: Left to right: Hannah McCaughey, Ronald Woan, Eleni Kalorkoti, Jake Stangel, and Getty Images

Avalanches, murders, mountain-lion attacks—we write about a lot of doom and gloom. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with a violent sport involving ferrets or parties on Mount Everest. We’re proud to present our favorite wacky, weird, and downright absurd tales from our 42-year history.

‘Miss Jean’s Wild Ride’

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Paradise is most definitely Regained. (Eleni Kalorkoti)

When E. Jean Carroll proposed the story that became “Miss Jean’s Wild Ride,” I thought she was joking, because the premise—driving around to American towns called Eden to ask total strangers about love and sex—didn’t make much sense and seemed impossible to execute. Welp, I was wrong. She delivered a hilarious and often moving classic that is powered through every mile by E. Jean’s unique personality and comic voice.

—Alex Heard, editorial director

‘The King of the Ferret Leggers’

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“Then Reg Mellor let his trousers fall around his ankles.” (Ralph Steadman)

The King of the Ferret Leggers” is just one of those stories that writers dream of reporting. It has everything from crazy characters to an even crazier niche hobby: putting ferrets down your pants for fun. Donald Katz tackles the story with a perfect balance of dry wit, self-referential humor, and pure what-the-hell moments to provoke plenty of audible howls.

—Nicholas Hunt, associate editor

‘Everything Ever Said About Alex Honnold’s Hands’

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Sanni McCandless watches Alex Honnold, or perhaps his hands, as they speak onstage at a “Free Solo” screening. (Getty Images for National Geographic)

Are you there, Alex Honnold? It’s the entire world, and we have a weird fascination with your hands. In the wake of his Free Solo superstardom, culture editor Erin Berger went further than anyone had gone before to document people’s strange, enduring obsession with the climber’s paws. Sadly, he declined to comment for this story—but that makes it even funnier.

—Abbey Gingras, editorial assistant

‘My Son, the Manatee’

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Where there’s money to be made, “endangered” isn't always interpreted as “off-limits.” (Russell Kaye)

When W. Hodding Carter’s family adopted an endangered manatee for him one Christmas, he took the adoption literally, and flew down to meet the newest member of the family. Hodding is a goof, one of the smartest, funniest writers around, and the scenes of him paddling around South Florida yelling, “Brutus! I am your father!” are priceless.

—Elizabeth Hightower-Allen, features editor

‘We Have Found the Cure! (Sort Of...)’

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“If this is the path to happiness, why am I so freaked out?” (Hannah McCaughey)

Praise be to the person who first thought we should send Taffy Brodesser-Akner on a journey to try extreme wellness treatments. And praise be to Taffy, who opened the (informative, thoughtful, surprisingly emotional) piece with this sentence: “One’s vagina should be steamed in the upright position.”

—Erin Berger, senior editor

‘Meltdown’

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Father and son off Tasiilaq, Greenland (Slan Kennedy)

“In my father’s company, trips have a tendency to spiral into disaster,” writes Wells Tower. “The mishaps are sometimes large and sometimes inconsequential, but the specter of calamity always rides in his sidecar.” So it was on this 2007 family romp through Greenland and Iceland, which included Tower’s older brother—and lifelong rival—Dan. You couldn’t dream of a more volatile trio to travel with, which is what makes “Meltdown” one of the funniest travelogues we’ve ever published.

—Chris Keyes, editor

‘True Tales of the World’s Best Job’

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Garrett Madison has been a mountaineering guide for 16 years and now owns Madison Mountaineering. (Marc Horn)

All of these stories from guides are great, but I especially love Never Assume the Client Has a Clue. Anyone who skis can relate to uncomfortable ski boots, but this has a killer surprise ending. I still talk about this one.

—Julia Walley, marketing art director

‘An Inside Look at the Surprisingly Violent Quidditch World Cup’

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In 2012, Outsiders put together a team of misfits for the Quidditch World Cup, playing for Iceland. It was pretty brutal for everyone involved. (Jake Stangel)

In 2011, contributing writer Eric Hansen assembled an unlikely team of Muggles—most of whom knew nothing about Harry Potter or magic of any sort—to compete in the Quidditch World Cup in New York City. Despite never having practiced, read the book series, or watched the films, the Outside Magazine Partially Icelandic Quidditch World Cup Team (OMPIQWCT for short) came out victorious enough to make the podium. The only catch? There’s a high risk for rather permanent injuries. The best part? “‘The snitch is loose!’ the announcer said, signaling that the man with the ball dangling from his shorts was running away from the field.”

—Jenny Earnest, audience development director

‘High Times’

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The world's highest party town (Istvan Banyai)

Everest season has arrived, so what else can I do but recommend Kevin Fedarko’s classic “High Times,” based on his time at Everest Base Camp? As Fedarko summarizes, “In addition to presenting a rather grotesque perversion of pretty much everything that alpinism is supposed to represent, Everest Base Camp also happens to be—and I’m afraid there’s just no other way to put this—an absolute fricking blast.” He narrates the landscape of this international tent city with a cool, witty tone, and he doesn’t hold back on the absurd (and sometimes unbelievable) details.

—Svati Narula, associate social media editor

‘The Glory of Otis, Fattest of the Fat Bears’

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Otis enjoys some salmon at his favorite fishing spot in Brooks Falls, Alaska. (Ronald Woan/Flickr)

Erin Berger is an Outside legend, and Otis is, too. Though he may have lost the 2018 Fat Bear contest, the story of Otis and his chubby companions is one of the best reads you’ll lay your eyes on. It’s equal parts hilarious, informative, and real. Favorite quote: “Fat animals hit humans at an emotional level that’s ironic considering the way we think about the fat that’s on people.”

—Madeleine LaPlante-Dube, digital media producer

Filed To: Family / Bears / Media / Animals
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