I’m going to try my best to avoid this post digressing into a love letter to Chris Gethard, but I can’t make any promises. I like weird people. More than that, I like people that help foster weirdness in others. I find an immense amount of comfort in someone that can help people see that they’re not alone in trying to accept themselves and then give those people a sense of belonging to something. This notion is how I stumbled upon Chris Gethard. Gethard is a veteran improviser with Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), a stand-up comedian, an author, and host of his own weird-as-hell late night show, The Chris Gethard Show (TCGS). Just a few things about TCGS: It started as a live UCB show, which then went to a public access TV channel in New York (and then most recently found a home for a season at Fusion Network), and it billed itself as “the most bizarre and often the saddest talk show in New York City.” If I had to use one word to describe the show, it would be “honest.” The show has a topic each week and has a celebrity, usually a comedian, on to help with weird segments and answer calls from viewers during the entire show. TCGS truly gives a voice to its fans and viewers, reinforcing that they belong to something wonderful and weird that anybody can be a part of.
I could go on for hours and hours about how perfect and unique his talk show is, but I’m here for a book review, so let’s talk about that. A Bad Idea I’m About to Do: True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgement is a collection of short, personal essays from Gethard, released in 2011 (yeah, I’m late, I know). I ordered the book after a recent nose-dive into the back catalog of TCGS episodes. Once the book arrived, I read it in under a week. Now, this might be a normal thing for normal people, but consider that I haven’t read a book in under a week in probably a decade and maybe this claim has more weight.
The collection of essays starts, quite literally, at his birth and spans up to Gethard’s present-day in 2011. Most of the essays are, at surface level, about growing up in New Jersey, moving to New York, breaking into comedy, and other typical “coming of age” tales you might expect to read from a comedian. That doesn’t mean the tales themselves are not gut-wrenchingly awkward and hilarious, but what stands out is how honest Gethard is about his struggle with mental illness and feeling lost because of it.
Gethard is brutally honest about a life-long struggle with anxiety and depression that always made him feel out of place in society. The book gives a voice to so many thoughts that I know I’ve personally had and deals with the question, “Am I going to be okay?” The overarching theme becomes his search for the answer to that particular question, and while the answer may not be black and white, the journey he takes you on to get there will leave you with a lot of hope.
Jessica Dorrell is a Dallas Comedy House graduate and performs in the troupes Wilma! and Summer Girls. You can see her in Stage Fright, a Halloween sketch show in October.