Thursday, March 26, 2020

"You're Doing Great" - Tom Papa

Tom Papa's "You're Doing Great!: And Other Reasons to Stay Alive" is a warm hug of a book. 

I'm not talking about one of those semi-friendly one-armed hugs, but one of those full-body, two-armed wrap-around hugs that make you feel as if you can listen to the person's heartbeat when you're hugging them. If I were to meet Tom Papa on the street now, I would feel like I know him and I would feel like he knows me. If I were to go watch Tom Papa perform, I would feel a special bond like I was watching an old friend hit the big time. I would want to shake his hand and give him a hug and it would be a familiar hug because I would feel like I knew him and he would instantly know he knew me even though we'd just actually met. 

Truthfully, I didn't expect to end up giving "You're Doing Great" a 5-star review. Truthfully, I'm not even totally sure it's a great book. For most of the book, I was in the solid 4-star range - hey, that's no shabby rating. It's like 1-star down from the best and it's quite a bit better, in my opinion, than the more middling-range 3-star rating. A 4-star rating says "Hey, you're doing great!" But then, I got to the end of the book and I realized I felt great. I had laughed. I'd been hugged. I'd smiled. I'd never actually cried, but that would be kind of weird in a humor book.

Still, I was incredibly touched by the stories because you can tell that Tom Papa loves his wife and loves his two daughters and loves his friends and loves his life, though none of these things could be called perfect. After all, he refers to both himself and his wife as mutts. I have a feeling his wife considers it a compliment, though probably a weird compliment. 

"You're Doing Great!" occasionally wanders. There were a handful of the 75 essays where I asked myself "What does that have to do with being great? That's just a life story that's kind of cute." I wanted to go ahead and dock the book a star because it wasn't perfect, but it's kind of hard to justify that when the entire theme of the book is that it's okay to not be perfect. 

Mission accomplished. Imperfectly. If you don't know Tom Papa, though you probably do know Tom Papa, he's a comedian who I believe mostly does clean comedy and "You're Doing Great!" is most certainly all clean comedy. Most comics will tell you that doing clean comedy is much more difficult than doing the more hardcore stuff and it's pretty impressive that Papa has built a pretty darn amazing career out of clean comedy including being the head writer and a performer for NPR's Live From Here and a popular SiriusXM host among quite a few other gigs. He's probably not a household name, but he's doing great. "You're Doing Great!" is at its best when Papa actually focuses his essays around the entire theme of "You're Doing Great!" These essays are simultaneously warm and affectionate and funny without the pressure of having to live up to standards that we don't really need to live up to in order to be truly happy. 

"You're Doing Great" lands with a little less of an impact when Papa moves away from this theme, which is something that's probably going to happen when you write 75 essays. You can really only pull off the humorous sideline life coach meets best buddy shtick for so long, but Tom Papa makes it work and it never feels like a shtick. 

It feels like the friend you meet at Denny's when you've had a crappy day at work and you feel like your life sucks - your friend looks at you with dead-on sincerity and says "You're doing great!" Indeed. So, "You're doing great!" is probably a 4-star book that I'm giving a 5-star rating because I'm a paraplegic/double amputee with spina bifida who's been off work for three months following what is actually my 3rd amputation and I needed to laugh and I needed to feel like I was still worth something. Tom Papa made me feel like I was doing great and I'm guessing he'll do the same thing for you because, well, it's true. "You're doing great!"

No comments:

Post a Comment