NOT QUITE A GENIUS by Nate  Dern

NOT QUITE A GENIUS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of stories, essays, and sketches from the senior writer of Funny or Die

For a sampling of sketches from this debut collection, see “If I Have to Shit During the 5K Charity Run, I’m Just Going to Do It,” “I’m Not an Asshole, I’m Just an Introvert,” “How Many Farts Measure a Life?” or “Only Six of My Seven Kids Have Whooping Cough, So I’m Staying Anti-Vax.” The author, who, before Funny or Die, was the artistic director of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, stuffs his first book with absurdities and silliness, almost like an anthology of lower-brow “Shouts & Murmurs” segments from the New Yorker. Some of the sketches—e.g., “I Like All Types of Music and My Sense of Humor Is So Random” or “As the Toothbrush You Just Threw Away, I Have Some Questions about the Seven 12-Ounce Mountain Dews in Your Trash”—are genuinely funny. Others are less so, creating an unevenness that is common in such collections. Sometimes the joke is in the title, and the rest of the piece feels like padding. However, the author also includes a scattering of personal essays throughout the book, and for many readers, these will be the most engaging. In “Predator Prey,” Dern describes the “joy in being the willing dupe,” as when he visited Tunisia after college and was manipulated by a young local man. Unfortunately, Dern doesn’t go as deeply into the subject as readers may hope, and that’s the overall problem with this collection: he tends to skate along on the surface without digging for more. In the first piece, “Which One Are You?” the author describes his appearance on the reality show Beauty and the Geek and his lifelong quest for attention: “I like attention. I like it too much, so I do dumb things to get it.”

In his first book, Dern shoots for the easy laughs, some of which he hits; however, he falls short of creating the lasting ones.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5011-2220-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2017




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