Are You Anybody? by Jeffrey Tambor

I love reading autobiographies by funny people. I can see them in my head acting out each part of their life and I’m instantly amused. I feel like I’m being given a behind-the-scenes look into their daily lives every time I pick up the book. It’s fascinating. Finding new autobiographies by funny people, who also do their own audiobook narration, is one of my favorite things to do. I recently found another and decided to give it a go.

Are You Anybody? by Jeffrey Tambor popped up in my Rivershare OverDrive book list one day and I knew I needed it. I put the audiobook on hold and quickly forgot about it. When the email finally came that it was ready for me to check out, I downloaded it instantly and began listening.  Jeffrey Tambor is funny and spends equal amounts of time on each part of his life, which is a great plus.

Now, I must preface this blog by saying that I have never seen an episode of ‘Arrested Development’ or ‘Transparent,’ both shows that Jeffrey Tambor starred/stars in, respectively. Now you’re probably thinking , “Well then, how did you know he was funny? Why’d you check this book out?” I frequently see commercials for ‘Arrested Development’ on television late at night when I can’t sleep and decided to give his book a go. That was a good decision all around.

In this book, Tambor writes a series of autobiographical essays about topics all the way from his childhood to his current life. While some of the topics discussed are indeed humorous, most of his stories are more emotional. Every topic he writes about he labels as a ‘formative event’. Beginning at the start with the question ‘Are you anybody?’, Tambor moves the book right along by answering with a resounding ‘No’. His relationships with his Russian and Hungarian-Jewish parents and his childhood as a husky kid with a lisp shaped his years of work in repertoire theater which in turn led to his first film, ‘And Justice for All’, and then later led to fame in various television roles. Each defining moment in his life is hashed out in relation to what he had to do to get to that point. Tambor’s driving motivation throughout the book is his overwhelming desire to rise above his troubled upbringing and provide a better life/home for himself and, now, his family.

Reaching to the present, Tambor discusses how his ‘Are you anybody?’ question revolves around his family now. His creative process has expanded and Tambor finds that in his more than four decades of entertainment, he still has no idea who he is. That’s not a problem per se, more of a challenge to figure out how to balance the triumphs and pitfalls of the entertainment industry. Tambor also is quick to mention that even if you’re successful, that doesn’t mean you’re perfect. Failing, while disastrous, heart-breaking, and depressing at the time, may actually lead you down a better path to who you want to be.

Jeffrey Tambor may be a television legend, a Broadway star, and an accomplished screen actor, but he is still struggling to figure out just who he is and if he is anybody. I enjoyed that he swept between essays about famous people (check out his shout-outs to said people) and every day discussions of his family (his stories about his young children crack me up). The differentiation between those two types of essays lends a necessary balance to this book that allows readers to view Tambor as a normal person who just happens to be famous. He still gets up in the morning to make his kids’ lunches, takes them to all of their practices, and then makes sure they read every night. Just like the rest of us. If you have the chance to listen to or read this book, I recommend you give it a go. I enjoyed it and now I’m off to start ‘Arrested Development’!


This book is also available in the following formats:

Florence Foster Jenkins on DVD

Florence, possessing a heart of gold and a tin ear, wishes more than anything to be a great opera singer. She is very active in the mid-1940s New York City music scene and rubs elbows with many of the famous including conductor Arturo Toscanini, songwriter Cole Porter and actress Tallulah Bankhead. But while she has many friends and has helped many musicians, her dream remains out-of-reach – until she decides to do something about it.

St. Clair, her beloved husband, knows perfectly well that Florence cannot sing, but he pays her voice coach and new pianist very well to treat her as if she has a lovely voice. When Florence is determined to give a recital, St. Clair makes sure the tickets are sold only to fans and friends and bribes reporters into write glowing reviews. All goes smoothly – well, except for the fact that Florence has a terrible voice – and St. Clair relaxes. Which is, of course, when St. Clair’s well-meaning white lies come around to bite him. Florence, without telling St. Clair, books Carnegie Hall. Oh, and records an album. St. Clair’s carefully constructed safe haven for his wife is about to come crashing down.

Florence Foster Jenkins is simply a lovely movie. Charming, funny but also bittersweet. Starring the always amazing Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant (still so handsome), this is a movie that will make you laugh but it’ll also make you stop and think. It’s about reaching for your dreams, about overcoming the obstacles life throws at you (Florence’s life hasn’t been easy), about finding your true friends and standing with them. It’s about having the courage to follow your passion and never give up.

