Michael Ian Black nearly abandoned this project, and you can see why. This is not just another giggly book by a comedian-actor. It is deeply, horrifyingly personal. It feels like you are reading the diary of a person struggling with depression, one who happens to be highly intelligent and an unusually good writer.
There is humor in this book, and you'll likely find yourself laughing out loud, but the humor's purpose is only as little candy sprinkles on top of a giant loaf of misery. Although it's likely to make you laugh, you're unlikely to find it funny. There is a difference. The little absurdities and wordplays induce laughter but mostly as a reflex. The overall feeling from this book is profound despair:
* "I wonder if, like me, there are people who occasionally experience the curious, disembodying sensation of not recognizing their present life as their own. It is a feeling I can only describe as being the opposite of déjà vu. Rather than feeling as though you are reliving some unique moment in time, it is as if you are experiencing the mundane activities of your everyday life for the first time. So that's what this book is about, those occasional instants when I do not recognize my life as my own, and I am left wondering how I got here."
* "I know her better than I have ever known anybody, but there are times when I have also never felt more distant from another person. The thing that nobody tells you about marriage is that sometimes it makes you lonelier than being alone ever could."
* "The fatigue reawakens all the scary fantasies I used to have of harming my child. One morning, I am so frustrated and angry when Ruthie refuses to take her bottle that I whip it across the room as hard as I can, splattering formula everywhere and creating a satisfying divot in the drywall. Scarier still is the fact that I don't love this new baby. Not even a little bit. Not now, not when she is a lumpy and hateful annoyance."
The big mystery is why he would confess such terrifyingly personal things to a broad, faceless audience. Why tell us, for example, about faking sadness at the news of his dad's death? Why tell us about fantasies of harming his small children? It's impossible that he was doing these things just for giggles. It was either catharsis or something else. You can get a vague idea from his interview with Marc Maron when he said, "Audiences just want to hear their lives reflected back to them." Based on that quote and based on the content of the confessions, it seems that he's telling ultra-sensitive stories from his life because he suspects that you'll be able to relate to them, and he suspects you'll like that because you'll feel generally less alone with your deepest problems and insecurities.
The problem is that the book is heavy on navel gazing and psychoanalysis and self-consciousness. It is, in other words, heavy on Self. All of his deepest insecurities - fighting with his wife, unfeelingness at his dad's death, fantasies of harming his children, abandoning his dying dog - have to do with his self-ish-ness. He openly acknowledges his selfishness, and yet he goes on writing about his feelings, his problems, his selfishness. It doesn't seem to occur to him that his profound loneliness could be a direct result of his attention to Self at the expense of his attention to others. You can hear it even in his idea that "audiences just want to hear their lives reflected back to them," as though he believes everyone is ceaselessly self-absorbed and that nobody has ever managed to have genuine interest in and concern for things outside themselves.
You get the feeling that he sometimes added humor not because he wanted to nor because it fit well with the story but just because that's what he was expected to do as a guy known for making jokes.
The only thing that kept this book from being unendurably sad and the only reason I recommend it is the first chapter and especially the last two chapters. Not that those chapters are un-sad, but they appear to have been written from a much different state. The second-to-last chapter is the second-best thing I've read about dogs (behind Old Dogs Are the Best Dogs). And the last chapter has a personal message to his wife that I am sure, when he wrote it, made him weep uncontrollably-- in a good way. It was beautifully done. If he had more chapters like the last two this would easily be a 5-star book.