Revenge of the Nerd
UCB's Gethard tells his autobiographical stories in book form
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
Upright Citizens Brigade theater performer Chris Gethard has turned personal stories of failure and woe that he had delivered live regularly in a recurring show at the theater a few years ago (see review, 12/28/08) into a new book, “A Bad Idea I'm About to Do,” published in January by Da Capo Press.
Gethard’s short autobiographical stories veer from unexpected nerd triumphs, as in “Nemesis,” when he finally gets the better of a bad roommate after nearly a year of torment, to near-disasters, as in the titular chapter, a tale of a time when he manically tried to outrun a New Jersey state trooper to avoid getting another speeding ticket that would have cost him his driver’s license.
Of course, Gethard certainly has a sense of humor about his faults, and even unexpected reserves of strength. In a recent appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s show to promote his current web series, “The Chris Gethard Show,” in which he hosts all manner of weird guests and weird activity, Gethard spoke about wanting to have a mixed martial arts fight with a champion UFC fighter. You would imagine by looking at Gethard’s small, scrawny size, and nerdy glasses, that this would be nearly certain death, but on reading “Bad Idea,” you learn that Gethard has actually been training and not totally embarrassing himself in the process – meaning the idea of a MMA fight is not completely far-fetched for him.
Gethard is an experienced writer, having researched and written for “Weird NJ” magazine and the Weird US series books even before he got into comedy, and that certainly figures into the clarity and organization of the short stories presented here. He grew up in West Orange, N.J. and went to Rutgers University, so several of the pieces are infused and steeped in the Jersey landscape – working at a movie theater, the state school college experience, growing up in the surreal suburbs.
In “My Lows at Loews,” Gethard recalls that movie theater job, and how, yet again, he was in the uncool tribe among the employees, and thus always got the last pick of movie posters and paraphernalia. In another chapter, “World’s Foremost Goat,” Gethard plays up his haplessness again for comic effect, telling the story of an agricultural extension course he found himself in at Rutgers, where he had to bond with a goat to present it at a show at the end of the semester.
Gethard may have gotten no respect in the past, but this collection deserves respect as a very funny book to read.
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