Stand-up comedian MacGibbon (Never Give in to Fear, 2012) returns in this follow-up memoir, offering a more introspective look at her upbringing and early life.
While her debut memoir charted her incremental ascent to comic notoriety by way of drugs and catastrophe (which she overcame), noted humorist and inspirational speaker MacGibbon now shares the story of her childhood and adolescence growing up in 1960s Middle America through a sweeping series of anecdotal, coming-of-age sequences. Already precocious by age 6, with laughter as her mainstay, she “knew for sure I wanted to be a comedian,” even while the nuns at her Dominican elementary school found little amusement amid the “original material” she began to produce, write, and direct. Throughout her teen years, the author, motivated by raging hormones, demonstrated more turbulent, rebellious behavior by following garage bands in her hometown and cultivating random friendships with rowdy girls, experimenting with sex and drugs, and prowling around with an older rock musician. As idyllically as it began, however, MacGibbon’s youth soon became repeatedly scarred by sexual abuse, psychological trouble, and episodes of violence that not marriage, childbirth, nor a series of spontaneous, ill-advised relocations could harness. The author consistently lingers over the finer details of these sobering, bleak years, a narrative quality that tends to bloat the account with gloominess and delays the arrival of the recovery and hard-won happiness that readers will yearn to read about. Though her extended time as a laborer in the early ’80s on Texas oil fields (“one of the last bastions of male supremacy”) proved physically challenging, it marked a turning point for MacGibbon as she embraced her independence, rediscovered her self-confidence, and began enjoying the fruits of love, genuine friendship, and how “all those earned skills and learned lessons came in handy when I stumbled into the world of standup comedy.” Her successes performing in the live comedy arena (and befriending Jay Leno, no less) finally provide some levity to a relentlessly melancholy narrative. Perhaps the most rewarding chapter in this chatty, affecting book is the concluding one, where MacGibbon lists the tried-and-true pearls of wisdom that continue to sustain her into midlife.
An effervescently witty, if exhaustive, chronicle of perseverance and the power to overcome the darkest of days.