The 90’s were a bad time for books by comedians. Apparently you were handed a publishing contact as soon as one of the networks picked up your sitcom, which explained such dreadful books that lined the clearance table by folks like Tim Allen and Drew Carey.
Now that someone has obviously shut down the pipeline between the comedy clubs and paint-by-number sitcoms, it looks like publishing houses are finally showing a little bit of restraint as well and focusing on the content between the covers, as current releases by comedians like Patton Oswalt, David Cross and now Michael Showalter, with his latest Mr. Funny Pants, show.
If you aren’t a fan of Showalter’s work with the comedy teams Stella and The State, the movie Wet Hot American Summer and his revolving door of Comedy Central shows – usually around for about a season – chances are you won’t make it through the introduction (or the first few) of Mr. Funny Pants. To everyone else though, the book is one of the funniest things Showalter has attached his name to in years.
Unlike Oswalt’s equally stellar new book, Showalter’s give little in terms of personal background rather jumping straight into his brand of offbeat, almost surrealist comedy (skip to the back of Mr. Funny Pants and look at the author’s “upcoming books” section to get a better idea of what to expect). Among the other highlights include Showalter’s back and forth letters to his publisher explaining exactly what the book will be about, his treatment for a an online university TV commercial and his advice on how to spruce up a moving sale flyer offering a used breast pump (his suggestion is to go with “Breast Pump (like new) $150” or simply “Working Breast Pump!”).
Showalter may never get the mainstream attention offered a decade ago to comedians like the aforementioned Allen and Carrey, but if Mr. Funny Pants proves anything, it’s that he clearly deserves it.
Mr. Funny Pants by Michael Showalter/Hardcover/288 pages/2011/Grand Central Publishing