Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I Drink for a Reason by David Cross

(Book Review)

Why did I read this book?  Well, by accident mostly.  At least as far as such a thing is possible.

Let me back up and give my history with David Cross first.

My friend Monika was a big David Cross fan, and she tried to turn me onto him back in 2004.

Actually David Cross was already sort of a recognizable face back in 2004, so I did already have a vague idea of who he was.  I had seen him in Men in Black, The Cable Guy, and Scary Movie 2.  And I think I must have seen some clips of him on Comedy Central.  But I was never a big fan.

Monika really loved David Cross's political comedy.  In an effort to get me into him, she played part of one of David Cross's sets where he was making fun of Bush.

We had a good laugh at it, but in the very next bit David Cross was talking about lowering the age of consent because he should be able to sleep with teenage girls.  Monika got so offended by it that she turned the video off.

Interestingly enough, though, this didn't dampen her enthusiasm for David Cross.  In fact, she had known that bit was coming, because she had already listened to the whole video.  She had just learned to accept that David Cross was a man who could be outrageously funny one minute, and outrageously offensive the next minute, and that you could be a fan of his, but still turn him off when his jokes got to be too off-color.

Despite Monika's best efforts, I never became a huge David Cross fan--not because I disliked him particularly, but just because I got distracted by other things.  But he's always been vaguely on my radar since then, and I also thought he was one of the funniest things about Arrested Development.

So, why did I end up reading his book?
Well, I spend more hours each day than I care to admit mindlessly clicking through videos on Youtube.

It's not supposed to be like this, mind you.  Supposedly I'm only supposed to put on podcasts that are good for my professional development (like TEFLology) or that will improve my mind (like The Yale Open Courses series).  But unfortunately my attention span and lack of will power keeps thwarting my ambitions.  In the morning I'm too tired to concentrate on anything, so I watch junk on Youtube.  In the afternoon, if I'm lucky, I'll get in a few hours of listening to something productive.  But in the evening, my will power has broken down again, and I'll go back to watching junk on Youtube.

Youtube's algorithm keeps recommending videos for me, and I suppose since I watch a lot of political comedy, David Cross's video on Republicans popped up the other day.

If you haven't seen the clip yet, it's brilliant.

I mean, the part about how the Republican Party is diametrically opposed to everything the Statue of Liberty stands for is so true.
And also that part about Ayn Rand being a complete hypocrite is also true--Ayn Rand really did receive Social Security payments and Medicare, despite having spent her whole life condemning other people for taking these same benefits.  (Something we've noted before on this blog here, here, and here).

Hungry for more, I started clicking on the other David Cross videos that Youtube was recommending for me.

Comedians are always hit and miss.  I've never yet come across any comedian who was always funny all the time.
But when David Cross is on, he can be really on.
The bit in Passion of the Cross about soldiers having to pray for Bush I thought was also brilliant.

The piece is a bit dated now, but apparently during the George W. Bush years, George Bush requested that the soldiers in Iraq pray for him, and a Christian group distributed pledge cards that the soldiers could mail in to demonstrate that they were actually praying for George Bush.
David Cross, in a hilarious bit, (seriously, go listen to the clip) demonstrates how absurd this whole thing is by imagining a frightened 18 year-old soldier in a war zone trying to finish a prayer in which he prays that God will give Bush strength to finish his lobster salad, and also find the courage to cut $14.4 billion dollars out of the veteran's budget.

This was brilliant stuff.  Satire at it's finest.

I continued listening to part 2 of the video.  And then got so worried about how sacrilegious it was, that I turned it off.

As an agnostic, I'm not entirely sure there's really a God out there, but I can't rule it out entirely.  And if there really is a God, then there's probably no sense in making him angry unnecessarily.  I mean, why risk it, right?

I don't mind making fun of organized religion, because I figure God probably hates those hypocrites just as much as I do.
And I tend to agree with Thomas Paine--that if there really is an all loving God out there, then he's probably just as upset about his portrayal in the Bible as we are.*  So making fun of the God's portrayal in the Bible is okay.

But David Cross's tactic--actively making fun of God, and ascribing sexual perversions to God--it just made me nervous.
I don't know--maybe there isn't a God out there, and I'm just being overly cautious, but why take the risk?  I turned it off anyway.

