The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee - Sarah Silverman This review can also be found on my blog.

I don’t usually read a lot of memoirs or biographies, because reading about the exciting REAL lives that other people have lead isn’t really my cup of tea. Most of the time it just serves to remind me how mediocre my life has been thus far. I picked up this copy of The Bedwetter from the library because I’ve always been a fan of Sarah Silverman’s stand-up, and I thought it would be a hilarious read, much like Chelsea Handler’s books (which I adore).

The first half of this book is great. It details Sarah’s life as a young Jew, focusing primarily on how she wet the bed until she was in high school and how that affected her life as a comedian. It’s riddled with all sorts of lovely anecdotes about what it was like growing up as a child with a seriously embarrassing nighttime habit. Take, for example, Sarah’s fear of summer camp:

“And so, from six years old on, I was sent to sleepaway camp every summer. If you recall from several pages ago the terror I experienced in just one sleepover — now multiply that into a month’s worth of nights.
It’s not like my parents didn’t consider that — they gave my counselors special instructions to walk me to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And let me tell you, the thought of a sixteen-year-old kid knowing my problem was oh so comforting. Summer camp — salvation to both my mom and dad — was, for me, a camp-fiery hell. My teeth were bigger than my face, I was coated in hair, and I smelled like pee. Of course, most events in life are about context. Had my parents instead sent me to live in the Baboon Reserve at the Bronx Zoo, I would have been happy and confident, judging the others for flinging poo, and feeling downright aristocratic.” (25)

However, its’s the second half of the book, where Sarah describes her transition from awkward youth to famous comedian where the book lost me. Instead of talking about the events in her life in a nice, linear manner, Sarah starts to jump around in her writing. It was hard for me to keep track of what year we were in, since there weren’t many mentions of it. A lot of the sections of the book devolved into telling funny stories about experiences she’s had with her friends more than about her life. It was disappointing for me, because I found myself really enjoying the first part of the book, and then torn between finishing the book or just turning it back into the library without getting to the end.

While it’s true that most of the situations Sarah chooses to write about in The Bedwetter are very entertaining, I wanted more information about her personal life than about all the penis jokes she and her fellow writers tell during the production of The Sarah Silverman Programme.

I also felt that there were a lot of times where Sarah was using this book as a means to clear her name from some of the bad publicity she’s gotten over the years. Some of them are funny and interesting, such as the debacle with her dress from the 2009 Emmys. Other times, I feel she is trying to prove herself the victim instead of the antagonist in certain situations, such as when she used an Asian-American slur on Conan O’Brien’s show. On the one hand, I understand how, given her philosophy about her comedy, she didn’t think it was offensive at all. But on the other hand, there is a time and place for everything, and perhaps some of the hate mail she received wasn’t unjustified (as she tried to make it seem like it was).

While I have said a lot of negative things about the last half of the book, Sarah does tell some rather funny stories about her life, and she even includes a “midword” (kind of life a foreward or afterward, but in the middle of the book, get it??!) that was quite enjoyable to read. I feel, though, as if these things weren’t enough to redeem the book in my eyes, and I really wanted to get to know more of Sarah instead of listen to more of her jokes.

tl;dr: If you’re a fan of Sarah Silverman’s work, it might be worth a read, just to get more of the same. If you’re really hoping to learn more about her as a person, then you might want to look elsewhere.