thewestchestarian's Reviews > The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman
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Oct 03, 2011

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Oddly, the book actually smells like pee. The connections between Sarah Silverman as reported in her more sad than funny autobiography and on again/off again hip hop star Eminem are numerous. Both essentially make their living in creative fields talking mostly about themselves – other than a chapter recounting voice mails left by her alleged wacky father the remainder of the book never strays from its headline subject. They both launch vicious character attacks against others and yet are notably thin-skinned – when a fellow comedian does a Jewish joke in her presence Silverman is terribly offended yet a good portion of the book and her comedy act rely on such jokes. Both intentionally provoke and then feign surprise when the targets express anger – she uses an Asian racial epithet on NBC then ridicules the head of the Asian-American anti-defamation league who calls her out on it. Finally, both obsess over a demographic trait and use it to separate themselves from others. They view this difference as superiority – there are few sentences when Silverman doesn’t refer to her Jewish background and, in fact, closes the book with a full chapter about it.

Silverman’s constant references to her ethnic background – she makes it clear it is only minimally a religious background – eventually feel more like a verbal tic than personal statement. Certainly, her heritage set her very much apart from her protestant New Hampshire community growing up and she has parlayed her Jewish-ness into adult success so her reluctance to range very far from it makes sense. However, it gets tired quickly as the does the tight focus on the events of her life and how they made her feel. Yes, it is an autobiography and therefore by definition self-centered but only when talking about contemporary comedian friends (Louie C.K., Jeff Ross and other B/C listers make an appearance) does she even every mention someone else.

This myopic view becomes problematic as after she tells us about her childhood, sexual history and early career as she runs out of things to write about when the book is only monograph length. Credit to her for openly admitting this in her ”middleword” a breaking-the-fourth-wall short essay in about the late middle part of the book where she talks about having exhausted what she had to say. Eventually the book devolves into recounting how she came up with the not particularly creative subtitle. In fact, some of the book is just a verbatim publication of the emails between her editor and her on the subject. The remainder of the book recounts her public ridicule of some of the media’s easiest target (Britney Spears and Paris Hilton) and her shock, yes, shock when they fail to take a joke (in Spears’ case about her children – the book reaches its slimy nadir when Silverman explains why calling them ”the cutest mistakes you’ll ever meet” at the MTV awards show really not that awful a thing to say.)

Almost shockingly, Silverman fails to use her parents’ divorce to help with the dearth of material to fill out the book. She devotes page after page detailing the events of her childhood, how they affected her emotionally and influenced the adult she would later become. Yet, the character of the stepfather appears without foreshadowing late in a chapter about a bout with clinical depression (she claims at one point to be running through 16 Xanax daily). Having been privy to Silverman’s innermost thoughts and outermost expressions of urine, the fact that her parents divorced must have been a very deliberate omission and therefore probably has more to do with the narcissism and isolation of the adult Sarah than did the shame of her enuresis. For Silverman, like Howard Stein, drawing comedy from extreme expressions of too much information, the demurral feels a little like betrayal.

In short, Silverman earns credit for rushing out her autobiography while she is somewhat hot anticipating a long slide into obscurity; however, readers should consider whether reading about half of a life is worth their effort.


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Amanda I agree with most of what you said, but I did want to point out that Silverman says that she's embarrassed that she at one point scolded another comic for a Jew joke. I thought it was one of the better parts of the memoir, since she actually admitted to a fault and some growth.

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