A Horse Walks Into a Bar

There’s a passage, near the end of this book, when the narrator describes catching himself with his hand on his forehead. He looks around and a few other people are in the same gesture. This happens near the apotheosis of the book, when the personal story the central comedian is telling comes together with the about 2-hour long comedy set he’s performing. I noticed in that moment, that I too had my hand on my forehead. Grossman/Cohen balance the tone of this book perfectly, throughout, such that at the end when you’re meant to be hit with the emotional weight of the protagonist’s journey, it lands really well.

The jokes, the asides, and meandering way this story is told captures nicely the best parts of standup comedy, arguably the most modern of narrative arts. I’ve read a number of comedy memoirs, or read sets that are meant to be performed, and the ability to capture the spark that is apparent on stage in written word is a difficult task. Grossman, relying almost entirely on his writing prowess, pulls this off, somehow.

All this said, I didn’t quite feel the weight of the emotional journey Dov went through. Or the corresponding witness that Judge Avishar was meant to bear. This disconnect kept me from really loving this book as much as others seem to.

But, man, some of the jokes and the timing (not just internally of each joke but also overall in the novel, knowing exactly when to introduce a joke or break away from the set) were worth the price of entry.