The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee

by Lisa Kirchner

Sarah Silverman’s memoir, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, does all the things that shouldn’t work: she’s sparse on emotion, prolific with excruciating details, and even explains some of her jokes. Yet somehow, like her comedy, it’s so wrong it’s just right.

Silverman paints a cheery enough picture of her New Hampshire upbringing, which then morphs into a 16-pill-a-day Xanax habit brought on by teen depression. This, coupled with her titular trouble-bedwetting (which persisted through her late teens)-indicates deeper issues, but she steers clear of discussing her feelings and just sticks to the story. For instance, in describing the death of a sibling, she writes, “My parents’ friends cleaned up any sign of Jeffrey’s existence.” She then describes her sisters and ends the chapter with the story of her first failed joke-whose punch line invokes her dead brother. ~Not everything works in the book, though. The section about her Comedy Central show is long-winded, and just when you think you might get a juicy detail on her relationship with Jimmy Kimmel, she goes mum. She still manages many laugh-out-loud moments, such as the setup about her therapist who committed suicide and the elaborate description of a co-worker’s prank involving a toilet, a crap, and a napkin scrawled with the words “I know what you did last summer.”

What makes this book so readable is that Silverman no more relies on the tried-and-true memoir formula than she does on the standard tropes of the female comic. That takes serious skill.

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