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Read: I Drink for a Reason

2010/05/11

I Drink for a Reason

by David Cross

New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009.

pp. xv + 236 $23.99

When I purchased David Cross’ book from my local Chapters/Indigo store, Darlene* commented happily, “Oh! It’s Tobias!” She was referring to Cross’ role on Fox’s critically acclaimed show Arrested Development as the laughably pathetic Dr. Tobias Funke. “I saw an interview with him once. He was really mean actually.” Yes, Cross is a mean guy, as those of us who are familiar with his long-lost HBO show Mr. Show with Bob and David or his standup comedy can attest. He is a scathing critic of politics and popular culture, as well as a staunch atheist. His standup tackles right-wingers and P.C lefties alike.  He is mean and crass, yes; but he is also smart, funny, and usually spot-on.

I Drink for a Reason is essentially a collection of Cross’ short standup bits transcribed into book form.  52 of them, to be precise.  They run the gambit from simple absurdity (“Didja Know?”) to cultural commentary (“A Non-Sponsored Look at Holidays in America”), stopping occasionally to be poignant and sincere (“Breaking Up”).  Each is piece is about 4 pages long, lending itself easily to several short bursts of reading rather than two or three extended sittings.  It’s a more enjoyable book if read in shorter sessions, as Cross’ acerbic wit can become overwhelming if taken in all at once. He’s angry, and rightfully so, but its tonal nuance can get lost through overexposure.   

The book is hilarious though, and fans of Cross’ standup will definitely not be disappointed. While there are traces of Mr. Show throughout the book, in I Drink for a Reason Cross eschews character pieces and opts instead for his own voice. But even readers new to Cross’ style of comedy will appreciate his blend of cultural critique, absurdist humor, and guttermouth. He blends true stories seamlessly with outrageous comedic fantasies; oftentimes it is not entirely clear whether or not Cross is regaling you with a humourous anecdote from his own adventures or if you’re reading complete hogwash.  It’s usually an unknowable combination of both.   

Leave all your P.C notions at the door however; Cross revels in using every racial, religious, and sexual epithet he can. He mocks individuals with religious beliefs, republicans, as well as flower children and hippies. If you’re easily offended read this book with caution: I Drink For a Reason is not for everyone. For example, one chapter entitled “A Short List of Videos with Babies in Them that I Have Not Seen on the Internet but Most Likely Exist and I Would Like to See at Some Point” lists progressively grotesque scenarios involving infants, including “a drunk baby trying to stand up and walk across the room” (170). If you cannot see the humor in that image, perhaps you should skip I Drink for a Reason and instead opt for the far more family friendly Arrested Development.

Although Cross’ book is far from perfect (it tends to lose momentum in the final third), it operates successfully as both comic relief and as an investigation of what’s wrong with our Western culture. There’s even supplementary video clips and sketches available online at www.idrinkforareason.com, which functions as a nice bonus for readers and as a good measurement for potential book buyers. If you can laugh through “Gay Canada Part II” then you should probably buy this book as soon as possible.

*Not Darlene’s real name

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