Will someone please explain to me why Jen Lancaster is considered "hilarious"?
03 September 2010
Really. I want to understand, and I don't.
My apologies, first off, if you DO find Jen Lancaster amusing. Somebody (or a lot of somebodies) must, because she's a bestselling memoir author who pumps out a memoir a year. But I just don't get it. A million years ago I read her first memoir, Bitter Is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office, about how she lost her spectacularly well-paying job and she and her boyfriend faced being broke, which, for a woman who liked to shop at Prada, was a painful experience. I still remember what I thought: the author was obnoxious and I didn't care at all that she was struggling financially (really, if you make tons of money for a few years, you can't put some of it into savings?*), and it just wasn't that funny. I further thought the book wouldn't go anywhere, and I agreed with lines like this, from an original review of it:
"She's almost gleeful about lacking 'the internal firewall that keeps us from saying almost everything we think,' but she doesn't come off as straightforward, just malicious. (Of course, it's possible she's making up much of her dialogue, which is a little too clever to be believable.)"
Well, four memoirs later, here we are, with Lancaster's latest title, My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover If Not Beinga Dumb Ass Is the New Black or a Culture-up Manifesto.** I know. Why do I keep looking at her memoirs if I can't stand them? It is literally because I want to figure them out. On the one hand, her books read like completely un-edited blog posts, and she seems to think throwing in the word "ass" (and referring to herself as a "dumb ass") constitutes the height of comedy. On the other hand, there must be something about these books that I'm missing.
While reading My Fair Lazy (the motif in this memoir is Lancaster's desire to immerse herself in culture and avoid embarrassing situations like the one where she met her idol, Candace Bushnell, who told her she's really into Baudelaire, and Lancaster had no idea who that was) I tried to keep an eye out for quotable bits that annoyed me, but here's the thing: the whole book annoyed me. Maybe a story from the end of the book will be instructive. For context, Lancaster has been invited to a party where Alec Baldwin is; in the course of the evening, her husband even takes a picture of him because he can't believe he's not wearing a belt. So, as Baldwin is leaving, she decides she wants a picture with him, and this is what she tells her friend later about the encounter:
"'Fletch and I kind of chased after him to see if we could get a shot taken together. But Alec was in a rush and had to go but he wanted to make sure he wasn't snubbing someone important by running off to his dinner. He looks at me--not rude or anything, just direct--and goes, 'I'm sorry, who are you?'
I run my hands through my newly extension-free hair and continue. 'And somehow every single thing I've worked on for all these months totally flew out the window, and I looked him dead in the eye and said, 'New York Times bestselling author, motherfucker.'" (p. 366.)
Now, I sincerely hope she's exaggerating for the sake of story. Otherwise, that's obnoxious (and not in a good way) and I'm on Alec Baldwin's side. You know, maybe when your husband was taking a picture of a beltless Alec Baldwin, earlier in the evening, THAT would have been the time to ask him for a photo, not when he had to get somewhere else.
So please: someone, anyone. Tell me why this woman is, in fact, a New York Times bestselling author.
*I call this "Jerry Maguire Syndrome." My brother couldn't stand the movie Jerry Maguire, primarily because he refused to believe that a super-rich sports agent wouldn't have had some money saved up.
**I also hate her stupid long subtitles.