Sunday, October 25, 2009

David Cross - I Drink For A Reason [audiobook review]

* Released in August
David Cross' first book is a random assemblage of short essays, social commentary, ironic top ten lists and fictional ramblings thinly disguised as truth. If you're not a fan of his sarcastic, sometimes vicious comedy act then there's little of interest here for you. Even if you are, such as myself, there's an overwhelming letdown at the end result. Rarely have I been so disappointed at something I had such high expectations for.
Cross' career puts him probably somewhere below the mainstream flow and just north of the cult ghetto, a result of career choices that have been unpredictable and downright puzzling. His standup performances speak for themselves, making him one of the funniest in the business. The Tobias Funke character on the sorely missed Arrested Development was brilliant, as many would also say of his work on Mr. Show With Bob And David (which I honestly could never get into). His film work has been spotty at best and it's always been amusing for me to hear him dumping on other actors and films when his filmography contains trash like Alvin And The Chipmunks, School For Scoundrels, Pootie Tang and Curious George.
The audiobook, read by Cross, clocks in at just under six and a half hours and not once did I laugh out loud, or even mildly chuckle. Granted, he got a couple of smiles out of me, but I'm amazed that someone I've previously found so funny could elicit such a muted, ambivalent reaction. The material has a slightly different tone than his standup material, favouring a more cerebral narrative that can sometimes be a challenge to digest at first listen via the spoken word format. I found myself occasionally skipping back on my iPod through some of Cross' more whimsical ideas.
Cross discusses topics like religion, show business, ignorance, the American south and vapid celebrity culture. Whoopi Goldberg, Bill O'Reilly and particularly Jim Belushi are scathingly mocked. The Belushi diatribes are particularly tiresome and rarely humorous. Larry The Cable Guy receives Cross' most pointed vitriol, as he responds to criticisms directed at him by the comic. A lengthy "Open Letter To Larry The Cable Guy" provides the books funniest moments, but at the end of the day, I mean, it's bloody Larry The Cable Guy. And Jim Belushi. Talk about your easy targets.
Other scattershot focuses of attention are a convention of scrapbook enthusiasts that Cross observed while staying at a Michigan hotel, a comment on the stupidity of a bumper sticker on a police car he once saw that said "Don't Abandon Your Baby" and pointless top ten lists (which usually are actually a lot more than ten long) that function more as filler than comedy. One, titled "A Free List Of Quirks For Aspiring Filmmakers" is presented via a bit of an audiobook bonus, which are interspersed throughout the reading, as Cross does mini skits surrounding the act of him being in the studio reading his work. He calls on hipster New York band Les Savy Fav to create a song and have his list sung over the music, which makes for an excruciating ten minutes of listening that is neither musically enjoyable nor, again, funny.
Cross' style is based on a sarcastic, non-PC delivery, which is obviously part of his appeal. Sometimes though, it leans a little more towards bitterness, offensive and a superior attitude that becomes off-putting. The sporadic insults directed at the listener for being lazy and not buying the proper book get old quickly, even though they're meant to be funny. Ironically (and Cross loves irony!), a number of the essays read near the end of the book are just magazine pieces that Cross wrote for publications like Playboy and Vice, some from as far back as the 80's.
Caustic, cutting comments are never far from his grasp in I Drink For A Reason, which makes for a long slog through it. Even for us lazy, audiobook-listening bastards.
Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