David Cross is perhaps best known for his TV work, which includes Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development and involvement with Mr. Show. Though I’ve seen at least the first season of the former, I’m not particularly familiar with Cross’ TV work, and know him mostly from his comedy albums Shut Up You Fucking Baby! and It’s Not Funny.
Actually, my first exposure to cross was his comedy special on HBO, The Pride is Back, and I hated it, thinking cross an affected and unfunny comedian. Several years later, a friend of mine recommended him, saying that he had a particular style that you really have to learn to appreciate, but when you did, you laughed your ass off. He was right.
Cross’ decision to write a book was a strange one to me: my understanding even before reading it was that the pieces in this book were a lot like his comedy routines, except written down. So why a book instead of another comedy album? Maybe books sell better; I don’t know.
I’ve heard that the audiobook version of the I Drink For a Reason is actually a lot like a comedy album; it’s narrated by Cross himself, and apparently includes a lot of schtick that’s unique to that version, such as Cross constantly berating the listener for buying the audiobook instead of the paper book.
But what of the book itself? Well, it lacks a lot of the bite that I usually attribute to Cross; the material is a mishmash of old and new. He reproduces, for instance, the “Open Letter to Larry the Cable Guy” from his website; some other material from that website is also used. Some bits are autobiographical (such as a previously unpublished piece he wrote after ending a long-term relationship), and some are pseudo-sketch comedy (such as a piece about a grandma joining a militant group on the Canadian border to stop gay Americans from getting married across the border). They’re funny, but I think a critical component of Cross’ comedy is his delivery, and of course we get none of it in textual form.
Much of the book’s filler is in the form of lists; Cross’ gentle poke at Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven consists of many lists in the form of “The [number] [noun] you will [verb] in Limbo.” But a list of “The Eleven Vitamins You Will Have in Limbo” (C, K, C+, Niacin, St. John’s Wort) isn’t funny; it’s not David Cross satire. If anything, it hearkens back to the sort of list you would find in a book by George Carlin, but Carlin’s were much funnier.
It’s spotty, poorly edited (misspellings), and mostly filler; mostly it lacks the righteous anger and dynamism that marks everything else that David Cross does. Some material just doesn’t translate well into book form, and this is simply proof that Cross should stick to doing what he does so well: sketch and stand-up comedy. The printed word is simply not his best medium.