Dale and I have a penchant for listening to nonfiction on trips. I think it’s probably because the most we travel any significant distance is like once a week, and it’s easier to keep the narrative thread of a piece of nonfiction in your head than a novel. At least for me it is. And Dale doesn’t seem to care what we listen to, so my 51% vote carries it every time.
And have I mentioned before that I love when authors read their own books (I have. Every time.). Because I do. I love it when authors read their own books. And when they are awesome comedic actresses (and voice actresses, to boot), it’s even better.
Self-Inflicted Wounds is 33 stories from Aisha Tyler’s past, all of them centered around a moment of embarrassment, humiliation, or mortification. Now, I have long been a fan of Tyler’s. I love her as Lana in Archer. I thought she was funny on Friends. And I love her for being game enough to be a judge on the Season 3 Snatch Game.
These stories…can be rough. I’m someone who can’t watch certain television shows because of the embarrassment factor. I over-empathize and over-relate, so I feel the character’s stupidity, rejection, and humiliation as something akin to my own. It makes my face flush. It makes me sweat. It makes me breathe faster. I hate it, and so I typically avoid it, even if it’s a show that I know I would otherwise love (looking at you, Parks and Recreation).
This book has all of that, but instead, it just made me laugh. Whether it’s hearing about Tyler quasi-vomiting wasabi and fish all over one of her crushes, some of her tragic first performances during her time at Dartmouth, breaking her arm at Sundance, spitting on audience members, or her first steps in the stand-up world, the stories are true humiliations, but Tyler approaches them with little self-pity. Instead, she recognizes and prods at her own shortsightedness, stubbornness, and foolish bravado. To hilarious effect.
While any collection of stories will have stronger and weaker pieces, this book is pretty evenly paced. And it has some fantastic lines that made me bark with laughter and occasionally made me think Dale might swerve us into another lane of traffic. And that’s what I’m looking for in a comedic book.
Tyler’s basic philosophy seems to boil down to the idea that, even though failure is waiting for all of us around every bend, it is so much better to just try things. But in the words of the Dartmouth party cry, “Boot and rally.” Or put another way, fail, pick yourself up, and start again. Wallowing or never trying will get you absolutely nowhere. And sure Tyler has been successful, and she has had some lucky breaks. But listening to this book and reading her IMDB bio shows that it wasn’t handed to her; she grabbed it and wrestled it to the ground.
Oh, and the stories about corporate gigs and her re-setting her own toe while drunk in a Miami hotel room are pretty priceless.
JMF Rating: 7/10
‘Til next time,