One-Minute Book Reviews

February 26, 2009

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 – Denis Leary’s ‘Why We Suck’

Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 comes from Denis Leary’s Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid (Viking, 240 pp., $26.95):

The winner of the first-ever One-Minute Book Reviews visitors’ poll:
“I’ll take five Anna Nicole Smiths for every Martin Luther King.”

And the runner-up in the poll:
“The women [at the gym]? Paired off on adjacent treadmills or elliptical trainers – yak yakkety yick yak yic, yic yickety, yawbeddy jawbeddy – jic jak yick. Yicketty yacketty blah blah blah.”

Can we all agree that somebody needs to rescue the prose of the star of Rescue Me?

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Is there supposed to be a point to Leary’s book? I’m going to be charitable and assume (dangerous as that may be) that it’s supposed to be humor. They seriously want 27 of my hard-earned dollars for that?

    Comment by Digital Dame — February 26, 2009 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

    • You’ve got it: It’s supposed to be funny.

      The humor of comedians translates to varying degrees to the page. Woody Allen’s carries over brilliantly, so that he’s always as funny in print as on the screen. With Bill Cosby’s humor it’s varied with the book. And so on.

      So my way of trying to be fair to their books is to say: OK, would this be funny if the author delivered it as a comedy routine? That is, if the comedian brought something to it that’s not on the page? Sometimes the answers is yes, and you can take that into account in a review.

      But Leary’s two shortlisted lines aren’t funny on the page, and I can’t see any way they’d be funny in a comedy routine, either. And the whole book is like that.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — February 26, 2009 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  2. It would seem he’s funnier when delivering a line written for him by someone else, rather than coming up with his own material. It just comes across as abrasive.

    Comment by Digital Dame — February 26, 2009 @ 7:15 pm | Reply

    • Digital Dame: Actually, I wondered if part of the problem with these lines might be that Leary was working with different writers from his usual ones.

      Not sure what procedure he and Viking followed. But typically, when celebrities write books, they are matched up by their agents or editors with professional ghostwriters. And ghostwriting requires different skills than does writing a stand-up routine. So I wondered if all the bad lines resulted from a mismatch between the star and literary hired sun.

      Jaded: I haven’t seen the “No Cure for Cancer” routine, so your comment about it was enlightening. “We We Suck” has many sound-effects lines that fall flat — so much so that you wonder, “What was he thinking?”

      Your answer suggests that that maybe he was thinking: This worked for me in the past. All the more so because “Why We Suck” has a patchy quality that often leaves you wondering if a ghostwriter sat down with a stack of his old scripts and stitched them together.

      Thanks for both of your comments.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — February 26, 2009 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

  3. I can see these lines in his stand-up….his No Cure For Cancer routine from the early 90’s was laced with all those sound effect type lines. It definitely does not carry over to the page. Most of what makes comics funny is the tone and delivery, almost all lost when put to paper.

    Comment by jadedbookman — February 26, 2009 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

  4. […] * Flannery O’Connor and her critics: Book reviewer Janice Harayada is reading Brad Gooch’s biography of the writer and came across some interesting observations on the critical response to “Wise Blood.” (Oh, don’t miss her Delete Key Awards). […]

    Pingback by And so, the cycle begins again | Bill Peschel — September 10, 2014 @ 1:53 pm | Reply

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