Judd Apatow’s Sick In the Head is the ultimate ode to comedy


In an interview on ESPN last week, Jerry Seinfeld became the latest comedian to decry a culture of political correctness that he says is ruining stand-up. “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me don’t go near colleges,” Seinfeld told ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd. “They’re so PC.”

Seinfeld’s sentiments—which sparked predictable backlash and several op-eds by affronted college students—echoed complaints made by Chris Rock in an interview with New York magazine last year. “I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative,” Rock said. “Not in their political views—not like they’re voting Republican—but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody.”

The comedian outcry against PC culture—Bill Maher, Jeff Ross, Dave Chappelle and others have publicly empathized with complaints about audience oversensitivity—is predicated on a certain belief about comedy: that it’s an art form worth protecting, even when its practitioners cross traditionally sacrosanct lines. “You don’t want comedy watered down; you want it potent,” Ross said during an appearance on HBO’s Real Time last week. “[Comedians] have a responsibility to shine a light on the darkest aspects of society.” (Incidentally, a Comedy Central special in which Ross “roasted” criminals at a maximum-security Texas jail aired on Saturday.)

Stacked up against the cultural institutions of film, music, literature and art, it’s easy to forget the legacy of comedy, which goes back as far as Ancient Greece—or Lenny Bruce, depending on your perspective. After all, we have roughly 84 reality shows focused on singing, and just one—NBC’s middling Last Comic Standing—devoted to stand-up. That’s as many shows about comedy as there are about dog grooming, diving from extreme heights or dating naked.

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Please advise

So I’m phoning it in a bit this week: I’m exhausted, coming down with some sort of cold that I plan on ignoring, and in the middle of a 1,000-page Stephen King opus that I totally could have finished in a week if that week were not also the start of fall of television (for me, a month-long frenzy of trying out new cop dramas and quirky comedies before deciding what can feasibly be added to my DVR schedule.)

Fortunately for all of us—all five—I have a spare book to review. Because some sick sad neurotic old cat lady inside of me is already hoarding finished books to fill the inevitable gaps in my blog posting; as though the world would end if I let a week pass without word-vomiting all over the Internet. (Note: It would.)

You’re a Horrible Person, But I Like You (from here on out referred to as YAHPBILY) has been a staple in my apartment—appearing intermittently on couches, chairs, counters and yes, in the bathroom—for the last year, during which I would read it in small increments between more ambitious fare. Finally on Friday, when I brought it out with me in lieu of the 1,000-pager (even I’m not that devoted when bar-hopping) I managed to finish this slim volume of hilarity on my 4 a.m. train ride home. Yay productive use of drunk travel!

I suppose there’s no way to not take it easy with a review like this: YAHPBILY isn’t the kind of book one really sits down and reads. It’s a “book of advice,” a slapstick parody of Dear Abby and similar columns, where answers to the questions from “readers” (who are not real people) are provided by a veritable smorgasbord of current comics and actors, including Sarah Silverman, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Sedaris (among many, many others.)

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