My Life As A Goddess by Guy Branum
I picked this book up from one of my local indie bookshops because I had seen Guy Branum on Conan's late night talk show promoting his book. Guy was funny and he looked so familiar to me, plus I wanted something funny to read.
I was delightfully surprised by how much I loved this book, Guy, and his brain. Guy is witty, poignant and snarky when talking about events in his life. While this book is a memoir, it's told in an essay-collection format. I think that helps sort it in your mind, while it does run consecutively, Guy takes little side roads to explain moments in a deeper way.
Title: My Life As A Goddess: A Memoir Through (Un)popular Culture
Author: Guy Branum
Page Number:274, hardback
Genre: memoir, nonfiction, humor
Publisher: Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, Inc.
From a young age, Guy Branum always felt as if he were on the outside looking in.
Self-taught, introspective, and from a stiflingly boring farm town, he couldn’t relate to his neighbors. While other boys played outside, he stayed indoors reading Greek mythology. And being gay and overweight, he got used to diminishing himself. But little by little, he started learning from all the sad, strange, lonely outcasts in history who had come before him, and he started to feel hope.
In this collection of personal essays, Guy talks about finding a sense of belonging at Berkeley—and stirring up controversy in a newspaper column that led to a run‑in with the Secret Service. He recounts the pitfalls of being typecast as the “Sassy Gay Friend,” and how, after taking a wrong turn in life (i.e. law school), he found stand‑up comedy and artistic freedom. He analyzes society’s calculated deprivation of personhood from fat people, and how, though it’s taken him a while to accept who he is, he has learned that with a little patience and a lot of humor, self-acceptance is possible.
Written with Guy’s characteristic blend of wit, guile, and rumination, My Life as a Goddess is an unforgettable and deeply moving book by one of today’s most endearing and galvanizing voices in comedy.
I recognized Guy from television...but mostly from his appearances on Chelsea Handler's panel. Chelsea had a show on E! (before Netflix) and part of the show was when she'd talk about news or gossip with a panel of comedians. Nothing against Chelsea but I always liked her panel a bit better than anything else on the show. The panel was chockablock full of witty, fast and extremely funny people, and Guy was one of them. He's also done work (writing and onscreen) for shows for tech/games (G4), Punked, Joan Rivers and Mindy Kaling.
Guy covers his work life throughout the book, he's worked with Aparna Nancherla and Billy Eichner and knows other writers that could fill a person with jealousy. He's brutally honest about his exit from Chelsea Handler's show and the downsides of working with Joan Rivers as well as writing for a bunch of teenage boys on G4. I was absolutely floored by the amount of people that can be on hand to work comedy lines for one comic...I don't know why it never occurred to me. I understood writers for a television show, but I had no idea that Joan Rivers had a team as well.
Guy begins his book with his childhood in Yuba City, California, his family and how he didn't really fit into the city or with his family. Guy goes to college at Berkeley and begins to find his identity. He eventually joins the campus political arena as well as the comedy/newspaper.
While at Berkeley, Guy writes an essay about Stanford, elitism (and mentions Chelsea Clinton) and why they should be destroyed. This was in the chapter titled, "Joan Didion Slept Here." One of the lines in his essay got picked up nationally because some people thought it was a targeted threat against Chelsea Clinton. I would hate to be the child of the president because your life is not your own again...sure, all sorts of privilege but you can't have a totally crazy night on the town without some news agency coming for you. Anyways, the Secret Service showed up at his door to see if he was a crazed bomber. This chapter was a bit jarring to me, to be fully honest, and I don't really know why.
Guy mentions his book editor, Rakesh Satyal (who has written a book titled, No One Can Pronounce My Name...which is on my TBR pile) in the same section about having to shoulder past the Extra News/gossip crew in order to make it Barnes and Nobles in the Galleria. Esquire has an excerpt of his book where he goes into an explanation on why Ann Bancroft's character in The Graduate was radical.
One of the most genuine moments of the book is when Guy talks about his coming out story with his parents. It's heartbreaking (but inspiring) and happened when he was in law school. It's not the main point of his book, but he mentions it because it is a pivotal moment in his life. Then he talks about after his come out story (it's not his climax).
One of the chapters that stayed with me is when Guy seems to go off on a tangent about Canada. I got a dose of Canadian history and politics and I was resentful of the fact that I never really got any Canadian history in school. The chapter ends with the explanation that you've been reading a history of Canada but also an explanation of Guy's relationship with a family member. If Guy decided just to write a history book with his humor and wit...I'd be first in line.
Guy spends the end of the book talking about his career in writing, comedy, and television/movies. Other than Chelsea Lately (Chelsea Handler), Guy has worked with Joan Rivers (Fashion Police), Punked, G4, Lisa Kudrow and The Mindy Project (one of the most amazingly strong writing rooms I've seen). Some of his jobs were not great, some of the people he worked with were not the best but others were just amazing.
I enjoyed the humor, the snark, and the education (Canada!). This is a well-written book, informative, smart and self-reflecting. I gave it five stars and it's my favorite 'comedy' book to date.
Lambda Library: My Life As A Goddess Review by Alex Tunney
Guy's personal website, GuyBranam.com
A longer talk with Guy Branum by Phoebe Robinson at the Strand Bookstore.
Guy is on a podcast, called Pop Rocket
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