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July 18, 2008

First Bad Review!

Yes, here it is: the first of what will most likely be many bad reviews of my book. Read it in its unabridged glory:

    

From Forbes.com (Forbes???)

Book Review
Black's Humor
David K. Randall 07.18.08, 6:00 AM ET

My Custom Van…And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face by Michael Ian Black ($24, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008).

Michael Ian Black's new collection of short essays, My Custom Van… suffers a bit from the curse of high expectations. To those who didn't grow up in the '90s, Black is best known as a professional Proustian on VH1's I Love the… series, in which he provides sarcastic, dry commentary about bygone pop culture ephemera.

But to fans of the influential yet short-lived MTV sketch comedy show The State, Black's best work was crafting and performing short works of absurdist theater. He followed that up by playing the character Johnny BlueJeans in the sketch comedy show Viva Variety, and has since appeared in the movie Wet Hot American Summer, the Comedy Central series Stella and a bunch of Sierra Mist commercials.

The pace of those sketch comedy days lives on in My Custom Van, with the longest piece coming in at eight pages. One can feel the thought process produced by working in a variety show throughout the book. Many essays--"What I Would Be Thinking if I Were Billy Joel Driving to a Holiday Party Where I Knew There Was Going to Be a Piano," "A Series of Letters to a Squirrel," "Announcing the Imminent Arrival of the Handlebar Mustache Certain People Said I'd Never Be Able to Grow"--have funnier titles than their following paragraphs. It's as if Black knew he had a good concept and was unwilling to throw it out when its execution didn't match its promise.

That's not to say that there aren't hilarious moments. "When I Finally Get Around to Building My Robot, This Is What It Will Be Like," in which Black, obviously, writes about his ideal robot, is solid because his sense of absurdity isn't bogged down by the too-obvious sex jokes strewn through much of the collection. "Let's put it this way: there's no downside to giving my robot the ability to create highly realistic birdcalls. In fact, it might even be educational," he writes. The essay "Taco Party," a description of a party featuring lots and lots of tacos, also works because Black interjects pangs of realism into the absurdity. "You want to swim? You can f----- swim all you want. Guess what the pool is filled with? Did you f----- guess guacamole? Wrong, f-----. It's filled with water because YOU CAN'T F----- SWIM IN GUACAMOLE!!!!"

It's a laugh-out-loud paragraph but also one that reads like it belongs in a sketch. Black never fully shakes the sense that he's still writing for a show. When he does venture into essays that divert from that form, it's easy to confuse the solipsistic jokes in essays like "Some DJ Names I've Been Considering" with unfunny pieces in McSweeney's (which Black also contributes to.)

Lately, Black has attempted to garner attention for his book by invoking a pseudo-rivalry with David Sedaris. If that works to boost book sales, then good for him. But the best possible outcome of the publication of My Custom Van… is Black getting enough acclaim to convince MTV to release a DVD of his former work on The State. My Custom Van … contains some comedic gems, but its uneven nature makes a reader look for Black's better work

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Comments

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Jaime

Victory! First. (WHy does that matter again?) Ah well. Yaay!

chris

wasn't all bad, like a parent saying that you aren't living up to your potential. and whos ever heard of this forbes magazine anyways?

Therese

Well, it wasn't THAT bad. Not really, I'd say it was more of a 'critique'. Nobody slagged you off outright.

But if the reviews get nasty, find out where the reviewers live, and we'll go get evil on their asses. (Or at least go and defend you if there are comment boxes, as that's the more practical).

Ryan R

WTF does Forbes know about comedy? Its like getting a movie review from the Amish.

Jaime

Michael. Do not be crushed by the clear leading literary scholars at Forbes magazine. Forbes = literary acumen. That is a fact.

Maybe you should do a reading while simultaneously counting stacks of gold coins. That might really impress them.

Jaime

Opinions . . . everybody's got 'em.

Like me. Here's my review of Forbes:

"Poop."

Susanna

Solipsistic jokes? After I looked up that word in the dictionary I surmised that wasn't really an insult but a testament to your genius. So turn that frown upside down.

Bottom line here: If one is looking for a review on a humor essay book, they're not going to take advice from Forbes (unless you are selling stock).

sarah

It wasn't that bad. He did say some were laugh out loud funny. And to make a forbes stiff like that laugh should be taken as a compliment. I surely hope he's right about the state dvd.

Internet buddy

What a load of crap.

Steve Huff

The review did admit that there are laugh-out-loud funny moments. Too bad the reviewer is, in general, a humorless prig who is still angry about his mommy never breast-feeding him. Go figure.

Julie

Solipsistic. Really? Who the hell uses that word? I go with someone who thinks they're too sophisticated to laugh at a book of essays.

ranger sparkle:park ranger.

opinons are like butts. we all have them, and some of them stink.

this guy's smells rank.

Camille

To this review I say-"whatevs".

Jenny

"WTF does Forbes know about comedy? Its like getting a movie review from the Amish." exactly.

and when i can get in my horse-drawn buggy and leave this tiny town for a slightly bigger town, with a bookstore, so i can buy the comedic-gem-sprinkled-mini-tome i will write you a better review.

SeanF

That review has a great title, but the paragraphs after don't match up to it. And it sort of reads like it should be on a sketch comedy show.

Maybe it's just me.

Mike

That one wasn't too bad. It's not like, say, you sent in a picture of David Sedaris as a mime with a baguette as a weapon that was better than two of the top three finalists in a contest and it didn't even get honorable mention. That would be just awful.

lauren

This review makes me want to read the book (which is in my bag right now, waiting to be read) even more. This guy is terrible at writing bad reviews!

Mattso Avocado

That sucks! Well, it definitly could have been a worse review. I'll never forget the first critique of my printmaking. "If I see one more evil clown with a bleeding erection I will be forced to strangle the artist [me] with the squirrel-skin bandana of his choosing!". I am still not sure where my mom was finding all of these goddamn squirrels.

IpsoFacto

Yeah, this guy not only made your book more appealing, he made it sound almost delicious. I want to eat it now. That might have something to do with the Taco Party bit and the pool of guacamole.
IRREGARDLESS, my copy is in the mail and I can't wait to read it.

rooney

i've been laughing since july 15th. this book is really funny.i never thought i'd laugh aloud at words but i do every essay.

Ben

While I do not agree with this review, I do like the phrase "professional Proustian" - I think that's just a fancy way of saying a person is gay.

Kate

for the record, anyone who doesn't think the billy joel bit is hilarious is dead inside.

Saul

This is not related to the bad review, but about Reality Bigtes Back. Seeing as I don't have cable, I am attempting to watch it on comedycentral.com. Is there some way to watch it correctly? Unlike a YouTube video, I can't pause it and let it load for a while to play. It buffers about every 5 seconds and I don't think I can watch an entire episode taking about 10 times longer than the actual episode is just to buffer it.

Secret Agent Chick

Saul, I think there are some sites out there that may be able to help you out.

Vuze, torrent, eztv, and hulu.

That's all I can tell you. I only know the names.

Now crumple up this comment...and eat it.

lili

opinions are like s*&$ everyone has one...

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