'One More Thing': Short stories that are long on laughs
June 4, 2014 12:00 AM
B.J. Novak, author of "One More Thing"
"One More Thing" by B.J. Novak
By John McIntire
Spoiler alert: You’re about to read an entire chapter of B.J. Novak’s “One More Thing.” And it goes something like this … “I was sad that summer was over. But I was happy that it was over for my enemies too.”
Some chapters are just one paragraph, but if you dig Mr. Novak’s sense of humor, and I do, the book is a riot. It’s silly but smart, whimsical but occasionally serious, ridiculous and right on the money. To quote an old “Saturday Night Live” bit, it’s a floor polish and a dessert topping.
Mr. Novak is an actor, writer and director best known for his work on the NBC show “The Office.” He muses on the stock market and why it makes no sense. And, let’s face it, you can watch white guys in suits on CNBC 24/7, and it still makes no sense.
He made the market a thinking entity, as if it pondered the significance of its own existence. “When the market realized how many people were counting on it and how many people were hoping it got better, that made it pick itself up a little more. It felt more valued, more confident. Feeling that way made it look that way too, and that made more people treat it that way. And that made it feel that way even more. “
"ONE MORE THING"
By B.J. Novak Deckle Edge ($24.95).
Mr. Novak riffs on a person’s perceived individuality: “Being young was her thing, and she was the best at it. But every year more and more girls came out of nowhere and tried to steal her thing.” There are a lot of troubled, screwed up humans obsessing on the trivial aspects of life in this book. Kind of like humanity.
As a comedian, I enjoyed his chapter on the comic who had what audiences considered a hysterical bit about Whole Foods. Why is the food at Whole Foods so expensive? “It’s because of how the food thinks of itself. ‘He pointed to his brain.’ The food believes in itself, man. It has confidence.”
The funny part is not that the bit is that funny, although because we all call Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck” it’s a decent mainstream-kind a-can’t-lose-bit. The funny part is that this was the guy’s only killer bit. He made his reputation from it. And people came back to see him a second time. But they NEVER came back a third time ‘cause he was still milking Whole Foods and couldn’t seem to conjure up anything fresh and equally hilarious. I had to look up how to spell conjure and it occurs to me that I do very little conjuring.
You will learn that Elvis didn’t really die when they said he did. He just couldn’t stand fame so he faked death and took a job as an Elvis impersonator. And not surprisingly, he was quite successful.
I practically did a spit take with my quad latte when reading the chapter on the Comedy Central-style roast of Nelson Mandela. Sarah Silverman was a featured performer: “Archbishop Desmond Tutu is here. Archbishop Tutu, it’s funny that you’re a Bishop, because in the international community’s approach toward poverty, aid, and economic relations, I’ve always thought of you as more of a pawn. [Ohhhhs.] What’d I say?”
And of course, it wouldn’t be a roast without Lisa Lampinelli: “Whoa! Look at all these hot black men! I feel like I’ve died and gone to fat white b**ch heaven!” Comedian Gilbert Gottfried’s lines are all in CAPS: “NELSON MANDELA IS ONE OF THE GREAT MEN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. [Applause] AND ONE OF THE GREAT MEN OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY AND OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY …”
As a person who has never understood why people are obsessed with pictures of their food on social media, I roared (maybe I didn’t roar, but I’m running out of synonyms for laughing) at the chapter titled “The Man Who Posted Pictures Of Everything He Ate.”
What or who would come out a winner in the Best Thing in the World Awards: Love, Jesus, Laughter, the score to “West Side Story”? Julia Louis-Dreyfus, we’re told, is like the Susan Lucci of these awards – always nominated, never wins.
There are discussion questions at the end. “Do you think discussion questions can be unfairly leading sometimes? Why?”
I think of it as sort of an updated Marx Brothers running insanity. I’m not a big short stories guy, but take this thing to the beach this summer if you want to chuckle while frying. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to conjure up some new bits.
John McIntire is a radio and TV talk show host and comedian in Pittsburgh (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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