Monday, May 05, 2014

In which I am asked to review a book, and completely forget about it for four months

Review: Laff It Off - George Wallace

"If you're reading this, then I already got your damned money"
I'm not a great scholar of comedy, but – like everybody else – I know what's funny and what's not, and your opinion is wrong.

So, when I got an email from a PR company asking me if I'd like to review a book by US comedian George Wallace, I said "yes", and promptly forgot about it. And when they asked me several months later whether I had actually read the book or not, I had to admit that the download link had – in fact – expired in January, and could they send it again, please?

That means I finally have a copy of 'Laff It Off' not exactly in my sweaty paws, but in the solid state memory of my iPad, the slightly peeling corner of its newly installed screen protector reminding me that my ninja skills aren't quite as silky as I like to think they are.

I'm not exactly the fastest of readers, either, but I stuck to my guns and got the Wallace finished in 24 hours. My big problem with books is that I get several on the go at once (and 'Laff It Off' became the fifth on the current inventory), so this review make become mixed with two volumes of military obituaries, one of a niche erotica (also for review) and a tale of sword and derring-do set in the Hundred Years War. My apologies if this comes to pass.

Wallace is one of those comedians who is well known in the States, but is virtually unknown over here. He's a contemporary and friend of the great Jerry Seinfeld (who writes the forward of this number), and performs stand-up to packed houses. One of the reasons you might not have seen him in the UK is that seems to be doing just fine performing in residence in Vegas. That sort of gig does tend to give you one hell of a comfort zone.

Laff It Off, Wallace's book on his rise to fame from his days selling rags door-to-door, is one of those comedian's guide-to-life books that are ten-a-penny, but – and as a former salesman, he'd like the analogy – has the unique selling points of a) not outstaying its welcome and b) marvelous hand-drawn diagrams. 

The latter appeals to me, because I've been getting away with lo-fi comedy for years, and it's pleasing to note that there's money in it. Also, it's funny. For eg, this from page five:

 He is wrong, by the way. I am 48 years old and live for the day they cut a You've Been Framed Man-Getting-Hit-In-The-Fork Special.

But, as a 48-year-old, this one's just about spot on.

 The humour is very American, but we've been exposed to enough US comedy down the years for that not to be a problem. Wallace has made the most of a career in front of US audiences, and that - I think - is our loss. We just don't get to see much quality US comedy, and when we do, it's through the medium of cinema rather than veriety show, stand-up or sitcom.

The problem for UK TV audiences, mind you, is the reluctance of major networks to take a risk on American comedy (they barely take a risk on British comedy, come to think of it), so you do have to make an effort to find anything decent. I worship 30 Rock and Parks and Rec, but they're hardly mainstream, and my Ron Swanson wallpaper on my work computer is merely there as a test to sort the cool people from the people who are not cool. 
Are you one of the cool people? No. No, you are not.

Any exposure for decent US comedy like Mr Wallace is a good thing, and I'm not even being paid to say it.

And back to the chase as we reach the final reel of this blockbuster: As the British archers rained down death on the French men-at-arms at the Battle of Poitiers, I realised that I actually needed to finish Laff It Off because it was a Could-You-Review-This-Book-Please book that's actually good, and I had wasted the best part of four months not reviewing it, leading me to draw my own graphs to illustrate stuff.

I'll grant you that he is far better at drawing lo-fi comedy graphs than I am, but George has had plenty of practice. Kids these days, stuck in front of their computers and iPads - nobody's learning anything new. Nobody's got those graph-drawing skills the way an enormously successful stand-up comic has.

Laff It Off by the very funny George Wallace gets four hand-drawn graphs out of five, and my seal of approval. Buy it off the Amazon, and from shops that sell books made out of paper, an' stuff.
 So mote it be.


Anonymous said...

Two other good American comedy shows I can think to recommend is Everybody Loves Raymond and Frasier.

Anonymous said...

".......because I've been getting away with lo-fi comedy for years,......."

Are you sure?

(1) Phonetically spelt to mimic a Yankee pronunciation.