Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review: AMERICAN ON PURPOSE by Craig Ferguson

I heard somewhere once that many people become comedians in order to hide their inner demons.  Think about all of the brilliant comedians out there who have died from suicide or substance abuse over the years.  Andy Kaufmann, John Belushi, Richard Jenni.  Richard Pryor set himself on fire during a heroin binge, for Christ’s sake!  Craig Ferguson could have ended up this way as well.  His inner demons were drug and alcohol addiction.  While Craig’s checkered past gives him some funny material to draw on for his act, this incredible honest autobiography follows the role substances played in his life—including how he almost killed himself.

Aside from his sordid past, American On Purpose follows Craig on his journey from working-class Glasgow to a millionaire citizen of the United States.  It truly is a modern “American Dream” tale.  From the time he was a little kid watching the first moon landing, Craig dreamed of coming to the United States—the land of possibilities.  As an American myself, I sometimes take those possibilities for granted.  While the book isn’t all “Kum-bi-yah” and “the U.S. is perfect”  (it isn’t), it does serve as a reminder of our country’s good qualities. In America, a C student can become President and a tacky chick from the Jersey Shore can become a household name.  The possibilities that exist for us are virtually limitless.  Of course, most of us are not rich or powerful or famous—that’s not the point—the point is that the possibilities feed our dreams and with dedication and hard work, those dreams might become real. 

Okay, back to the book.  It wasn’t the most brilliantly written book I’ve ever read, but it was touching and funny and honest.  What more can one expect from an autobiography? 

Overall, I give American On Purpose
Plot – 3 bookmarks (Follows Craig’s life)
Honestly – 4 ½ bookmarks (You might wonder how I am able to judge a book’s honesty.  Let’s just say I know it when I read it.  Craig did not pull any punches when discussing his past.)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – That’s a no brainer.  There are several pages of photos in the middle of the book. 

1 comment:

  1. You should probably remove Andy Kaufman from your list of comedians who died of "suicide or substance abuse." Kaufman died of complications associated with lung cancer. Richard Jeni was a schizophrenic, so his suicide was sort of understandable in that context. And Richard Pryor's death came from a heart attack fully 25 years after the incident where he set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine (not heroin). So that first paragraph reads... oddly.

    There are good examples of comedians whose deaths were complicated by drug use. Chris Farley is a prime example. Lenny Bruce and Mitch Hedberg are others. Peter Cook died because of his alcohol use. (I think Craig Ferguson talks about that in this book, if I recall correctly.)

    I agree with you, I didn't feel like 'American on Purpose' was the most well-written book in the world. But it was straightforward and honest about Ferguson's alcohol issues. One of the things that I most appreciate about Craig Ferguson is that he realizes that there is a time for things to be funny and a time when things are simply not. And he rolls with that in this book, and allows the reader to experience the low, not-funny times with him. Not many active successful comedians are willing to do that.