‘Seriously…I’m Kidding’ by Ellen DeGeneres

August 22, 2015 in Book Reviews, Reviews

ellen

I like Ellen, I really do, and I know she hates people who are judgmental. But I’m going to be judgmental here: her new book, Seriously…I’m Kidding, is not very good. Seriously, and I’m not kidding.

The reason I chose this book is because I haven’t read anything for about four months and wanted to get back into it with something light and easy. And this book is very light and very easy. I finished it while riding on various forms of public transport during a single day.

First, I want to talk about the positives. Ellen definitely wrote this book — as opposed to some ghost writer — because her voice permeates every chapter, every page and every sentence. She’s sharp, charming and kind. She’s personable, affable and funny. It’s watching her on her popular TV show.

And if you like her brand of witty, irreverent, self-aggrandisingly self-deprecating style of sarcastic humour, you’ll find plenty of it in this book. Some of it is almost like a written version of a standup routine.

Being the wonderful human being that she is, Ellen also infuses the book with a few pearls of wisdom about life and how to be a better person. Stuff like not not throwing trash out the window, the courtesy of being punctual and being honest, and enjoying life to the fullest. She doesn’t do it in a preachy way either — most of her messages have a jokey tone will give you a couple of chuckles.

Having said that, this is not the book you would read if you actually want to find out anything new or insightful about Ellen. And really, isn’t that why people would want to read her books in the first place?

In line with the book’s theme, just about everything is a joke. You think she’s telling a story or some vignette that will lead somewhere and reveal something about her, her relationships or experiences, but soon you realise she just made the whole thing up for a laugh. It happens over and over, and before long it becomes clear that you can’t take anything she says in the book seriously.

That’s not a deal breaker, but it can get frustrating. What is even more frustrating is the feeling that Ellen’s just phoning it in with this book. I haven’t read her two previous books so I can’t compare, but I would be shocked if her first two books are of the same quality.

There are some shockingly lazy chapters where she rambles on without making a real point. There are way too many incoherent short stories (some just a paragraph), a bunch of short lists about what to do and what not to do, etc, and even pages of random drawings for children to colour in.

There’s a chapter called ‘The Longest Chapter’, the majority of which just discusses why it’s the longest chapter. There’s a chapter of ‘Additional Thank-Yous’ to people she didn’t thank in the acknowledgments at the start of the book. There’s a chapter comprising just a 140-character tweet called ‘Tweet Chapter’. There’s an aptly titled chapter called ‘Boredom’. By the time you get to the last chapter entitled ‘Last Chapter’, you start to get the feeling that maybe Ellen was just finding ways to pad the page count.

It’s wrong to say this because I’m sure she put a lot of thought and effort into the writing. But if I’m being honest, there were times I suspected that the entire book may have been an extremely elaborate prank on her readers– in which case, bravo — and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I just wasted a whole lot of time. In a book of more than 60 chapters, each with a different topic, I would be able to count the number of genuinely good chapters on one hand. And that just doesn’t cut it.

There are indeed moments of enjoyment the book has to offer, though these all come in bits and pieces as opposed to part of a well-structured narrative. And to me, Ellen has always been this kind of a comedian, great at eliciting a lot of chuckles through her quick wit but never a master at generating the big belly laughs. That is magnified even more in the context of a written book, which is much more difficult to make people laugh than standup.

As such, Seriously…I’m Kidding comes across as a much less funny version of the brilliantly irreverent The Timewaster Letters by Robin Cooper. In the case of that book, however, it’s at least obvious what the aim was.

If you just want to kill some time and read a bunch of random, silly, mildly amusing jokes from Ellen, then by all means give Seriously…I’m Kidding a try. But if you’re looking for genuine insights about Ellen and her life and experiences or jokes that will make you laugh out loud, regrettably, you’re probably not going to find them here.

