What I read on my summer vacation

My view in Spain


I was mostly offline while in Spain, which meant I could get some reading done poolside. Here’s what I read that really resonated with me:

1) No Wonder My Parents Drank: Tales of a Stand-Up Dad by Jay Mohr – This was a touching and HILARIOUS parenting memoir, I laughed out loud on every page. I adore Jay Mohr, and I hope he keeps writing books. I don’t know why he’s not an even bigger star than much less funny actors who have gone before him. (But please, Jay, cut your hair.)

2) The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of Life Without Reservations by Paul Carr – I have known Paul for a couple of years, which made this a bit surreal to read, as I met him during the period that this memoir covers. I know a lot of the people mentioned, and it was a bit trippy to read about the tumultuous events that unfolded from Paul’s perspective. It’s a very funny book – Paul being one of the most naturally quick-witted people I have met. I won’t go all syrupy about the changes that Paul makes as the story unfolds, but it did me good to read this.

3) Eric Clapton: The Autobiography – I couldn’t put this one down, and got through it in a single day. I’ve never been a huge fan of Clapton’s music (though I just grabbed a bunch of it from Spotify), and I sort of skimmed over the parts where he goes into excruciating detail about frets and fingerboards and how to split notes when playing specific licks. But the real meat here is his story of addiction and an unmanageable life. I’ve heard a lot of people tell stories like this, and they often leave out the truly horrifying bits. Not Clapton. He even talks of how, the first time he got properly drunk, he soiled himself in every way possible before passing out, and had to make his way home covered in vomit and feces. He also relates how, as his addiction progressed, he allowed his dogs to defecate all over his home and would leave the messes there for several months. So it’s not a pretty story, but it’s a riveting one – with a happy ending.

4) Found: A Daughter’s Journey Home by Tatum O’Neal – I really wanted to understand why, apart from career resurrection purposes, Tatum O’Neal would submit to the reality show (she prefers to call it a “docuseries”) that she filmed with her father Ryan for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN. I knew enough about what has transpired between father and daughter to consider him a lost cause, and I always wince when I see Tatum getting high on the hope he creates during brief spells of affection. It always – always – turns to aggression and narcissistic rage on his part. Anyway, this is another quick read, and by the end I did understand her reasoning a bit more. It’s still heartbreaking to see a daughter waiting on a father to change who is entirely incapable of – and disinterested in – doing so.

5) I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy’s Golden Era by William Knoedelseder – This book was a total downer, which I did not expect. (I purposefully avoid reading most non-fiction blurbs, just as I avoid movie trailers, for fear of ruining the suspense of the stories.) It was worth reading if only for the detailed descriptions of how the stand-up comedy boon started, with tons of inside information and detail from all the major players. I was a huge fan of Budd Friedman’s An Evening at the Improv as a teenager, and I’d always wanted to find out more about Mitzi Shore’s hand in making the Comedy Store what it was. It’s all here.

The main focal point ends up being the comedians’ “strike” (not strictly accurate term, but the closest we can get) against Shore. I’m not that interested in the intricacies of labor negotiations, so found all that a bit boring. What was ultimately so sad – and sort of infuriating – was the story of Steve Lubetkin, a comedian who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page (which makes me even more upset). Lubetkin was Richard Lewis’s “blood brother” from their early days on the comedy circuit in New York, but whereas Lewis had a somewhat meteoric rise to success, Lubetkin was a perpetual failure. The book includes full text of surprisingly juvenile, entitled begging letters he sent to his father and brother, who kept him financially afloat while he pursued his comedy dream and shunned the idea of getting a job to pay his own way. These are painful to read. In the end, Lubetkin had some definite mental health issues. These culminated in him doing a swan dive off the building next door to the Comedy Store at age 30, leaving a note that – in part – cited the comedians’ strike as the cause that pushed him to his death. What’s annoying is that Knoedelseder doesn’t challenge this statement from an obviously sick man, but goes right along with it. He said it in his suicide note, so it must be true, right? Not quite. Other than that, this book wasn’t too irritating. Loved the bits about David Letterman, Robin Williams, and Richard Lewis the best.

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4 thoughts on “What I read on my summer vacation

  1. Clapton’s autobiography really is excellent; his candor slaps you in the face.

    I had a really hard time reading about the his stints in rehab, and the events that led up to them.

    1. See, I’m pretty interested in how multi-millionaires react to rehab. Never having been to rehab, I can only imagine what it’s like, and I would not like to be forced to stick to a firm schedule by total strangers, given chores to do, etc. So if *I* wouldn’t like it, how would a person with a team of servants, who has been isolated from the consequences of his behavior, handle it? I find that super interesting.

      Also, I knew how it all ended – with Clapton founding and raising huge amounts of money for his own rehab center so that less fortunate addicts could go through rehab. It would have been sad if the ending were different – and it could be sad to re-read someday if he doesn’t stay sober.

  2. Jay Mohr is a genius. When you’re out here, we can hold a marathon viewing of his short-lived TV series, “Action,” one of the funniest Hollywood satires ever. Naturally, it is one of the featured shows in the “Brilliant, but canceled” category. It was originally intended for HBO, but ended up on network TV. Definitely a mistake.

    1. Sweet! I HIGHLY recommend his podcast, “Mohr Stories”. Hilarious and sort of deep. I laugh, I cry, I want to tell everyone about how hard Jay Mohr rocks…

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