Archive for February, 2014

Memoirs by Rachel Dratch, Julie Klausner – review

February 15, 2014

Rachel Dratch’s “Girl Walks into a Bar . . .: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle” and Julie Klausner’s “I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated” are similar – memoirs by modestly successful Jewish comediennes.  Rachel is a bit more successful and famous, having broken into the vernacular as SNL’s “Debbie Downer”.  The big difference is that Rachel is in her forties, Julie her thirties.

Julie’s book mostly recounts her misadventures in dating, of which there are many.  Typically she falls for a man who treats her badly, but who is great in bed.  There is the occasional dalliance with someone she connects with (or at least likes the same music as), but who won’t sleep with her.  Dollar-book Freud would say that the important thing for her is to avoid the combination of physical and emotional intimacy at all costs.  At the very least, something strange is going on if you’re a New Yorker looking for dates in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as she once does.  But she generally resists such self-examination, and for most of the book you wonder “Will Julie really sleep with this clearly unsuitable person?  Even if she doesn’t really like him?  Or find him physically attractive?”  Yes she will.

Making it as a writer is clearly important to Julie, but we don’t get to hear much about this.  A misjudgement – many of us have dated crazy people, but few of us know what it’s like to write for a TV show.

Rachel’s book is similar, but those extra ten years or so give it a bit more depth.  She is more self-reflective than Julie – at one point deliberately changing her dating pattern to avoid guys in show business.  This turns out to be a good move, and she meets a nice guy and accidentally gets pregnant when she thought she had no chance.  She talks more about her career in general – after SNL, she was on 30 Rock in guest roles for the first season, but then the work dried up, leaving her only with offers to play “comic” old and obese lesbians.  And there are some inside insights – what is interviewing with Lorne Michaels like?  What’s working for SNL like?  Her behind-the-scenes skewering of the allegedly dreadful film “Her Minor Thing” in which she had a “wacky lesbian” role almost makes you want to watch it.

Rachel and Julie come from similar backgrounds, but have different public personas.  Julie is the cool kid who cuts class, makes fun of lots of things, and expects you will too.  Most likely she will casually trash one of your favorite bands before the end of the book.  Rachel is the A student who works hard, tries to do the right thing, and really wants you to like her.  You would probably go to more exciting parties with Julie, but be more comfortable hanging out with Rachel.

Should you buy these books?  Rachel seems like a genuinely nice person who would put the money to good use.  Julie can be a bit mean at times, but some of that is an act.

Will you enjoy these books?  If you like 30 Rock, then you will like Rachel’s book.  Not that it mentions 30 Rock that much after the first chapter, but the sensibility is pretty similar – comedy, dating, and showbiz, with Rachel being close to Liz Lemon, but without Tina Fey’s leading-lady looks.  Rachel was originally considered for the Jenna Maroney role on 30 Rock, and if that fact doesn’t interest you, then you probably won’t like the book.

What about Julie?  Her book falls more squarely into the vicarious experience genre – here’s what it’s like to go to law school / enlist in West Point / date a bunch of crazies.  Useful if you’re curious but don’t have the LSAT scores, upper-body strength, or lack of self-respect required.  If you haven’t dated enough dysfunctional people, and are interested in learning what that would be like, then this is the book for you.

One note: Julie also writes the “How was your week” podcast, which largely consists of superficial industry snark delivered at a slow pace.  Very different feel to the book, and not recommended.

Rachel Dratch and Julie Klausner’s books are available at the usual bookstores, or as audiobooks read by the authors.  They are generally light listens suitable for the commute, and they do good jobs reading them.

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