Talking to Canadians

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Rick Mercer
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Humour
Pub. Date: Nov. 2021 (read Nov. 2021 on Audible)

Last year I read Rick’s book Final Report and was a bit disappointed when I discovered it was just a collection of rants from throughout the years. Somehow it’s just not as interesting to listen to Rick rant about Stephen Harper 10 years later. But I was interested in Talking to Canadians when I learned it would be a proper memoir and decided to read on Audible.

Talking to Canadians definitely has a niche market, but I found it to be an interesting read. Rick goes pretty in depth about how he got his start in comedy and it covers everything up until he started doing the Mercer Report. There’s a lot about how he found comedy and acting in high school and his years on 22 minutes, which I did find pretty fascinating.

Of course, Rick makes for a great audiobook narrator and I would highly recommend doing the audio if you’re reading this book. I read it back to back with Mark Critch’s new book, which I also did with both comedians last year. Between Final Report and Son of a Critch, I’d give the edge to Critch, but overall I preferred Talking to Canadians to An Embarrassment of Critch’s, though they’re both great books. They actually make surprisingly complementary reads as well since both men have 22 minutes to thank for jumpstarting their careers. I read Critch’s book first, but if you’re going to read both, start with Talking to Canadians, it makes a bit more sense chronologically.

Overall a fun read if you like memoirs and funny Canadians!

An Embarrassment of Critches

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Michelle Good
Genres: Humour, Non-fiction, Memoir
Pub. Date: Oct. 2021 (read Nov. 2021 on Audible)

I read Mark’s first book last year as an audiobook. It was a bit of an impulse buy when I was doing a bunch of jigsaw puzzles and looking for some humour to get me through the pandemic. It was funny and I really enjoyed it. You could tell the stories were embellished, but Mark is an excellent storyteller so it didn’t bother me. 

I was more excited to read An Embarrassment of Critch’s and quickly bought a copy on Audible when it was released. Mark narrates both books and I highly recommend doing the audio for this reason. I love all the different voices and accents he uses throughout the book and it made me nostalgic for Newfoundland. 

In my opinion, this book is the perfect companion book to Son of a Critch and I kind of see it as an extension of his first book. I know his first book is centered on his childhood, but when I finished it last year, my one complaint was that I wanted to read more about how he got into comedy and his time on 22 Minutes. That is exactly what An Embarrassment of Critch’s delivers and I had a lot of fun reading it.

I’m currently reading Rick Mercer’s new book as well and it’s really hard not to compare the two. In terms of laughs, I would give the edge to Mark Critch, but there’s more of a sincerity to Rick’s memoir that I thought was missing from Mark’s. I think this is totally fine since the primary intent of Mark’s work is humour and storytelling, but he does tackle several more serious topics as well. While he tries to reflect and be contemplative about his experiences (thinking mostly of his recount of traveling to Afghanistan), I couldn’t help but think his recollections were somewhat surficial and portrayed through rose-tinted glasses. In some ways his essay selection reads more like a checklist of his accomplishments rather than a reflective look-back on his career. Although, he does talk about some of his mistakes over the years, but I felt like his exploration of these errors in judgement were included as more of a PR move rather than any meaningful contrition about them.

But really these are minor complaints. I enjoy his comedy and love watching his impressions and sketches on 22 Minutes. He is an excellent storyteller and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be picking up any future books he may decide to write!

Please Don’t Sit on my Bed in your Outside Clothes

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Phoebe Robinson
Genres: Non-fiction, Humour
Pub. Date: Sep. 2021 (read Oct. 2021 on Audible)

Now that I’ve finished Phoebe’s latest book, I think you can officially induct me into the Phoebe Robinson fan club. I’ve read all 3 of her books very shortly after they were published and she has definitely become an auto-buy author for me. 

Her first book, You Can’t Touch My Hair, was pretty good, but I was bowled over by her second book, Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay. She has this wonderful mix of essays that are both funny and meaningful. She makes me laugh out loud, while also sending me deep into thought about how I interact with the world as a white woman. Honestly, I would love if every essay in her book was as unforgiving as her essays on motherhood and the white saviour complex, because these essays worm their way into my bones and stay with me long after reading. But I can understand how her more humourous essays also added much needed balance to the anthology.

I think this is probably my favourite book of hers to date because she covers so much ground in so few essays. The two essays mentioned above spoke to me more than some of the others, but I see so much value in everything she has written and she does a good job and writing to a lot of different audiences. No question, her essays on being a boss, travelling, and her hair are not written for me, but they still make me reflect on how differently we all interact with the world based on race, class, and gender. 

