“I Know I Am, But What Are You?” by Samantha Bee

I first became interested in reading Samantha Bee’s autobiographical book “I Know I Am, But What Are You?” when I happened upon it in my school’s bookstore. I watch the Daily Show from time to time, but never really took much interest in it outside of the show itself. I haven’t read any other books by any of the other cast members, and I didn’t really see why I’d start with Bee. But out of curiosity, I picked the book and flipped to the table of contents.

At first I thought I’d misread it. Did Samantha Bee name one of her chapters “Sailor Moon”?

Turns out she did. Turns out Canada still has people dressing up as cartoon characters and touring around, giving shows. Or anyway, they did when Bee was hired to play Sailor Moon in one of these shows, travel around Canada and spirit gum her hair into submission to get those meatballs on her head.

But I digress. I have other things to say first.

I didn’t buy the book when I immediately saw it on display a year ago, around the time it first came out. Instead, I put it down, because I was probably on my way to work and had just stopped in to use the bathroom. But I remember being pretty amused by the little bit I had read, and it stuck with me. So, when I found it on sale a couple weeks ago in a Barnes and Noble about 3000 miles from where I first picked it up, I decided to get it.

And I’m really glad I did. Bee’s book is story after story of a life that might be one big, cosmic joke. Between having a step-mother who punches bears, to owning a guinea pig serial killer rapist, to playing one of Japan’s most recognizable superheroes for snotty children, it’s no wonder Bee found her way into comedy. You’d need to have a hell of a sense of humor to make it through the kind of life she’s lived.

May favorite story, though, has to be the one in which her cat tries to mate with her head. Let’s just say if you’re going to be the only constant in your cat’s life, you should probably do your face a favor and spay or neuter them.

My only problem with the book itself is that it is just a bunch of stories. Bee dives into her crazy life without much warning and immediately drops off with the last chapter. Not that she does a bad job navigating through her ridiculous past, but the lack of forward/afterward leaves the book just hanging there. We have context, and much of the information in her book builds on itself, so we’re not left in the dark about what’s going on, but the lack of bookends feels like she was at a loss at how to introduce/outro-duce her tales. But maybe that works in a weird way, as well; I mean, how to you do relate all the strange things that have ever happened to you without always saying “I know this is going to sound strange, but…”? Perhaps Bee saw that there was no way to really prepare her audience than to throw them into the water and wait for them to paddle to the surface.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the book. And I only have one nerd nitpick as far as the Sailor Moon chapter goes: Sailor Moon was born on June 30th, not the 13th. I hope you’re listening, Ms. Bee, and you fixed that in the trade edition. ;)

I Know I Am, But What Are You? on GoodReads.

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