Hyperion, 1997, 237 pages, C$30.95 hc, ISBN 0-7868-6351-X
It’s easy to be a fan of “The Drew Carey Show”: As a sitcom, it offers a self-depreciating hero with which it’s easy to sympathize, an interesting cast of wacky characters, often clever humor and fairly good writing. Pay closer attention and you’ll find that “The Drew Carey Show” is a rarity in the sitcom world in that it frequently takes chances in telling stories in an off-beat way. They don’t always succeed, but it’s usually good fun to see a sitcom takes chances and depart somewhat from the usual format.
“The Drew Carey Show” made a star out of its lead man, Drew Carey, and it was only a matter of time until spinoffs came out. Given that Dilbert already occupies most of the market for nerdish office humor, Carey decided to bring the same spirit of innovation to his money-grubbing techniques that he does with the TV show, and the result is of interest to anyone looking for a good laugh or two.
As Carey explains in his introduction to Dirty Jokes and Beer, he originally wanted to publish a few short stories he had written. But his fans wanted a book about the TV show and his publishers wanted another one of those “comic guy makes funny observations about everyday life” book. To make everyone happy, Dirty Jokes and Beer contains all three of these things.
Which means there’s something here for everyone.
With an extra helping of explicit language.
Even though I gather that Drew-Carey-the-stand-up-comedian uses liberal amounts of foul language, fans of Drew-Carey-the-sitcom-star might not know otherwise. This book will be an eye-opener. To his credit, Carey doesn’t use gratuitously explicit language and makes it clear from the onset that this isn’t a family-oriented book. As he states in the introduction, “I only left [the nasty words] in because I didn’t think that the things I’d written would be as funny without them.” [P.xv] This is refreshingly in-your-face comedy, as honest as it is politically incorrect. Onward.
The first part of the book (“Dirty Jokes”) is the “funny observations about everyday life” section. Here, Carey gets to vent about big-screen TVs, how to pick up chicks, presidents, health fads and a heck of a lot of beer. Non-politically-correct observations, of course: Avoid reading if easily offended (but then again, why would have you bought a book called Dirty Jokes and Beer?) Funny stuff. Fans of Carey-the-standup-comedian will probably like this section.
The second part (“Beer”) is for the other type of Carey fans, given that it directly concerns his life and/or TV show. What’s Mimi like (and other Frequently Asked Questions), reviews of the early criticism, in-house script notes (a real treasure, if you know about the sitcom business), Drew’s unhappy childhood (not a fun moment) and “Hard Copy” appearances, not to mention the dynamics of tabloid popularity. Not always funny, but invariably interesting. Pictures of Drew’s life are included.
The real surprise comes with “Stories of the Unrefined”, the third and last part of the book. Here, Carey present five short stories to the world, and worries about the effect they’ll have on his reputation. He shouldn’t: The stories are decently written, and pack up decent entertainment in their short length. They’re funny, but in a darker, more adult way than the rest of the jokes in the book. In any case, they’re worth reading.
The end result, for both readers and Carey, is good entertainment. As with most books in the “comedy” section, this one can be read in a short time, and re-read frequently. Carey fans (both kinds) will find something to like here, and non-fans might even learn to like the guy.