Toil and Drudgery…

Author:  Michael Ian Black

You're not doing it right photoWriting about one’s entirely ordinary life isn’t easy.  Doing so with humor and poignancy presents even greater challenges, especially if you’re an irrepressible whiner.  But somehow, in You’re Not Doing It Right, forty-something comedian Michael Ian Black manages to make his life story interesting by deftly balancing loads of self-deprecating wit with plenty of observational humor, making me laugh frequently.

Black, a writer with numerous screenwriting, directing and minor screen appearances on his resume, could have written about his experiences in the entertainment world, but instead he opts for the completely mundane.  High school, marriage, children, medical crises, pets, cars – the list couldn’t be more boring.  Even the cover photo of the author – staring into space on a dilapidated park bench in a grey suit and tie, wearing Crocs with no socks – screams white American middle-class ennui.

Alan Alda and friend circa 1974.  He's the one behind the wheel.

Alan Alda and friends circa 1974. He’s the one behind the wheel.


But Black gets off to a quick start, explaining how Alan Alda ruined Christmas for him at age five, and doesn’t look back, whether he’s being rejected as a sperm donor, suffering through months of colicky children, burying his son’s dead hamster or arguing with his wife about everything.  Maybe none of this sounds too funny and I’ll admit that some may find his constant complaining tiresome, but this white, American forty-something male reader enjoyed every bit of it.  Maybe I just relish looking into the life of someone who’s more miserable than I am, or maybe it’s the way he makes buying a BMW a source of moral pride or maybe he makes me feel superior because I can resist the urge to repetitively look at fat Keven Federline pictures.  Whatever the reason, I found Black’s humorous musings about his humdrum life thoroughly entertaining.

In the end, despite all the whining and negativity, You’re Not Doing It Right turns out to be surprisingly inspiring at times.  I can enthusiastically recommend Black’s comic memoir, to anyone looking for a well-written and amusing look at the monotony of everyday life, warts and all.

— D. Driftless


Ceaselessly seeking out non-fiction writing on almost any topic, Dave can carry almost forty pounds of books in the pannier pack on his bicycle and knows all the librarians at his local public library by their first names.

Latest posts by dave (see all)