Books, the dying frontier. Endless. Silent. Waiting. This is Adventures in Poor Taste’s reoccurring dueling review set to remind everyone books are still relevant.
Its mission: books fight to the death to see what is worth reading. To seek out and contact words that form sentences that form paragraphs that form chapters that form novels. To explore. To travel the vast published books, and make your search cut in half, and boldly go where no man has gone before. A dueling book review.
Humorous literature is a tough commodity to come by, especially with so many funny TV shows and movies. Typically it comes in the form of autobiography from the likes of Steve Martin or Tina Fey, but it can also be extremely successful in short story form as Woody Allen and S.J. Perelman are so good at. Good humorous literature is an even tougher commodity, especially considering a lot of humor is visual. That said two books came out this year that did things a little differently, tying in some autobiography written by a little-bit famous comedians, but playing with comedy in writing in new ways.
Mr. Funny Pants
by Michael Showalter
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Grand Central Publishing
I literally laughed until I cried more than once when reading this book. Michael Showalter started his career on the 90’s skit MTV show The State and carried that over to films like cult hit Wet Hot American Summer and a hilarious turn on the show Stella.
The book opens with an About the Author, then moves onto About the Author (For Canadian Edition), then About Bea Arthur, then About New Jersey, About Brooklyn, then continues on with its silliness with a preface, post-preface, post-post-preface, pre-post-post-preface and so on. By the time he reaches the introduction he’s joked and played around with the point of the book for so long you wonder what the book could possibly be about. Like a Rubix Cube Showalter keeps turning the idea of writing a comedy book so many different hilarious ways you can’t help but want to read more.
His writing has a slightly manic sense of urgency and the reader can’t help be caught up in it.
How I See This Book
I see it with my eyes.
I also “see” it with my hands, but if and only if I’m blind and read Braille.
I take that back. I could also see it with my hands if I knew how to read Braille but wasn’t blind.
To Conclude: Reading Braille is one very good way to “see” it with my hands (and by hands, I really mean fingers). Another way to “see” the book with my hands would be to have eyes on my hands.
He continues on with this thread and builds off of it for another 2 paragraphs. It gets to a point where you question the point, as if he’s rambling yet it remains funny because the tone appears to be taking it all so very seriously. Showalter is playing with the idea of a stuffy author attempting to write a masterwork only the actual book consists of his working out how to write the damn thing in the first place.
It might appear as though he’s filling the pages to reach his contractual page count, but it’s more of an open journal into his comedic mind. Who wouldn’t give a day with their favorite comedian and see how they think? In this case we’re seeing his spin on comedy solely, and it’s an interesting place to hang out.
Swine Flu is such a horrible name. It’s terrifying. As if flu wasn’t bad enough on its own, they gotta add swine to it? Then again, anything with flu in the name is scary. It doesn’t matter how cute the word before it is. If anything, the cuter the word before the word flu, the more terrifying it sounds: Bran Muffin Flu, Marshmallow Flu, Baby Carrot Flu.
Once he’s finished speaking briefly about his life and how he pitched the book he goes on to what he’ll do once his fame explodes with the books release. Instead of writing jokes (as Bill Maher does) or write about his life in a comedic way (as Chelsea Handler does) he’s created an amalgamation of the two. His life is the joke, and it’s beautifully nonsensical.
Kevin Kline reads from the book.
There’s also some great advice, for instance if you’re male, “why wash your hands after you pee. Isn’t your penis the cleanest thing on your body?” Cut that out to save yourself hundreds of hours. He also packs in short stories, fill in the blank screenwriting tips and poetry.
Anything goes in this book and it keeps things very fresh. There are segments where he has full scenes from plays that were a tad boring, but so much of this book is random and off the wall you can’t put it down.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
by Mindy Kaling
Hardcover, 222 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Crown Archetype
Mindy Kaling is yet another comedy writer who has cornered a bit of fame for herself by appearing on talk shows and giving her self small parts in the TV show The Office. She has some reservations for writing a book, but clears that up rather quickly by describing herself as a “vain flake” who just happens to have an easy time writing. She never presumes she’s an expert, which makes the read a light one, and her journey to the writers room on The Office is just interesting enough to hold your attention.
Similar to Mr. Funny Pants, Kaling briefly speaks about her life and doesn’t presume we’re going to want to know all the details. She mixes in her opinion on comedy, how to write and silly asides like what films we’ll most likely see in theaters.
The following movies are my best guess as to what may soon be coming to a theater near you:
Sharks vs. Volcanoes
King Tut vs. King Kong
Streptococcus vs. Candidiasis (Strep Throat vs. Yeast Infection)
Street Stupid (Street Smart sequel)
Bad Dog Walker (You can see the poster already, can’t you? Heather Graham in booty shorts, pulled in eight different directions by dogs on leashes and smiling a naughty grin.)
And her tone keeps it light, maintaining the vain flake persona as if she’s on a pedestal and everyone is listening. After listing off all the movies we’ll most likely see soon she writes,
As much as it may seem like I am mocking these movies, if any movie studio exec is reading this and is interested in any of the above, I will gladly take a meeting with them. I have an almost completed outline for Crest Whitestrips.
The book is very conversational, as if she were a friend chit chatting the day away. Chapters have titles like “The Day I Stopped Eating Cupcakes” and “In Defense of Chest Hair.” Ultimately this gives the book a very thin feel to it, as if it’s something you should read on a plane quickly. It makes you laugh at times, and definitely plays with ideas when it comes to comedy in novel form, but you keep reading wondering if it’ll get better. Sadly it moves along on an even keel the entire time and doesn’t quite get funny enough to laugh out loud.
Mindy Kaling laments that she will never be able to get away with really raunchy humor or jokes about race even though she’s not white. She explains Dave Chappelle and Sarah Silverman can get away with it because it’s “just funny enough”. She can’t though, because she explains her racist jokes are artlessly done. That speaks to why this book doesn’t entirely work, because she’s not really funny enough to carry the book along, and must instead fill pages with ho-hum humor and stories about her life. The books main success is proving she can get away with being a “vain flake” and still coming across as an intelligent woman and above all else an excellent best friend.
So Who Wins?
Ultimately Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) isn’t that funny because it’s about the person. Kaling’s humor comes from her personality, whereas Mr. Funny Pants creatively plays with comedy for comedies sake. For a book that could be studied as far as comedy goes, Mr. Funny Pants wins.
Winner, Winner Bacon Dinner!