Bonnie McFarlane
It took Bonnie McFarlane a lot of time, effort, and tequila to get to where she is today. Before she starred on Last Comic Standing and directed her own films, she was an inappropriately loud tomboy growing up on her parents’ farm in Cold Lake, Canada, wetting her pants during standardized tests and killing chickens. Desperate to find “her people”—like-minded souls who wouldn’t judge her because she was honest, ruthless, and okay, sometimes really rude—Bonnie turned to comedy. In her new memoir You’re Better Than Me, Bonnie tells it like it is, and lays bare all of her smart (and her not-so-smart) decisions along her way to finding her friends and her comedic voice. From fistfights in elementary school to riding motorcycles to the World Famous Comic Strip, to Late Night with David Letterman, and through to her infamous “c” word bit on Last Comic Standing, You’re Better Than Me is her funny and outrageous trip through the good, bad, and ugly of her life in comedy.


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.

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