The Return of the Doctor

Hello Fellow Whovians!

I am happy to report that the long wait is over – Doctor Who returns to BBC America on Saturday April 15! Hooray! This will be Peter Capaldi’s last season as the Doctor and Steven Moffat’s last season as the main writer and showrunner, plus there’s a new companion this season. Lots of changes coming for our favorite Time Lord!

Of course, change is nothing new for Doctor Who – the show is brilliant at reinventing itself season after season, changing to keep up with current tastes yet remaining essentially at its core the story of the Doctor, a survivor and explorer of the Universe, zipping around in his time traveling TARDIS (it’s bigger on the inside!), chased by Daleks and Cybermen. And who is not opposed to stopping and helping various aliens and cultures (and time periods) on his journey, always with a faithful companion or two in tow. There’s a lot of humor in this series, but there’s also a lot of depth and heart.

Doctor Who has been a mainstay of British television since it premiered in 1963. When the original Doctor, William Hartnell became ill and could no longer work, the producers came up with the idea of having the character “regenerate”, allowing a new actor to take over. This turned out to be a brilliant move, keeping the series running almost continuously since then and allowing each actor to bring his own interpretation and personality to the show. The show slipped in popularity, ending in 1989 but was revived 2005. It’s been embraced by old and new fans and is now enjoying some of it’s greatest popularity.

Interested in jumping aboard this crazy train? (It’s tons of fun) The library has DVDs of all of the series including the originals. I recommend that you start with the “modern” series by watching a season when a new Doctor is introduced – the Ninth Doctor (series 1), the Tenth Doctor (series 2), the Eleventh Doctor (series 5) or the Twelfth Doctor (series 8). This way you are introduced to the “rules” of this series at the same time as the new Doctor, who is just as confused and bewildered as you are as he adjusts to his new body and gets back his memories. There are also the Christmas episodes (a British Christmas is listening to the Queen’s Speech in the morning and watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special in the evening!) and the excellent 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor.

The library also has novelizations, graphic novels and fan guides. It’s a fandom that just keeps giving!

So, here’s a question that can set off endless debates: who’s your favorite Doctor? I love Ten (played by David Tennant and most people’s favorite) but Eleven (Matt Smith) is my favorite. (Actually, the TARDIS is my absolute favorite character!) Who is your favorite doctor? Favorite episode? (“Vincent and the Doctor” maybe, or “Blink”?) Favorite villan? (Weeping Angels? The Silence?) Join the conversation!

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

yes pleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler is a hilarious biography full of anecdotes from Poehler’s time on “Parks and Recreation” and “Saturday Night Live”, as well as stories from her everyday life from both before she became a big star and after she gained fame. If you’ve seen Poehler in anything, then you know that her comedy comes fierce and fast, sometimes catching you off guard in regards to topic and delivery. This book is no different.

I chose to listen to this biography through OverDrive and was not disappointed. Poehler narrates this book, along with several other big name actors and, of course, her parents, popping in for cameos. (Looking for another funny woman biography narrated by the author? Check out Tina Fey’s Bossypants, available as a CD audiobook and an OverDrive eaudiobook.) Each person she has helping her narrate adds another level of humanity and unbridled hilarity to Poehler’s life growing up and her changing career in comedy as she worked to get to where she is today.

Poehler pulls no punches in this biography, talking about subjects ranging from growing up in the 70s, tips on how to deal with being nominated for an award, odes to different coworkers, sex, love, babies, divorce, family, parenthood, and her hilarious relationship with Tina Fey. This humorous book gives readers an all-access pass into Poehler’s life, allowing us to catch a glimpse into the crazy world of Saturday Night Live, letting us see how difficult it is to become a successful comedian, and just how crazy life is.

Poehler travels back to the 1990s, when she was in her 20s, working at ImprovOlympic in Chicago and then with the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. She talks about her previous jobs and her struggle to make it. I highly recommend you listen to the audiobook because you get access to bonus material, as well as extra insight into her life from her many famous friends who make cameos. Choosing to do this book as an audiobook really lets Poehler’s creative talent shine as she weaves together both stories of success and failure to deliver her thoughts on anything and everything. Let us know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats:

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

furiously happyFuriously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson is the story of one woman’s journey through mental illness and the many places she finds herself. Jenny has been battling mental illness her entire life, so she considers herself to be an expert at how she handles her crippling depression and anxiety. She’s an expert at terrible ideas and writing a funny book about horrible things may be her best terrible idea yet.

