How to run your life: today's stand up comedians and The Believer weigh in



As far as advice columns go, I’ve always been partial to E. Jean’s bon mots in Elle, if only for her use of the term ‘whipsawed by confusion.’ But for a swift, re-motivating kick to the rear, I’ve never read anything like the gems dished out by You’re a Horrible Person, But I Like You, The Believer’s new tome of celebrity counsel.

By way of example, here’s Zach Galifianakis’ “ways to kick-start a satisfying life.”

1. Start reading Teen People

2. Rent a stretch Hummer to go see Noam Chomsky speak

3. Model your life after the movie Sideways, but instead of wine make your passion Mountain Dew

4. Ask a state trooper where the closest gay bar is

5. Have a Super Bowl party with no television

The book gives a few pages apiece to today’s fly young comedians -- bro extraordinaire Judd Apatow, his minion Michael Cera, Janeane Garafolo, and Samantha Bee all pick up the pen, among others -- and throws at them some standard  “whatdoIdo” queries. How do I tell my girlfriend she’s got a mustache? Why did my dog die? What do I do with all these grass cuttings? The conundrums of our times.

It was surprising to me how well these film and TV types can actually write. I guess film and television comics are literate, after all. 

You’re a Horrible Person scores some hits from Sarah Silverman (“You may think you’re a shut-in and that therefore you don’t wash your balls. But I’m here to tell you that you a re shut-in because you don’t wash your balls,”), and Adam McKay (“Lies and fantasy are the nectar of good lovemaking,”), and all the witty back and forth makes for a quick read for certain -- far less taxing on the old noggin than the deep thinking Believer itself. 

It's kind of a one-off deal -- comedy books in general have to work pretty hard to earn a spot on my bookshelf. But the book definitely gets some guffahs. You might even pick up some advice you can use. Truly, without Michael Ian Black, I might never have thought to smooth things over with an irate father in law by making him my DJ, and as Amy Sedaris (who granted, has had some practice at this in her Believer online column "Sedaratives") helpfully points out, “It’s called a tongue bath, and it’s not just for felines anymore.”

I've got to admit, E. Jean's never weighed in on the hygenic properties of saliva baths. Take notes, blondie.


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