Saturday, October 10, 2009

Overly Detailed Explanations Of The Obvious

I love just about everything David Cross has ever done. Unfortunately, his recent book I Drink For A Reason is directionless, poorly edited, and feels too much like a first draft of something potentially much better. Cross has always had a tendency to beat up easy targets, but the sort of screeds and revenge fantasies he writes about Catholic priests, morning zoo crew disc jockeys, Larry the Cable Guy, Jim Belushi, homeschoolers, and President Bush are more facile than they are cutting. Similarly, several of his 'essays' are more accurately described as rebuttals to people who have criticized him in various ways over the past few years. He has a few bizarre running jokes that never really pay off, and the book's highlights - a free list of character quirks for use by aspiring indie filmmakers, a list of music to listen to while writing about other music - feel buried between loose, baggy essays. Most importantly, his book is just not very funny. We all drink for a reason; some of us just need a better reason that the decades-old scandals of child-molesting Catholic priests, or Jim Belushi's continued popularity.

By comparison, Michael Ian Black's recent My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face is far superior. Black's trademark blend of surrealism, wordplay, over-explanation and non-sequiteurs translates far more easily to the page than I would ever have expected, and his essays have a consistently rewarding build-up, build-up, funny-but-predictably punchline, unpredictable-and-hilarious punchline structure that killed me every time. For fans of alternative comedy who need something to read on the subway and/or the toilet, Black's book is far superior.

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