Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas (Review)

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas
I've been a fan of Lewis Black's comedy since I was in college.  I can't remember exactly when, but I'm sure I discovered his work through his "Back in Black" segments on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, in which he would rant or rave about whatever issue irked him that week. Soon I was reveling in his standup on CDs such as The White Album (2000) and The End of the Universe (2002). I had the privilege of seeing him perform while I was in college when he toured with Stephen Lynch and John Bowman, as well as again a few years later at New York's Town Hall.

What I love most about his acts are that he pulls no punches.  He's not afraid to hold something up to the light to figure out if he can see through it.  His political humor is bi-partisan ("The only thing worse than a Republican or a Democrat is when these @#$%^'s work together!")

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas is, at least in my humble opinion, a strong display of Lewis Black's range as a comedian and what brings it all together is the same honesty that he brings to his comedy.  That said, the book is not a joke book, stand-up routine, or a substitute for one, so you'll want to know that going in.  Lewis talks about what his life is like during the holiday season: being on the outside looking in yet still sharing in some of the season.  He talks about his failed marriage and his mixed feelings over a lack of children of his own.  Thankfully, he throws in a joke just at the point where things might feel a little too raw.

Lest you think this book is a downer, it's not.  Lewis shares good times, too: the tradition of two Christmas dinners with the families of his friends and performing for the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq with the USO, a gig he got because of Robin Williams.  He shares strange moments too, such as playing Santa Claus on not one but two occasions.  And to top it all off, his sense of comedic timing and delivery loses nothing when translated onto the page.

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas is an honest, intimate look into Lewis Black's life during the holiday season.  As someone who sees a lot of myself in Lewis Black (for good or ill), I loved this book.  From talking about the idea of a Jew writing a Christmas book when it was pitched by his editor and then taking us through Thanksgiving and Christmas and including an appendix describing his experience performing for the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, I relished the opportunity to gain such a close perspective on a slice of the life of a writer and comedian I admire.

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