I also loved that this book dedicates a lot of time to talking about the pandemic and quarantining. Not in a negative way about how our governments handled the crisis or anything, but about how we as individuals dealt with suddenly being forced to live and work in close proximity to our partners for months on end. The pandemic is finally starting to show up in some of the books that I’m reading and it was so refreshing to listen to Phoebe talk about it. We’ve all been through something over the past year and I’m so excited for the type of literary reflection we’re going to start getting in the coming years.

I definitely thought some of the essays were better than others and I would have loved to get more, shorter essays instead of so few long ones, but I can’t deny that I loved everything about this book. Phoebe knocks it out of the park on the Audiobook narration and I’m determined to finally listen to her podcasts to fill the void until her next book comes out!

A Very Punchable Face

Rating: ⭐⭐.5
Author: Colin Jost
Genres: Humour, Memoir
Pub. date: Jul. 2020 (read Jul. 2020 on Audible)

This was a fun read that pretty much delivered what I was expecting, with a few surprises. Not totally sure why I picked this one up, I think I just saw it Audible and thought it would be a funny listen. I don’t really know that much about Colin Jost or have any particularly strong feelings about him, but I always get a kick out of watching him and Pete Davidson on Update so I figured why not give it a go.

Like most memoirs of this type, the book is a collection of stories, mostly funny, about Jost’s intro to comedy and his time at SNL. The essays are good and I laughed out loud at more than one of them, although I was left wondering how one person, who never really does anything dangerous, can injure themselves so many times. He had some interesting insights into what it’s like working at SNL – the long hours, the seemingly endless amount of rejection, and how you always have to be prepared to just roll with the punches (pun intended).

I think jost is a little too fond of Staten Island and maybe needs to be more critical of its flaws and that he should probably get over the google incident, but what stuck with me were his more meaningful essays about his mom and the NYC fire department. As a community of firefighters, many were first responders for 9/11, including Jost’s Mom, and I really appreciated his thoughtful essay on what that was like for him and his family. I’m a sucker for men who openly love their moms (hello Trevor Noah), so I really liked this essay.

Beyond that I don’t have a whole lot to say. Jost alludes at the end that he may soon be moving on from SNL and I would agree with his assessment that after 15 years, it’s probably time. I’m interested to see what else he’ll do next. There’s just one thing in this book he’s wrong about; Aidy Bryant. She is the best cast member.

Son of a Critch

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Mark Critch
Genres: Memoir, Humour
Pub. date: Oct. 2018 (read Jun. 2018 on Audible)

I went on a little bit of a Newfoundland binge back in June, listening to both Son of Critch and Rick Mercer Final Report back to back on Audible. For my blog readers, Newfoundland is an island located on the far east coast of Canada. It was the last province to join Canada and its influence from the English and Irish have left the island with a very distinct sense of culture and place. I grew up in Newfoundland and so it has a huge place in my heart.

Mark Critch is a Canadian and Newfoundland comedian well known from the Canadian comedy show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes. I consider him a bit of a Newfoundland icon and always get a kick out of his comedy. I was drawn to the audiobook because it’s narrated by Mark and I was looking for something light to read during the pandemic.

If you’re looking for an account of how Mark got into comedy, you won’t find it here, likewise if you’re looking for a highly accurate memoir of his childhood, I don’t really think this is it. But if you’re looking to have a laugh at some truly wonderful storytelling, then you’ve found what you’re looking for. As the name suggests, “a childish Newfoundland memoir”, the book is heavily focused on Mark’s childhood. He talks a lot about growing up on Kenmount Road before it was the booming metropolis that we know today and the struggles he had with always getting into mischief at Catholic school and with his highly Catholic (and nosey) mother.

St. John’s did away with it’s heavily religious school system when I was in the third grade, so I couldn’t really relate, but I definitely think it captured a lot of what it was like growing up in St. John’s at that time and a lot of what it’s quintessentially like growing up in Newfoundland in general. I questioned the authenticity of a lot of Mark’s stories because he was so young in many of them that I doubted he could actually recall very much from that time, but every story made me laugh out loud, so I was able to overlook it.

I suspect there’s a bit more in this book for Newfoundlanders to enjoy than your average reader, but there’s so much hilarity packed in here that I do think anyone can enjoy! I would still love to read another memoir about how Mark got into comedy and all the cool people he’s worked with over the years, but I can wait. Definitely recommend this if you want a laugh.