2.5/5

Stosur’s guns overpower imploding Serena for US Open title

September 12, 2011 in Sport, Tennis

Most people, even Australians, gave the inconsistent Samantha Stosur an outside chance at best of defeating the seemingly unstoppable Serena Williams in the 2011 US Open Women’s Final on the 10th anniversary of September 11.

But what they didn’t count on was Sammy’s massive guns to flex at all the right moments, delivering a shockingly easy 6-2, 6-3 victory and spoiling Serena’s latest ‘comeback tour’.

Seriously.  Take a look this woman’s arms.  P90X can’t get these results.  Even Rafa Nadal is jealous.

Are those real?

Unfortunately, the media has tried to overshadow Sammy’s historic win with scandal.  According to reports, Serena Williams had a meltdown against umpire Eva Asderaki, reminiscent of that time in 2009 when she threatened to shove her scrotum down the throat of a lineswoman who called a foot fault against her.

Down a set and facing break point in the first game of the second set, Serena belted a huge forehand and shouted, ‘Come on!’ as Sammy reached for the ball and failed to return it.  However, instead bringing the game back to deuce, Asderaki awarded the point (and hence the game) to Sammy.  The reason?  Asderaki believed Serena’s outburst was intended to hinder Sammy’s ability to complete the point, and had therefore infringed the ‘no hindrance’ rule.

Serena: 'Talk to the hand.'

Then, also according to reports, Serena went on another one of her famous tirades against Asderaki that lasted quite a while.

However, upon closer inspection of the video and transcript, I am certain that a mistake as been made here.  The truth is, Serena Williams was actually talking to herself, and not Asderaki, when she launched those insults.  And everything she said was true.

Don’t believe it?  Let’s take a look at exactly what Serena said.

‘I’m not giving her that game.’ — She was absolutely right.  Serena did not give her that game.  Asderaki did.

‘Aren’t you the one who screwed me over last time here? Do you have it out for me?  That’s totally not cool.’ — Serena could have only been talking to herself here because she was the one that screwed herself over last time, which, we can all agree, was totally not cool.  Besides, the person that called the foot fault on Serena last time was a lineswoman, and the umpire that time wasn’t Asderaki.

‘We’re in America last time I checked.’ — An utterly true fact.  Pure genius.

‘You’re out of control, you’re out of control.  You’re not only out of control, you’re a hater, and you’re just unattractive inside. Who would do such a thing? — Pretty much self explanatory.  Besides, who else would know what Serena looks like inside apart from herself (and her physician)?

Go Stosur!  Time to jump on the bandwagon.

Book Review: ‘Naked’ by David Sedaris

June 29, 2011 in Book Reviews, Reviews

For me, David Sedaris is the master.  When it comes to the type of comedic writing I want to be able to emulate, there’s nobody better than him.  Having attempted (well, attempting) comedic writing myself over the last few months, I am discovering first hand just how difficult it is to make writing amusing.  And Sedaris’s writing is not just amusing — it’s consistently laugh-out-loud funny, but at the same time it is incredibly clever and somehow manages to maintain an air of sophistication.

In my efforts to be more Sedaris-like in my own writings, I sought out one of his earlier books, Naked, published in 1997.  Like the other Sedaris book I read, When You Are Engulfed in Flames (review here), Naked can be classified as a collection of ‘personal essays’ of varying lengths.  Each essay covers an aspect or person of Sedaris’s life, from early childhood to adulthood, and are filled with outrageous characters (many of which are in Sedaris’s family) and anecdotes.

Titles of some of the my favourite essays include ‘A Plague of Tics’ (about Sedaris’s obsessive compulsive tendencies as a child), ‘Dix Hill’ (when Sedaris worked in a mental hospital as a teenager), ‘I Like Guys’ (where Sedaris discovers his homosexuality), ‘The Drama Bug’ (when Sedaris became a theatre fanatic and spoke in Shakespearean for months), ‘Planet of the Apes’ (about Sedaris’s hitchhiking stories), ‘The Incomplete Quad’ (where Sedaris shared dorms with quadriplegic students for free housing), and ‘Naked’ (about Sedaris’s experiences in a nudist colony).