Jenny believes in living her life furiously happy. Her depression, anxiety, and other myriad mental illnesses may run her life at certain moments, but she has decided that in the moments when she is not hiding in her bedroom, she’s going to live furiously happy. She’s going to do anything that pops into her head, anything stupid or irresponsible like having a raccoon rodeo with your cats or trying to convince your husband that having kangaroos would be a good idea. This book is packed full of stories of Jenny turning moments when things are just fine into amazing moments for herself, her daughter, and her husband. Because she doesn’t know exactly when her next down swing may happen, Jenny chooses to LIVE her life and not just survive it.

Jenny has written this book as a way to show the rest of the people in the world that the best way to live our lives is to embrace our weirdness 100%. She wants to show that by building up furiously happy moments in our okay moments, we are arming our brain with positive moments when those same brains decide to fight against us and try to kill us. Her moments of hilarity are paired with moments of such brutal honesty that you’ll find yourself on one page in the kitchen with Jenny as she plays with her taxidermied raccoons and then a few pages later sitting in the bathroom with her as she cries and pulls out her hair until she bleeds. The dichotomy between those beautiful, loving moments of happiness and the flawed, immensely overflowing, just trying to survive moments is where Jenny thrives. She encourages you to embrace yourself no matter what label you’re given and to find ways to find joy and happiness no matter what.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

love may fail2I was looking for an audiobook to listen to in the car when I came across Love May Fail by Matthew Quick.  I really enjoyed reading his previous novel, Silver Linings Playbook (and watching the movie adaptation) so I checked it out without bothering to look at what this book was about.  If you have kids in the car with you, then you do not want to listen to this book.  Read it instead.

Love May Fail starts by introducing us to Portia Kane, who is currently sitting in her clothes closet, drunk, waiting for her husband and his lover to arrive.  After a hilarious confrontation, Portia decides to leave and gets on a plane.  While she is intoxicated.  She stumbles to her seat and finds herself sitting next to a nun.  Sister Maeve is kind and listens to Portia tell her tale of woe.  Before they part, Sister Maeve gives her a note and her address, in case Portia would ever want to write to her in the future.  And it is a good thing that Portia writes to her.  It turns out that they are looking for the same thing.

The plane lands in Philadelphia, Portia’s hometown.  We quickly realize why Portia would want to escape this place after the first encounter with her mother.  Her mother is kind but clearly mentally unstable.  After dragging her mother to a nearby diner, Portia runs into a former classmate and learns that a beloved high school English teacher was forced to retire after a brutal attack.  This teacher was the only decent man that Portia Kane ever had in her life.  Determined to find him and bring him back to the classroom, Portia begins her quest.

Some people believe that God has a master plan that brings people together.  Other people call it destiny.  Whatever you call it, in Love May Fail, you will see how one chance encounter can lead you to the person that you are looking for.  Matthew Quick brings multiple characters together through chance encounters that lead Portia to her former teacher, Mr. Vernon.  But just because you find the person that you are looking for, it does not mean that there is always a happy ending.  Mr. Vernon is a broken man when Portia finds him.  Will she be able to convince him that life is worth living?

Love May Fail is full of dark subject matter, but it is a very funny book.  Portia Kane is a believable flawed middle aged woman that is trying to find the one person that she believes has goodness inside him.  Along her journey, Portia encounters other characters that help her on her quest.  And she may find that there are other people that are good along the way.

 

How to Chat Someone Up at a Funeral by Mark Leigh

how to chat someone up at a funeralIf you’re looking for etiquette books for situations that go beyond how to behave at a traditional dinner party or how to address your husband’s boss when he comes over for dinner, then How to Chat Someone Up at a Funeral: And Other Awkward Social Situations by Mark Leigh might not be the book for you. This book is a hilarious guide to etiquette when you are presented with awkward social situations. While the tips you learn in regular etiquette books about the regular and traditional *miigghhtt* help you in these awkward situations, please consider Leigh’s book the way to go when you find yourself in a situation that is far from normal.

