Books by comedians can go in one of three ways, no, four I guess.
1. They can be a collection of bits.*
2. They can be more of straightforward memoir that could be funny.
3. Or intentionally not funny.
4. Or perhaps a book on some particular subject that is neither memoir nor standup, perhaps turning into more of a travel or food narrative, or popular history.
That doesn't usually happen until after a few books. And of course a funny memoir could be unintentionally not funny, but I think that would be more of option two. A great example of option three would be Steve Martin's Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. I really loved it (which was why it was even sadder that I haven't yet read An Object of Beauty) but it was about being funny, not trying to be funny.
Or friend and customer Paul was telling me yesterday about a great example of option two, Samantha Bee's I Know I Am but What are You. He was listening (we've been talking to ABA about why we're about to start selling Google ebooks but are far from able to sell audio downloads) to the book in his car and had to pull over because he was laughing so hard. That's kind of a rec. And I just read a good example of type #1, but I'm saving that for a separate post, which I'll put up when the book is released.**
So back to The Bedwetter, which I finished reading this morning. It's a memoir that's meant to be funny (and succeeds at this) but sometimes is meant to not be funny, and it succeeds at this too. Silverman was indeed a bedwetter, well into her teens actually, and perhaps there's a bit of self-consciousness that permeates her work that comes from that. I wouldn't know, as I am not a psychiatrist. On the other hand, Silverman had a doctor who hanged himself (and she was told this, no screamed this, by his partner, and she had another nurse-practitioner who prescribed 16 Xanax for her per day. Yikes.
I don't want to talk about the book in a way that reveals the funny parts. It was funny, however, that I was asked over dinner with Kirk last night at Huan Xi restaurant on Murray what part of New York Sarah Silverman is from. And apparently, people assume this all the time. In fact, Silverman grew up in New Hampshire, in Manchester and smaller towns in the region (and Manchester isn't that big either, by the way). There weren't many Jews there, and she says the only Jews she knew until she moved to New York to go to college were family.
Family is an important part of the story, especially her father Don, known to all as Schleppy, who seemed to be the source of some of Silverman's esthetic. Winters in Boca Raton, he was known for hanging out in a Starbucks and heckling people with fancy cars. I don't exactly know what part of my personality I inherited from my father, but at Huan Xi, we had the steamed sea bass, as my father was obsessed with this dish in my youth. I probably haven't had something like this in 35 years.
I'm not sure what people want from books like these. The experience is certainly not exactly like the viral videos for Matt Damon or "The Great Schlep." And it isn't even exactly like her movie, that I have a very strong memory of seeing in Seattle, at an old theater that surely isn't being used for moviegoing anymore. It was near a Trader Joe's. Why haven't I stored this memory yet? It shouldn't be so easily accessed.
The Bedwetter is exactly what I'd expect--sincere and yet sly, serious and very funny, tasteless and yest principled. And if she has advice for the masses, it would be this--if MTV asks you to say a few words about a celebrity at an awards show, pass. They are just seeting you up for controversy, and it seems to get Silverman in more hot water than the sex, religion, and ethnic origin comments.
If I could have asked for one thing, it would have been for the paperback to have an after-afterword, as the world has changed. The story sort of ends with Lauren Corrao finding a way to continue The Sarah Silverman Program (originally spelled "programme") for a third season by getting Logo on board, but by the paperback, her champion was out of the network and the third season was the show's last.
Oh, and here's the biggest news. There is no autographing session with the author (there usually isn't at these shows, and if there is, it is limited to folks with VIP tickets), but if all goes well, I should be selling some signed copies of The Bedwetter at the show. I won't be able to get enough signed to have copies available back at the store, alas. See you there, and don't forget to say hi to me in the lobby.
And now just one plug for another show. Patton Oswalt is returning to the Pabst on Friday, May 6. Tickets just went on sale. It's probably ok with Silverman if I talk this up as I know Oswalt has been on the show. His new book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, has already done quite well at Boswell Book Company, but I haven't read it yet.
*I think the bit collection has been around since Gutenberg, but a publishing high point seemed to be a series of hits edited by Rob Weisbach, penned by Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, and Ellen DeGeneres. Then Whoopi Goldberg's didn't do so well and that was the end of that.
**It's the new collection by Demetri Martin, whose show in 2009 on Comedy Central was also under the regime of Lauren Corrao. I guess I'm a pre-fan of whatever she champions next.