Yes, as the above suggests, Sedaris is a weird, neurotic, somewhat disturbed guy, but he embraces it with a bizarre sense of self-righteousness and humility.  His stories are hilarious because they are so brutally honest, and each joke almost always provides some kind of insight into human nature.  And every now and then he would surprise you with a dash of poignancy, like the piece on his mother’s passing from cancer (‘Ashes’).

Sedaris weaves his internal thoughts, the anecdotes, the stories and the characters together effortlessly with elegant, clean prose, marvellous dialogue (some of which are really mini-soliloquies), astute observations and crafty storytelling.  The thing that amazes me most about Sedaris’s writing is that he knows exactly what words to use to convey the image he wants you to form in your mind.  His descriptions are brief but on the money just about every time, and he can give you a pretty good idea of what a person is like in a just a couple of slabs of dialogue.  He brings his characters to life in a way that few writers can.

I didn’t necessarily like every piece in the book, though that being said, each piece had its moments and I absolutely loved around half a dozen of the 17 essays.  I am certain that I will read his work again (and hopefully sooner rather than later).

4.5 out of 5

Next Year’s Best Picture Oscar Frontrunner

March 9, 2011 in Blogging, Entertainment, Misc

Trailer courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

I would so pay to see this film.

Hewitt ridicules Becker’s man-crush praise

June 28, 2010 in Tennis

Boris Becker

One thing Australian tennis star Lleyton Hewitt loves is being the underdog.  He loves it when critics call him over-the-hill, when they say he is too short, too old, too injured — because it gives him extra motivation to prove them wrong.

Accordingly, when German great Boris Becker decided to develop a man-crush following the Aussie’s unexpected straight sets victory over Frenchman Gael Monfils at the third round of Wimbledon 2010 (6-3, 7-6, 6-4), Hewitt was not impressed.

“I wouldn’t call him a dark horse because he’s won the title before” Becker said with ardour in his eyes.  “On a good day, he’s still one of the best grasscourt players around.”

Hewitt did not enjoy the compliment.  “Of course I don’t consider myself a dark horse.  Look at me.  I’m white.  You know, I’ve always had a good record against guys like Monfils.  Look at him.  And look at James Blake.  Now you tell me what the similarity is.”

Of course, this reference harks back to Hewitt’s controversial attempt to get a black linesman removed during his US Open match against African-American James Blake back in 2001.

“It’s good to see him back and healthy and jumping,” Becker added.  “If there’s ever a fight in a bar, you’d want Hewitt in your corner because he doesn’t back off.”

Hewitt did not take a liking to this comment either.  He retorted: “Well I wouldn’t ever want Boris Becker in my corner on a night out.  I don’t want to turn around for a second and find out he’s impregnated my wife in the broom closet.

“And besides, Bec is too busy to be impregnated by Becker.  She’s got a photo shoot with a woman’s mag every week for the next 10 years.  It’s our main source of income now that I’ve fallen out of the top 25.”

These negative comments did not faze Becker from continuing his admiration for the scrappy Aussie with the tremendous endurance.

“…tennis is not only a game of height and power,” Becker explained.  “It’s a matter of heart — and Lleyton’s got one of the biggest on the men’s tour.  He has the heart and mind of a lion.”

“Why would Becker say I have the heart and mind of a lion?” Hewitt replied angrily.  “I’m a fair dinkum human being.  Lions are stupid and lazy, except for Simba from the Lion King.  Is he saying that I’m stupid?”

Desperate to prove Becker wrong, Hewitt promptly went out and lost his next match to Novak Djokovic, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

“That’ll be the last time someone compares me to an animal,” Hewitt said happily after the match.  “The size of my heart is equal to the size of Boris Becker’s pecker.”

When asked exactly how big that is, Hewitt responded:

[PS: None of this really happened.]