Class Clowns

Something funny happens when comedians write autobiographies, and unfortunately, I don't mean "Ha-Ha" funny. I adore Tina Fey, and thought Bossypants was so-so. I really admire Rachel Dratch, and thought Girl Walks Into a Bar... was a waste of time. But apparently, I'm a glutton for punishment, because I cannonballed into not one, but two more celebrity autobiographies in the past month.

The first was Amy Poehler's Yes Please (2014). And yet again, here's a performer who can essentially do no wrong in my eyes, delivering a book that's mostly a yawn. We officially have a pattern. Maybe it's that no matter how gifted someone is at writing or performing material, their background just isn't interesting enough to propel a book. Talented Person With Supportive Parents Works Hard and Becomes a Success. Not exactly the most compelling backstory in the world, is it? She does her best to pepper the book with the sardonic wit she's deservedly famous for, and while a few passages made me smile, I didn't really get anything out of the book except a solidified opinion that listening to someone talk about their days in improv groups should be classified as a worse act of torture than waterboarding.

If a celebrity memoir is going to have any chance, it has to do something special. It has to dig deeper or play with the format a little, and thankfully, Neil Patrick Harris has done both, and come to the rescue with Choose Your Own Autobiography (2014).

Just as in those classic adventure books of old, the reader is in charge of what portion of NPH's life they'd like to learn about next. His days as a child actor? His experiences in becoming one of the most reliable awards show hosts of our time? His interest in magic? His tortuous process of coming out? They're all in there, along with a lot more, and he's remarkably candid about all of his experiences, both good and bad.

And just as in those classic adventure books of old, step carefully, or poor NPH will be swallowed by quicksand. I've come to like the memoir genre less and less over time, so it's noteworthy when one that's so fun and straightforward lands on my nightstand. I've always liked NPH's work, but I never expected to add brought-me-around-on-celeb-autobiographies to his list of accomplishments. If only they gave an award out for that.

Yes Please: C+
Choose Your Own Autobiography: B+


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