In How to Chat Someone Up at a Funeral, readers will find tips and tricks on how to deal with over 60 awkward social situations. The author doesn’t care how you ended up in any of these situations, just that you are well armed with advice to help you deal with what’s presented and that you leave with as much of your dignity and your life as intact as possible. The author includes such situations as how to break a curse, how to behave when invited to an exorcism, what to do when you suspect your girlfriend is a serial killer, what to do when challenging a co-worker to a duel, how to act when you inadvertently fart in the presence of the queen, and many, many more. I highly encourage you to pick up this book to learn more about what to do when you accidentally block a toilet at someone’s house, when you need to escape a mountain lion at a dinner party, and just like the title says, when you want to know how to chat someone up at a funeral.

This hilarious book is full of steps and tricks to remember, as well as things you should avoid doing and sometimes even checklists to see if you’re really in that situation or are mistaken about what is happening around you. I really enjoyed the breakdown that the author, Mark Leigh, gives about each situation and the only caution that I would give to readers is that Leigh is from England, so some words he uses may initially be confusing, but I found the content he presented to far outweigh his word choice.

So check out this book today and the next time you find yourself sharing a flat with a gorilla or having to bail out on a bad date with decency, know that the library has the perfect resource to help you out!

Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster) by Dave Barry

live right and find happinessLive Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster) is read by the author, Dave Barry.  I used to read Dave Barry’s column in the newspaper and I always imagined as being this goofy guy with a squeaky voice.  I was pleasantly surprised at how nice his voice is to listen to.  This audiobook is three and a half hours long, so it is great to listen to for a short road trip or on your daily commute.  The book is full of different stories and musings by Barry that are easy to listen to and enjoy.

My favorite story in this book would have to be repairing things in your house.  Barry talks about how going to a hardware store is the most depressing experience.  Unlike commercials for Home Depot, people are not smiling and excited about the projects that they are going to do.  They walk around the store terrified and unsure of what to do.  And, no one is able to go home and magically transform their house in thirty seconds, looking proud and satisfied.  Instead, normal people have to hire contractors.  And contractors bring their headaches, even to a writer who works from home.

Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster) is full of humorous stories from Dave Barry’s life.  He discusses travelling to Brazil for the World Cup of soccer with his wife and daughter.  It turns out that the tour guide books lied; not every person in Brazil will try to rob you.  Barry talks about his childhood, growing up in the “Mad Men” era, watching his parents have cocktail parties and then how his generation turned out to be hover parents.  Barry even has a pair of Google Glass and he talks about how ridiculous he looks wearing it.

These are just a few examples of the stories that are in Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster).  Barry will have you laughing out loud with his relatable yet ridiculous stories.

 

Webcomics – From screen to page

Long ago and far away, I was unaware of the rise of the webcomic. That was until, a coworker (two, actually) began sending me links to blogs and Tumblrs they thought might fit my odd reading preference. And boy, did they create a monster!

For the uninitiated, a webcomic is exactly what you think it is – a comic on the web. Some are ongoing, newspaper-like strips, others tell a story that may or may not have a ending, some are even interactive! What is great about webcomics is that by their online nature, they are not limited to the printed page, nor must they conform to traditional storytelling standards.

Some webcomics, having been successful online, have published their webcomics as books. Some, like Noelle Stevenson’s “Nimona” or Kate Beaton’s “Hark! A Vagrant!” were picked up by major publishers. Others are printed using funds raised from Kickstarter, like “Derelict” by Ben Fleuter or “Ava’s Demon” by Michelle Czajkowski. Either way, it’s a fantastic trend and exposes webcomics to an even larger audience.

Here are some of my favorite web-to-print collections:

aumokd6pfdtuhq4dvfax_0Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Set in a futuristic medieval world, Nimona, a young and impulsive shape-shifter joins up (well, forces her way in) with the supervillian Lord Ballister Blackheart. Blackheart, who was once a knight and lost his arm in a joust with Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the kingdom’s champion. As Nimona and Blackheart pit themselves against the Director of the evil Institution, it becomes clear that no one and nothing is at it seems, especially Nimona.

You can check out the full comic from DPL (which I highly recommend) and see Stevenson’s other work on her blog and Tumblr. It’s especially worth it for the occasional non-canon “Nimona” mini stories she draws, and her obsession with “Hulkeye.”

