Saturday, May 08, 2010

Naked Pictures Of Famous People

Since I enjoyed America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction so much, I was hopeful for Jon Stewart's prose collection, Naked Pictures Of Famous People. The cover blurbs compared it to Woody Allen's collection Without Feathers which is high praise indeed, and while I can see a similarity of style, the comparison really doesn't hold up, sadly.

I certainly like Jon Stewart's humor, and there were bits in this book that were laugh-out-loud funny, but they were few and far between. Most of it was stylistically reminiscent of the least funny bits of the Daily Show, but separated out from everything else and exaggerated. The first story typifies this: it's a fictionalized diary of a visitor to the Kennedy household, which just builds increasingly absurdist depictions of the family's screwed-up state, trying to avoid being in poor taste by being so over the top.

In a way, it feels like when a band you like has its lead singer do a solo album, and it doesn't work. Is it because he's not carrying his share of the talent? I don't think so, in this case. You see Jon holding his own in the interviews where there's no writers backing him up, and he's sharp as a tack. It could be that the input of the rest of the team keeps him from going off into more self-indulgent directions, though. That's something you see a lot in solo albums, and it suits what you see here. Or maybe he's just rehashing the material that didn't make the cut on the show or in other venues, so it's second-rate material from the start.

A few of the bits of prose are fairly funny, at least in spots. There are some laughs in "Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold," "The Last Supper, or The Dead Waiter," and "The New Judaism," but none are worth the price of the book. A few others are really awfully bad, such as "Vincent And Theo On AOL," "Martha Stewart's Vagina," "A Very Hanson Christmas, 1996-1999," and "Pen Pals." The rest fall in a sort of grayish "blah" zone in between.

Save your time. Read something else. Sorry, Jon. I wanted to like it.

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