I’m Ok: But You’re a Pain the Ass: J. Michael Chamberlain
This is an unusual journey that you will take along with this reviewer and the author as we go back in time to where it all began when he decided to do stand up comedy but really should have stayed in the audience. Encouraged by a friend to create a routine that he hoped would be memorable it was but definitely not in the way he wanted it to be. The author tells his story from the beginning to the present as you enter his world and hopefully will laugh, cry, shout and jump up and down as you read this uniquely titled book: I’m Okay But You’re A Pain in the Ass.
Enter the world of a man who just wants to make you laugh and smile. But, not everyone is cut out to be a stand up comic. No matter how some try to make the public laugh the only that’s funny is definitely watching them sweat it out on stage praying for it be over. Within this book you meet the author who enjoys taking real life stories and creating his on spin on them. Insightful, humorous and at times downright blunt to the point of you won’t believe what he says and does especially the first time he decides to attempt the craft by well you won’t believe what he used to help him remember his lines but elongate a part of his body. I guess you had to be there. Memories of growing up and just plain having fun, the author shares his ups and downs with readers. Telling everyone how he road the handlebars of his best friend’s bike or swimming in the Pacific Ocean, the stories are unique unto themselves. But, when he talked about a pickle barrel that brought back memories of when I was younger and would pass by a man who had a huge pickle barrel outside and everyone stuck their hands in it to choose the one they wanted.
The author’s cousin Eddie decided to join the marines and he at first was going to do the same when he became of age. Going to the recruiting station with his father, hearing his father brag about his service the author was determined to follow in his cousin’s footsteps until her wasn’t. A change of heart does not always work and can backfire. But, in this case he chose an unusual route by smoking Mary Jane and other types of weeds and reigniting his asthma and respiratory problems that he had at birth. So, before he had to report to the army to see if he qualified he decided to make sure that he breathing would be bad and his doctor would sign off that he was unfit for service. Good, bad or indifferent he managed to get out of the service and I guess till this day he thanks Mary Jane.
The author goes on a diatribe about his views on religion and how he feels about churches and other forms of worship. He even explains how he prays to various people or even Jesus to get the gifts he wants or rewards. Mickey Mantle, Jerry Lewis and Jesus seem to always be there for him when things get tough and he wants new combat boots or even a radio for Christmas. This essay or story is followed by his dissertation or definition of the word FAT or in some cases pleasantly plump and how he feels people should deal with being overweight. His many explanations are quite interesting, filled with humor and as his editor states also sarcasm as he explains how people that are heavy might act in public, possibly sit on a customer’s lap and create some sort of dialogue and in general decide whether you want to be Fat or ride a bike, exercise and get in shape. The next story tells about his feelings about the holiday season and the nightmares he remembers about Christmas. Since these are private nightmares and what happens might frighten readers you get to find out for yourself what the author relates. He talks about a parent-teacher conference and why he would be terrified after seeing his best friend look like he was about to go to slaughter coming out as he and his parents were going in. Each story tells something related to his real life experiences often flashing back to his childhood and then to the present when he talks about The Ten Second Tease commercial where he and three others had to act out either feeling dejected and sad and one thrilled because he became a billionaire. But, the reality is an illusion and the truth behind the tease you won’t believe as the author uses his own spin on words to create what he thinks would be a hilarious segue to a television program. You have to read if for yourself to appreciate where he comes from even though he didn’t get the job. What happens when two kids ages six and eight are sent to the movies for the entire day and the end result is nightmares? Wait until you read what they saw and what happens when they hear a shrilling loud noise at night. Next, Michael is trying out for a spot in a movie with the great Robin Williams but has to make sure that he is dressed appropriately for the audition. If you want to know what kind of a part and what he wore read the story titled: Dress Appropriately and join in the audition because you have to be there to believe it. A story about telemarketing is next followed by a story that will make you smile and remember the programs that brought more than just laughs. He reminds everyone about Howdy Doody and Doodyville, Abbott and Costello, Gillian’s Island and the fun shows that everyone loved to watch as he plays with his Ray Gun or Remote Control to take charge of what he watches. His mother loved these shows and many others that will bring back memories to readers. Letters is hysterical, as I always wanted to add more to the end of my last name. I do have quite a few so I think I might take on MPV since the author created it at the end of his name sounds find for mine too. Want to know what those letters mean read the story or essay titled Letters. Legacy is the last story in the collection, which focuses on Aunt Filppa and her definition of FBI. Being rambunctious our author decided to ask his father who preferred not knowing about his background. Adding in a cold beer in the trunk of his car added by his resourceful wife, he hoped that he would get his dad to open up. Well some questions remained unanswered for a while as his father decided to go to the clubhouse to play poker with his friends leaving our author with his mother hoping she would help him. Explaining his father never wanted to talk about his Irish heritage as she explains what she learned from his mother. How would you feel if your Irish heritage were questionable? How about it gets better a bit dicey? How about if his grandmother came to America on a Clipper Ship working as a scullery maid. As the story goes his great-grandmother came her on a Clipper Ship from Ireland and got the stamp of approval on Ellis Island. Then she worked for a doctor and his wife as a live in housekeeper. Well she worked for a doctor and here is where it gets juicy and dicey. Well if you want to know the result of the affair I won’t give it away. You have read what his mother told him yourself. Wait till you hear the stark truth. You won’t believe what his great-grandmother did and what about the doctor’s wife? So, a feisty young girl who did as he puts it the horizontal mambo with his great-granddad when he wasn’t being a doctor of course. So, now you have one half of his heritage he did not stop there after all he is half Irish and the other have Italian. Aunt Filippa had her own rendition of his past but will his mother tell him the rest? That dear readers you won’t get from me as you have to read it for yourself because it is really good. All I will tell you is that her folks took “America by Storm.” What I will say is that his family, both sides came to America for a better life? My grandfather did too. Ellis Island is where his great-grandmother got her start and where my grandfather landed too. America is the greatest country in the world. So, as the author wisely states: The past is irreversible, but I believe if se stay in the moment the future is ours for the asking. Check out the bonus material at the end. You won’t be disappointed but you might double over laughing. Before each essay he adds a saying that sets the tone for each one from a famous person in different walks of life and he adds at the end sayings from Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King, JM Chamberlain, John F. Kennedy and many others but my favorite is the last one by Nelson Mandela. A great book filled with real life experiences written by an author that just wants to make you laugh and smile. The numerous dedications and acknowledgments will allow readers to know how many people influenced his writing, his essays and much more.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine