This new book from acclaimed actress and comedienne Melanie Chartoff is what I’m prone to describe as an “instant classic”. Whether you’ve known her from her role as the hilarious Grace Musso on “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose”, the voices of Didi Pickles and Grandma Minka on the hit children’s show “Rugrats” or her brilliant comedic stylings as an ensemble cast member of ABC’s “Fridays”, she’s a mega-talent, in not just comedy and acting but in writing.
This is a straightforward, hysterically honest and – at times – soul-baring glimpse at her remarkable life. Rather than fill this review with jive and fluff, here are the facts: it’s pithy and completely believable in the absurd situations she experiences – especially because they’re real and have happened to all of us, in one form or another, especially if you’re seeking “artistic” acceptance/a life in a creative profession.
I understand the cultural references – and, at moments, the uncomfortable familiarity – because there is something endemic about the Jewish psyche, whether you’re male or female; her experiences on the romantic merry-go-round, while entertaining, are sweetly sad and touching and, again, all too familiar.
These vignettes and snapshots, rather than a long, detailed narrative, are what makes this book such an enjoyable read; she’s reporting, rather than delivering prose and hyperbole. And there’s a treasure trove of hilarious one liners (‘True, the impersonal adulation and salacious fanmail from prison inmates was weird.”) that catch you off guard in a a wonderful manner, as the delivery – in its written form – is droll and deadpan.At no time does she come off as self-pitying or a tragic figure – she’s matter-of-fact and can make light of even sad moments.
You’re completely enveloped in the story – her pain is your pain; you feel her joys and triumphs completely. She’s real – brutal honesty, wry humor and (again) straight shooting. And you’ve got to love the subtle disclaimer: “this is a work of creative non-fiction” but it’s totally from the heart.
This book is a joy and a triumph.
Odd Woman Out – Exposure In Essays & Stories is available now