 

 

Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks –  Canadian cartoonist Hicks’ “The shgcoverAdventures of Superhero Girl” follows our young superhero as she leaps tall buildings and clashes with the ninjas that seem to infest her otherwise boring city. She also faces the very ordinary challenges of being young and broke, social awkwardness and unfortunate cape-shrinkage.  The blending of superhero and the mundane creates a very funny and relatable story, winning Hicks an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids. You can check out the print book from DPL here, or read the whole comic online here (in black and white). Hicks creates several other webcomics, which you can check out on her blog here and on her Tumblr.

 

51tccYo6VVL__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton – History nerds unite! Hark! A Vagrant is a collection of strips previously published on Beaton’s website, plus author commentary and a handful of previously unseen strips. Mixing both the historical and the contemporary, Beaton’s deceptively simple illustrations cast an erudite and witty eye on history, literature and pop culture. I will admit to needing to look up more than a few of the historical characters and events that appear in this collection ( especially those that had to do with Canadian history), but one needn’t be a history expert to enjoy the sheer silliness of the characters’ expressions and one-liners. Beaton also lampoons Nancy Drew, Aquaman, 1980s business women and her younger self, to name a few more modern targets, and the collection includes some singularly hilarious non sequitur strips to boot.

Beaton as two new collections coming out soon, “Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection” and “The Princess and the Pony.” Check out her website here, and her Tumblr, too.

Here are some more webcomics  that I enjoy, some in print and some only online:

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch – Brosch has a deceptively simple illustration style and a talent for hilarious story telling. Her stories are taken, more or less, from real life and some, especially those about her Simple Dog, will give you stomach cramps from laughter. Brosh has also illustrated her own battle with depression with her signature style. Very much worth reading.

Ava’s Demon by Michelle Czajkowski – A young girl is possessed by a vengeful demon. To free herself, Ava must make a pact with her demon and carry out her plan for revenge and restoration. The art is absolutely stunning, especially when displayed digitally.

Derelict by Ben Fleuter – In a far future, the Earth is flooded and overcome with an alien fog which hides the “Miasmic Races.” Scavenger Dang Thu Mai is simply trying to get by, but her past, and the Miasma, continue to haunt her.

Apothecia by Taz Muir and Shelby Cragg – Eleven-year-old Jessie finds something horrific in the woods. What she does next will change her, and the world.

Red’s Planet by Eddie Pittman – From the animator of “Phineas and Ferb,” the comic begins with ten-year-old “Red” (because she has red hair, you see) as she runs away from yet another foster family. This time, though, it isn’t the police so find her, but aliens! Abducted and taken across the galaxy, she soon finds herself stranded with other abductees – a veritable menageries of strange (and grumpy) aliens.

One Way by Christopher Baldwin – What if the crew of a starship was, instead of being like “Star Trek,” a little bit more like “The Real World”? Sent on a first contact mission from which there may not be a return trip, Captain Francisco tries to keep his crew from killing one another (when you book a one-way trip, you don’t waste your A-team on it). The comic is mostly an on-going gag, but you can’t help but like this crew of total jerks.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

Accidental TouristIf you’re waiting for the new Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread, why not dip into the Tyler archive? Old friends like the charmingly odd Leary family are the center of The Accidental Tourist.

Macon, the travel writer who hates to leave home, moves in with his siblings when he breaks his leg. Macon, along with Rose, Charles and Porter resume their comfortable routines, including a card game so intricate only the three brothers and sister can master it.

Written in 1985, the absence of cell phones and answering machines allow Macon to leave his marital home and go off the grid. The Learys often ignore the ringing landline, so those looking for Macon are forced to show up at the door.

Air travel prior to 9/11 is also charmingly free of TSA regulations. Macon writes a series of books for the business traveler, and the chief goal is to replicate one’s home environment. His desire for order and quiet set him up for a collision with Muriel, who is a dog trainer, among other things.  She’s Macon’s equal in eccentricity – but on the other end of the spectrum. She’s outgoing and confessional, with considerably fewer boundaries than the Learys.

Though the tone is sometimes comic, there’s an undertone of sadness and complexity. In the recent past, Macon’s son was killed in a shoot-out at a fast food restaurant. Muriel has had to struggle all her adult life to patch together a life for herself and her young son.

Tyler’s gift is to create fascinating characters and then let them bounce off each other in unpredictable ways.