All of this was, of course, the exact same way of listening to David Cross that Monika had demonstrated for me way back in 2004.  Laugh at the good parts, turn it off when it gets too offensive, and then repeat cycle.

Anyway, next I found myself clicking on the youtube version of the audio book of I Drink for a Reason.

Most likely this was uploaded in violation of the wishes of the copyright holder, but then 90% of the stuff I listen to on youtube falls under this category, so it doesn't even phase me anymore.

I never intended to listen to this audio book all the way through.  I thought I'd just listen to 10 minutes of it, and then turn it off and finally stop procrastinating and start being productive.  But then 10 minutes turned into 20 minutes, and 20 minutes turned into an hour, and before I knew it, I was half way through the book already.  And then I had finished it.

And then, once I had finished the book, I remembered that I had this book review project on my blog, where I was committed to reviewing every book I read (including audio books).  Which meant that according to my own rules, I now had to review this book, even though I didn't even really intend to read** it.

I don't really have a lot to say about this book, so this will be a very short review.  (Or at least it should have been, if I hadn't already wasted 1,000 words just describing how I ended up reviewing this book in the first place).

The last book by a Comedian that I reviewed on this blog was Rock This by Chris Rock.***    In my mini-review of Rock This, I said that Chris Rock's book  "...can’t really be reviewed. The only comment one can make is whether it is funny or not."

I've got the same attitude towards this book.  Some parts of it worked, and were really funny.  And other parts of it didn't quite work for me, and weren't quite so funny, and that's really all I've got to say.****

Some of the bits were quite funny.  Also some of David Cross's Hollywood stories were interesting.  (His beef with Larry the Cable Guy, and his beef with Jim Belushi, were both interesting, just for the cheap drama of hearing famous people complain about other famous people).

And the best thing--I absolutely loved the ongoing joke about this being a self-aware audio book.  That was brilliant.
Most audio books will try to reproduce the original book reading experience as faithfully as possible, but David Cross and his recording team have a lot of fun with commenting on the nature of an audio book.
It starts at the beginning, where H. Jon Benjamin (of Archer and Bob's Burgers fame) is reading the book instead of David Cross, only to be interrupted by David Cross, and then the two of them get into an argument about who should read the book, and who is going to get paid for reading the book.

David Cross takes over reading the book, but he will frequently interrupt himself to clarify his meaning for the audiobook.  "As I'm writing these words...actually I'm not writing these words now, I'm reading them.  But I'm reading what I wrote before when I was writing them.  See, I wouldn't have to clarify this if you had just bought the original book."******
In fact David Cross will frequently interrupt himself to berate the reader for listening to the book on audio.  "I don't understand why you just didn't buy the actual book," he says at one point.  "I think it's lazy, and I think it's rude."

This, and many other comments like it, are some of the best riffing on the audio book experience I've heard.

* Paine's actual words:
What can be greater blasphemy than to ascribe the wickedness of man to the orders of the Almighty?” (From Part II of The Age of Reason)
Had the cruel and murderous orders with which the Bible is filled, and the numberless torturing executions of men, women and children, in consequence of those orders, been ascribed to some friend whose memory you revered, you would have glowed with satisfaction at detecting the falsehood of the charge, and gloried in defending his injured name.  Is it because ye [priests] are sunk in the cruelty of superstition, or feel no interest in the honor of your Creator, that ye listen to the horrid tales of the Bible, or hear them with callous indifference.” (Later in Part II of The Age of Reason)

** For stylistic simplicity, I'm using "read" here to refer to the act of completing an audio book, even though, as we all know, it's really more of a listening activity.  But it sounds weird to say "listened a book".

***I'm not counting Al Franken, because I think his book he's more of a political satirist than someone known for his stand up acts.

****Besides which, if I'm being perfectly honest, I didn't listen to this book closely enough to give it a detailed review.  As I mentioned before, I've decided that I need to listen to an audio book multiple times now in order to count it as fully read.  But I'm not going to bother listening to this book more than once.  It was mildly interesting, but I'm not going to make a study out of it.

******All quotes paraphrased, of course, because it's an audiobook and I don't have the text in front of me.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky 2016 Interview - Noam Chomsky and Kade Crockford Discuss Terrorism and Civil Liberties

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