Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bubbly Personalities

Much like professional wrestlers and wives of philandering politicians, every comedian of even middling success is mandated to write a book.   I don’t think that a week goes by where I don’t notice another questionable addition to this already underperforming sub-genre.   It’s not hard to see why these books are being published, with Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler having penned such monster bestsellers.   But when Ms. Handler’s hangers-on start getting book deals (even Chuy), it’s a signal that we are in the midst of a comedy book bubble – and like all bubbles, its chief characteristic is a wanton disregard for quality control.

So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I picked up Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)I might have passed it by had the title not been so adorably self-conscious and relatable.  The book is filled with accounts as cute as the title promises and Kaling manages to steer clear of the two main pitfalls endemic in other comedians’ written work: 1) she doesn’t get so wrapped up in telling her life story that she neglects being funny and 2) she doesn’t repurpose an old routine as a chapter for her book (which was probably easy since she doesn’t do much standup).  The only complaint I’d lodge is that Kaling is less vapid and conniving than her T.V. persona Kelly Kapoor, leaving the book without any saltiness to cut the sweet (entire chapters were devoted to her expressing how much she loves her friends and family).

Since Is Everyone Hanging Out… is receiving a major advertising push all over the internet, I’ll let those getting paid to laud it do so and instead take this opportunity to recommend an overlooked title in the same vein.   Earlier this year, Michael Showalter released Mr. Funny Pants, which touches on themes shared in Kaling’s book, such as: childhood embarrassment, Brooklyn living, and rising up the ranks in comedy – but what is so special about his book, is that he seems to bore quickly with the traditional patter of mildly funny anecdote and veers many of his chapters into the realm of nonsensical weirdness.  His refreshing absurdity challenges the convention that every standup comic should also be David Sedaris.  Showalter captures buffoonery in a very smart way.  Plus, it's something fun to read while you are on the ballooning wait-list for Kaling's book.  (There's also no wait for Chuy's.)

Ransom - Reference

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