Shockaholic (CBR4 #32)

*Comedians Summer Tour Book #4*

 

I don’t know what I was thinking. Here’s review #32 –

 

If you’re memory was escaping you, and you were making conscious choices to let it go, what would you record for yourself? What would you choose to remember? This dilemma is what frames the beginning of Carrie Fisher’s Shockaholic. For those unaware Ms. Fisher suffers from severe depression linked to a substance abuse problem. In order to deal with both of those issues she has taken what has become the last stop on the therapeutic path – electroconvulsive therapy (that would be the new and improved shock therapy to those in the know). The upside of this therapy for Ms. Fisher is a brain which finally feels that it is working; the downside of the therapy – gaps in memory which can be months long.

 

I decided to pick this one up based on my love of her stage version of Wishful Drinking in which Ms. Fisher takes the audience through her personal history – the story of how she went from being the baby of stars to a star in her own right to Princess Leia forever. Shockaholic is where Ms. Fisher delves into the events in her life which lead her to ECT, what the after effects of ECT have been for her, and how it all culminated in a relationship with her father at the end of his life.

 

The good parts of this one include Ms. Fisher’s delicious way with words. If you’ve ever seen her on an interview chat show or one of her stage performances the book reads the way she speaks. There is also the delicious voyeuristic part of any Hollywood memoir where you feel as though you have been told things that perhaps you shouldn’t really know. The bad parts? Mostly that’s the choppy, uneven nature of the writing and the constant reminders that the ECT has robbed Ms. Fisher of some of her memories. However the memories which survive make for a fun ride.

American On Purpose (CBR4 #29)

Let’s start my summer comedy tour! Wherein comedians tell us about their vices and demons and make us laugh.

 

I should start out by saying that I am a ridiculously devoted fan of the slightly creepy but undeniably lovable Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show. I record his show nightly because I can’t stay up for the entirety of it and I really want to watch them, so I view them the next night when I get home from work. I find this a lovely way to unwind from the stresses of my job and commute.

In his memoir, American On Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot Ferguson delves into his childhood and family in Scotland, his incomplete education, adventures in punk rock/bartending/comedy/acting, alcoholism, failed marriages, emigration to the United States, and choice to become an American citizen and what he means to who he is and what his ancestry means to him. Needless to say, he covers a lot of ground.

Avid fans of his show (c’mon, there’s more than just me) will be familiar with a lot of the material covered in this book from 2009. Some of the topics at hand – his year living in New York, his decade of active alcoholism are common enough talking points on the show. Many of the memories shared in this book would’ve been brand new if I hadn’t watched his shows from Scotland where he covered even more of his personal history. By which of course I mean the psychotic killer ducks of  Kelvingrove Park.

What I appreciate about Craig the show host is what I appreciate about Craig the author. He is unflinchingly honest. This is perhaps clearest in the portions of the book where he is recounting the end of his first two marriages, his alcoholism, and less than stellar foray into movies in the early 2000s. He claims guilt and responsibility for his actions, explains how things worked for him, doesn’t shy away from the dirty details, and in certain instances points out when others have screwed the pooch.

The only real complaint I have about the book is that 268 pages long is broken up into 45 chapters. What this does to the narrative is make it choppy. Much like that last sentence. To a certain extent the format of the book is like reading several monologues. This is not always a bad thing, but sometimes the chapter ended and all I could think of was: ‘well then what?’

This is an honest, at times very funny story of a man working his way through himself and pulling back the curtain to let us common folk have a view and find ways to complete what we’ve gone through ourselves.