Comedian McFarlane’s long, strange trip to the middle.
The author, a comedian probably best known for her stint on the reality show competition Last Comic Standing, recounts her bumpy path to qualified professional success and personal happiness. The first section of the memoir details McFarlane’s childhood spent in rural poverty on a remote Canadian farm; it’s the book’s most arresting material, as the author writes lovingly and wittily about befriending animals only to later eat them, negotiating her eccentric family, and developing a creative urge and darkly sardonic worldview born of isolated tedium. There follows a litany of minor and less-minor humiliations as McFarlane struggles to make her way as a professional comic, forever slipping two steps back for every step forward due to bad luck, the vagaries of Canadian and American show business (involving cultural irrelevance and sexism, respectively), and her own challenges, which included a manic-depressive disorder and a tendency to wind up with the wrong men (McFarlane is now happily married to comedian Rich Vos). The book is consistently funny—the author is a compulsive quipster, and her hit ratio is high—but as the narrative moves away from her unusual upbringing, her anecdotes and observations begin to take on the familiar rhythms of the show business biography. More engaging are her practical tips for those attempting to break into the comedy business (“if you are forced to engage with a heckler, always repeat what he or she says so that you can have a little extra time to think of a clever rejoinder”), which contain some surprises, such as her disastrous attempt to be more “herself” on stage and focus on more personal autobiographical material. She acquits herself well on that score, and while her story is commonplace, McFarlane’s is a voice worth hearing.
A breezy and entertaining, if ultimately inessential, look at life in comedy.