Jason Kane's Reviews > Based on a True Story

Based on a True Story by Norm Macdonald
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing

I've read quite a few memoirs of various levels of seriousness, heart, passion, and quality. I have never read one like Norm MacDonald's Based on a True Story, and I loved it! I am an unabashed Saturday Night Live super-fan. I've always said, if I had the time to binge any show from beginning to end, it would SNL. All 40+ years of it. So my initial interest in MacDonald's "memoir" was the SNL angle. Upon finishing it, the SNL stories were actually the least interesting thing about the book. I put the word "memoir" in quotes a sentence back because it is not your typical memoir. There are touchstones of memoir in this book, but it reads like a novel and MacDonald's persona is not that of a comedian telling his story. MacDonald invokes Mark Twain in the best possible way and has strung together a series of anecdotal loosely related plotlines all contained within an epic gambling narrative that spans the entire book. Norm's storytelling is poetic at times. He pokes satirical fun at the writing process itself by including the interjections of an imaginary (and tortured) ghostwriter, he includes poignant asides about his adventures like assisting a young boy in his dying wish to club a baby seal, and then there's Old Jack... The joy of his word choice is easily Based on a True Story's most winning quality. His jokes are polarizing like virtually no other comedian working today. However, you have to admit, his delivery, cadence, and syntax is unique, arresting, and in my opinion, brilliant. I mean, if you are nostalgic for Steinbeckian phraseology or feel it's been a "pickler's fortnight" since you read a book about guys who get "drunk as a boiled owl" and "cracker-barrel the night away," then this is the book for you!

Here's a litmus test for whether you should pick up this book:
"...getting to work with such experienced and talented movie actors proved to be a double-edged sword. Now I understand that all swords have two edges, so let me save some time by taking that back and just saying that getting to work with such experienced and talented movie stars was a sword."

Did you laugh? Then buy this book!

This is not a "get to know Norm" book. You have to be familiar with Norm to like the book, and you have to have some understanding of Norm to know what's real and what's not. For example, Norm was infatuated with Sarah Silverman while a cast member at SNL. Norm was not arrested and imprisoned for conspiracy to murder Dave Attell because he was dating Silverman at the time. Both, however, are in the book. Norm twists reality into fantasy relentlessly in Based on a True Story, which results in most of its charm. Accompanied by his "AsSISTant" and foil, bone-headed Adam Egat, whom Norm continuously refers to by his full name, Norm regales us with tales of a comedian that span genres from prison memoir to rural coming-of-age drama.

If Norm's book has one problem, it's that if there’s not a punchline at the end of lengthy, deliberate, agonizing prose, then some may feel lost. This is likely an intentional decision, but as far as a reader experience, it’s not always ideal. However, what Norm does here is provide insights on comedy and life, but not with the out-rightness that one expects from the genre. We are treated to Norm's Top 25 Weekend Update jokes, which are "nonpareil," to quote the hopelessly morphine addicted, Lorne Michaels. There is also an unhealthy amount of references to answering machines and Charles Manson...NOT THAT ONE! Based on a True Story is clever, enjoyable and one of the funniest memoirs I've ever read; you'll "laugh enough to beat the band."
1 like · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Based on a True Story.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

September 23, 2016 – Started Reading
October 14, 2016 – Shelved
October 14, 2016 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.