Comedian Chelsea Handler has written three memoirs. Kathy Griffin wrote one, too. And now comes "The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee" by the most subversive of stand-up comics, Sarah Silverman. (Harper, $25.99).
But Silverman, as always, is an outlier. Griffin begs us to like her. Handler doesn't care one way or the other. But Silverman dares us to like her and tries to make it as hard as possible.
"My teeth were bigger than my face, I was coated in hair, and I smelled like pee," she writes of herself in childhood, when she was sent to summer camp even though she was a chronic bedwetter. "Of course, most events in life are about context. Had my parents instead sent me to live in the Baboon Reserve at the Bronx Zoo, I would have been happy and confident, judging the others for flinging poo and feeling downright aristocratic."
"The Bedwetter" is meant to be funny, and it is. But the book is not merely a collection of "fart jokes and blasphemy," which is how Silverman herself sums up her career. She is sly, smart, wry and ironic.
She is always willing and even eager to disclose the darkest secrets about herself. She writes in frank detail about the affliction of bedwetting that persisted into adolescence, for example, and the discovery that her psychiatrist had committed suicide while young Sarah was sitting in the waiting room. All of these harrowing experiences are raw material for comedy, but the sharp edges poke through the jokes.