A senior correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Toronto-born comedian pokes fun at herself in a witty collection of personal essays. Recalling her upbringing, she lightheartedly and hysterically skewers her parents, stepparents, grandparents, and even the nuns who taught her math, half of whom "looked and smelled like the rejection of life itself." Bee's stepmother took camping "very seriously," and preparing for a trip was "like preparing for the End of Days;" her father, claiming to be thinking up strategies for better fuel efficiency, was really "just reading Penthouse on the toilet." Regarding the nuns at her Catholic school, Bee doesn't hold back: "You could see that they had all their lady parts, but you just knew that once a month they menstruated dust." Bee takes readers from childhood to adolescence and beyond, reminiscing along the way about her first boyfriend, comparing their sexual chemistry to that of a "sea cucumber that sits motionless on the cold, dark ocean floor and dreams of dry-humping a nearby scallop." Bee successfully brings her witty, self-deprecating, slightly cynical, and semi-scathing world view from screen to page.
This memoir is told in a series of essays each recounting a cringe-worthy story from Bee's childhood or adolescence. Now most of our childhoods and certainly adolescences offer material galore in the humor department but it takes talent to write and package those scenes into funny, sardonic essays with just the right amount of detail. Samantha Bee definitely has a self-deprecating sense of humor and is not afraid to make fun of her younger self which makes for a more humorous story. With divorced and somewhat eccentric parents, Bee seemed older than her years as a child watching and assessing the exploits of her parents. She may not have realized it at the time but all that observation would turn into a funny, entertaining book!
The author I can most easily compare Bee to is David Sedaris - she has a similar sarcastic tone and tells personal stories as he does - however, I think her book approaches the humor found in a David Sedaris story. I definitely found myself laughing out loud but I feel Sedaris is just that little bit more witty and exacting in his prose. With that said, I Know I Am, But What Are You?, takes dysfunction and makes it funny - and maybe makes us all feel just a little bit better about our own childhoods!
FYI - Although I read it in print, I think this book would likely be excellent in audio (check out S. Krishna's review of the audio) as I am sure Samantha would deliver her witty one-liners with just the right inflection.
Thank you to Kristin at Simon and Schuster for providing a copy of this book for review