Sunday, May 15, 2016

Almost Interesting - where the wind blows

book review

In his new memoir, Saturday Night Live alum David Spade recounts some of the elements that have shaped him as a person and a comedian

Book: Almost Interesting: The Memoir
Author: David Spade

For over four decades, Saturday Night Live has been serving as a launching pad for comedians and introducing talented young performers to the world. One of its many alumni include David Spade, the American actor who got his big break when he joined SNL in 1990 and then ventured into movies and sitcoms while continuing his stand-up career. The performer discusses the ups and downs in his private and work life in his new memoir, Almost Interesting, a witty look at some of the elements that have shaped Spade as both a person and a comedian.

Laced with self-deprecating humour, the autobiography finds the actor recounting incidents from his past and detailing important moments in a friendly and affable, albeit often crude style.

The book begins with a surprisingly poignant look at his childhood, which was fraught with difficulties. Born premature and unwell, Spade grew up in relative poverty after his father bailed on the family, leaving his mother to raise her three sons by working two jobs; she subsequently remarried, but his step-father, a vet with PTSD, eventually killed himself.

After discussing his early life and personal struggles, Spade talks about venturing into the world of comedy, charting his “slow, incremental rise to medium fame” and shedding light on how much effort it takes to break into the comedy scene and succeed in show business. The project that gets the most focus in the book is Saturday Night Live. From joining the show to being a part of it for multiple seasons, the comedian mines his time on the program for musings about the people he encountered while discussing how difficult it was for him to adapt to its fast-paced, competitive style and the “culture of comparison” that it bred. There are anecdotes about working with his SNL colleagues – which included Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and most prominently Chris Farley, who was “a big part of [his] life, for a small amount of time” and clearly meant a lot to him – as well as memorable encounters with the weekly guest hosts and other prominent celebrities – including recollections of annoying David Bowie, meeting Nirvana, getting tattooed by Sean Penn, taking a piece of the Pope photo that Sinead O’Connor ripped, and landing in the bad books of Eddie Murphy.

About two thirds of the way in, however, the book takes an abrupt turn and goes off track; what started as a chronological memoir unexpectedly halts and turns into a random collection of essays that aren’t nearly as appealing as the writer would have hoped. Instead of delving into his time working on sitcoms like (the delightful) Just Shoot Me! (1997 – 2003) and (the less delightful) Rules of Engagement (2007 – 2013), the actor offers chapters about being attacked by his assistant, getting robbed by his housekeeper, doing too much coke, and also dispenses dating advice. Curiously, there is next to no mention of anything from the last 15 years, including his work, like the sitcoms, or the developments in his life, like the birth of his daughter. The choice to leave out all his more recent projects makes absolutely no sense, especially considering how short Almost Interesting is.

Spade obviously isn’t a highbrow humorist, and you have to wade through a lot of crass frat-boy humour to get to the point, but thanks to the writer’s energetic style and self-deprecating voice, Almost Interesting is a charming, engaging (albeit incomplete) look at the life of a fairly interesting person who has always been surrounded by people far more interesting than himself. And while it is anything but essential reading – the author himself begins by saying it is “meant to be read when super bored, then forgotten fifteen minutes later” – Almost Interesting is a funny, entertaining volume with some touching recollections from his early life and interesting observations from his professional career. The book also offers a glimpse at the world of American comedy and how it operates, and readers who are interested in the behind-the-scenes Hollywood action (and don’t find crude accounts off-putting) will enjoy this quick read.

- Sameen Amer 

Instep, The News on Sunday - 15th May, 2016 *

1 comment:

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