Thursday, May 13, 2010

"I Killed"- stories of comedians on the road.

c. David Grim (taken 8/19/08)

What I needed more than anything else the last couple of days was some laughter. I decided to step outside of my usual schedule of true crime, heavy drama, and Southern Gothic madness. I chose to read a book about comedians instead. I wouldn't say that I actually expected to laugh out loud while reading "I Killed"- a collection of very short tales from the road, edited by Mark Schiff and Ritch Shydner. But within the first fifty or so pages I did indeed chuckle to myself. Maybe some mirthful sounds even escaped my resolute mouth. I read in private, so there was no one to note that type of thing.

While I found its 288 pages sufficiently amusing, I didn't come close to pissing myself. Indeed there were quite a few bits that I found hokey or simply mysterious in their pretensions to humor. But that's par for the course with an anthology of anecdotes from a group of professionals whose job it is to entertain the masses. You can't reasonably be expected to find everything to your tastes.

And at the same time, there were moments of real sadness and wonder. If nothing else, "I Killed" gives the reader a fairly visceral look at American night life. You might be amazed at what people across the country consider fun for their off-work hours. There are plenty of easy women lining up to be exploited by the male comics, and plenty of misanthropy on hand to allow these men to be callous in their recounts. Indeed the reader can be forgiven who walks away from this title with a generally negative feeling about humanity.

Still, if you are already a bit of a cynic, you won't be shocked by much of the misbehavior you encounter in these pages. It certainly seem tough to get laughs out of audiences, day-in and day-out, through every conceivable mood and discomfort that the stand-up comedians suffer. Pity their lot if you will, but think twice before you decide to spend much time in their company or (God forbid) call one a friend. Because one thing is made patently clear- everyone is a target.