Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to Be/Not to Be Funny

Book Reviewed: You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations, by Michael Ian Black

If there is one show I can accidentally end up watching all day long, it's VH1's I Love the... specials.  I can literally sit in one spot and not get up for hours if I Love the 80s is on.  Watching talking heads joke about the ridiculous aspects of a decade's pop culture is like gravy for me.  After all, aren't I basically starring in my very own version of I Love the 2010s in my daily life?  Hmm, it's possible I have admitted too much here...

Anyway, one of the best things about those shows was Michael Ian Black, who is also famous for being a part of the beloved comedy act, Stella.  Also, he got to bang a young Bradley Cooper in Wet Hot American Summer, for which he will always be famous in my mind.  Michael Ian Black is very funny.  He's capable of a self-obsessed irony that is both distburbing and charming in equal measure.  I especially love him in the podcast Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, which he does with Tom Cavanaugh, his co-star on Ed.  When I heard that Black had a new book out, I was fairly interested and put a hold on it at my local library.  But when I read the great reviews the book was getting, I knew I had to drop everything else I was reading so I could get to it right away.

You're Not Doing It Right is a surprising book, and I mean that in all the best ways.  It's funny, obviously, but it's also quite dark.  Black is incredibly honest here, telling stories that often show him in a bad light.  And yet, the book never feels too bleak, even when Black is talking about his marriage problems or the way he sometimes resents his children.  There's a perfect balance here of pathos and humor, making Black seem like the kind of person we might actually meet out in the real world, standing in line at the grocery store.  He only casually mentions his career once or twice, and he never mentions any specific projects he's worked on, which only added to how realistic this book felt.  This is not a book about a middle-aged comedian.  This is a book about a middle-aged man with a life that never quite feels like his. 

Along with being a brutally honest collection of essays, You're Not Doing It Right also happens to be a very breezy read.  Black has a very light writing touch, one that I really appreciated it.  I knocked this book out in a matter of days with very little effort.  It's the sign of a good writer when he can make you care enough to stick with him despite the piles of homework laid out right in front of you.  Not that I ignored any homework or anything to finish this book....Okay, I did.  And it was worth it. 

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