Dying to do Letterman: turning someday into today, by Steve Mazan. HCI, 2011. 244 pp. 978-0-7573-1627-2.
... in which Steve Mazan, stand-up comedian, learns that he may only have five years to live and sets off to achieve his life-long dream of performing a comedy routine on the Late Show with David Letterman.
This review is of a digital copy provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley.
Steve Mazan's biggest dream as a child was to become a stand-up comedian. After serving in the Navy for several years and attending college, he was able to begin to pursue a career in comedy in San Francisco. Just after his career started to take off, and months after meeting the girl of his dreams, Mazan received a cancer diagnosis that left him with anywhere from five to fifteen years left to live. His biggest dream had always been to someday bring his jokes to the Late Show, as David Letterman had always been one of Mazan's biggest heroes. With a dedicated team of colleagues, friends and family, Mazan begins his push to achieve his dream.
The ever-present problem with memoirs is that it's always far too easy for memoirs to become overly sentimental or excessively self-important. Perhaps because of his comedy background, Steve Mazan does a very good job of avoiding these problems and striking the right kind of tone in this book. He manages to keep the book humorous and interesting, while also letting the reader remember the very serious condition driving his efforts to appear on the Late Show. I laughed a lot while reading this book (in one sitting!), but it was at times a very sobering read without being depressing.
The writing style of the book was casual and informal but enjoyable to read. I am sure a great deal of this is also due to Mazan's background in comedy, as a career as a comedian probably gave him a good ability to connect to an audience. At 244 pages, it's not a very long read, and Mazan's writing style makes it an easy book to finish in a couple of hours. The pacing was, at times, a little bit irregular, as some periods in time got a lot of attention and some years were covered in only a couple of paragraphs. Also, since the book is a relatively short read, I would have liked to learn a bit more about the friends and family who supported him on his journey to the Late Show... only a select few were featured in the book, and most of them weren't covered extensively.
However, if the only complaint I can come up with is that the book was too short, then I think that's an indication that Mazan wrote a very good book. The short length is also probably because the book tells the same story that was covered in a documentary of the same name; no doubt if I watched the movie, I'd learn a lot of the extra little details that I was wanting to read about.
If you're the sort who likes memoirs full of tear-jerking scenes and
huge personal epiphanies and journeys to Italy and Bali and India, then
this probably isn't the memoir for you... but if you enjoy memoirs that
are lighter and easier to read without being silly and frivolous, then
you'd probably enjoy this.