Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review: I Drink For A Reason

Wow, was that bad. I mean, it was really astonishingly terrible. Hacky, smug, lazy, unfunny, frequently cruel, and the kind of thing any comedian should have been ashamed of, let alone someone like David Cross who's genuinely got a claim to being one of the most groundbreaking comedians of his generation. This is so bad that I spent a good portion of the book trying to determine whether this was actually some kind of fourth-dimensional meta-satire of the flaws of terrible pretentious faux-intellectual comedians, but after a while it became clear that no, David Cross just crapped out a book to fulfill a contractual obligation.

The big problem with it...well, the big problem with it is that it's actually woefully unfunny. Large stretches of the book are just Cross suggesting that someone innocuous is actually suffering in some way, as an aside or as part of a portion of a list. If the words, "A Retarded Baby Gets AIDS," free of context or purpose, is inherently funny to you, then you are Cross's target audience and may God have mercy upon your soul. (Only, of course, as Cross never tires of bringing up, God doesn't exist and people who believe in Him are stupid and/or crazy. He doesn't make jokes about that--apparently just saying that religious people are stupid and/or crazy is enough work for one day.)

But the other, bigger problem with it is that it proffers no point of view beyond simply "David Cross is much smarter than everyone else." Cross obviously makes fun of people he thinks are foolish or hypocritical or morally bankrupt, because that's kind of what comedians do and what satire is--you expose the foibles of the pompous. But Cross makes no differentiation between, say, Catholic priests who molested innocent children and the system that shielded them, and the people at who gave his latest comedy CD a bad review. His negation is mindless and thoughtless, which makes it worthless.

Because all he does is point to things and say "That's stupid," there's no value to his genuine social commentary. Does he examine why it is that the Catholic Church rallies around its members and uses its institutional power to protect them? Does he find something meaningful to say about the idea that any institution, no matter how noble, eventually comes to be about holding on to its power and authority rather than its initial ideals? Nope. It's because they're religions, and religions are stupid. He doesn't critique things, merely criticize them.

And like all emotional thirteen-year-olds, he's more interested in finding a weakness he can use to attack the people he disagrees with than in holding any kind of an intellectual or moral philosophy of his own. He's perfectly willing to go after Larry the Cable Guy as "homophobic", because he doesn't like Larry the Cable Guy and he knows that homophobia is a charge you can successfully level at someone. But he's also willing to do an extended multiple-page gag about Jim Belushi dressing up as a woman and giving blowjobs in a truckstop restroom, because homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of unless you're using it to humiliate a comedian you find annoying. The book is filled with these little hypocrisies and petty jabs...interspersed, of course, with Cross's insistence that he's not at all bitter about anything in his life, and that anyone who thinks he's bitter or angry about anything just doesn't understand how calmly he takes the endless frustrations of dealing with all the stupid people who aren't him.

Other than that, the book is mostly weak and unfunny nonsensical asides, a few of which land with less than a dull thud than others but none of which can struggle to life under the endless burden of having to co-exist with Cross's angry whinging. If you really like David Cross, do both him and yourself a favor and pretend this book never existed. All it can do is lower your opinion of him.


Jim S said...

You've hit the nail on the head. I have this theory that comedians who expose the foibles of society turn into bitter, angry people as they get older.

Look at Mark Twain. His "Innocents Aboard" stories are humorous stories that have fun with American tourists and the people who cater to them. (As an example, the Americans are shown a letter written by Christopher Columbus by an Italian tour guide in Italy. They joke that the letter contains the worst handwriting they've ever seen. The tour guide doesn't get the joke and keeps emphasizing it's not the handwriting, it's the fact that the letter was written by Columbus that's important. Good stuff there).

By the end of "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven", his last published story, his anger and contempt of religious people is obvious.

The same with George Carlin. His jokes about the Indian Rain Dance on Saturday, weather permitting go to just anger and things are stupid.

Same with Bill Maher.

It's as if they've said "here are your faults" and then are surprised and angry when nothing changes. It's "hey, I've pointed out this fault, why hasn't human nature changed?" "Listen to me, if you do what I say, we'll have a Utopia. You haven't? Assholes."

And I know I'll get into trouble for this, but I found Mr. Show wasn't that funny. I found Cross not funny. But humor is subjective. I am not surprised his book is like this. I never saw a lot of compassion in his humor.

Or I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he's slowly realizing he will never have the career of Bob Odenkirk.