and other painfully true stories
by Mike Birbiglia
I wanted to really enjoy this book, but I didn't. Don't get me wrong, I really like Mike Birbiglia; I think he is hilarious and just nerdy and self-deprecating enough as a comedian, plus he's a great storyteller. So, it follows that his book should be great. After reading the first few pages of his book however, I was not so thrilled. I've listened to a lot of his comedy, and my first impression was that the book was just a written down, slightly edited version of his stand-up; I recognized many of the anecdotes. He lengthens the anecdotes and adds others, but for the most part, the book is just an expanded version of his stand up.
I also don't love the structure of the story Birbiglia is trying to tell of his life. I get that it's a memoir and he gets a lot of leeway, but he jumps around too much to put together a chronological picture of his growing up and his developing career. Plus I think he tells the "La Quinta Inn" joke twice.
Having listened to a lot of Birbiglia's stand up it's amusing to me that the jokes I recognize I can hear him saying in his own voice in my head. If you haven't listened to his standup, particularly the CD by the same name, then definitely read the book. I especially appreciated his chapter about Mitch Hedberg, who was a great comedian as well. I like the "tour of the brain" type of comedy.
When a comedian writes a book, I almost immediately jump to read it: Craig Ferguson, Lewis Black (ok I only have two examples which is not exactly sufficient evidence). But, the fact is, just because you can write jokes, doesn't mean you can write a book (the fiction book Ferguson wrote wasn't all that impressive). I want to read Michael Ian Black's book, but now I'm a little hesitant. Also, I can't help but scoff at the irony of a man who's not "great at reading" writing a book. (Birbiglia, not Black. I have no idea if Black thinks he's good at reading or not.)
And if, Mike Birbiglia, you do get a Google alert from this post, I want to say I respect you as a comedian, you're book just fell a little short for me, and I only think you're slightly "pawkward."