Book review: Thanks For the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be, by Joel McHale (Amazon / Book Depository)
I’m not a big fan of celebrity memoirs/essay collections/tell-alls. I’ve read Tina Fey’s Bossypants because I think she’s the greatest, and Ellen Degeneres’ because she’s sweet and funny, and Stephen Colbert on America’s and his own greatness. That does make it sound like I read these a lot, but consider the massive amount of them that exist. Barely the tip of the iceberg.
I made another exception because I love Joel McHale. I love his biting, acerbic sense of humor that taught me to never watch The Soup while taking a drink, lest I drown or ruin my laptop. I watched all of Community, even when a season or episode went awry, and thought it was often smart and hilarious, sometimes I still think of moments from it and giggle. When The Soup announced it was ending, I think I went through the stages of grief. For a show with such a goofy premise (it made my heart skip a beat to read here Joel referring to being host of a basic cable clip show again!) it really was something special and unique, and an episode never finished without me being close to tears laughing. I guess based on so many years of that, I had high expectations for what came next from Joel McHale.
So I’m sorry to have to admit I didn’t completely love his book, which I thought I would adore and read 20 times, like Tina Fey’s or rewatching Soup episodes. I disliked the gimmicky aspect and that it’s all meant as an overblown joke, playing on his frequent onscreen persona of arrogance, smugness and indifference. But Joel himself comes across as effortlessly hilarious, fittingly sarcastic, and snide. The book is definitely sarcastic, but it’s heavy-handed, like there was an assumption that any subtlety would get lost without Joel’s on-screen delivery.
It’s funny too, because I think the word is (stemming from the Sony email hacks, if I remember correctly) that Joel is actually kind and humble, and the book focuses on the braggadocio of massive celebrity. It’s obviously a joke, I think meant to skewer celebrities who get high on themselves and write self-helpish books when they don’t have a clue about advice for us regulars/poors. But the overabundance of humor – the majority of the book, basically – is about his massive celebrity, riches, and tricks for navigating superstardom, and they get old. I’d have loved to hear more realistic anecdotes about his life and projects, but most that were related with any air of authenticity were somewhat boring. I didn’t need gossip or tell-all, just more stories with his insane, make-you-catch-your-breath laughing, style.
There were major highlights – like his true and not true stories of hosting the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, “inside” look at Scientology, and special appearance by Ryan Seacrest. A handful of jokes made me laugh out loud, which doesn’t happen often while reading. I feel bad saying it, but I think I just wanted it to be something else, a more genuine memoir or essay collection with his signature smarmy humor carrying the storytelling, and less of a concept book. But it’s worked for others, like Ellen, she’s even made some similar cracks about filling up space to fulfill terms of her publishing contract, and playing up her wealth and celebrity status, and her books were wildly popular. So I think as long as someone is a fan of this type of book and McHale himself, it’s worth reading.
And, honestly, I miss seeing him regularly on TV so much that I’ll gladly take anything I get from Joel. I have a feeling any Soup or Community fans will feel the same.
Thanks For the Money:
How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be
by Joel McHale
published October 25, 2016 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for review.