Book Review: Thanks for the Money by Joel McHale

Actor Joel McHale wants the title of his memoir/self-help book/joke volcano to be a joking gesture of gratitude. With how few laughs this book has, I took the title as a warning.

Thanks For the Money is a deliberately comedic fleecing from the big-ego persona of McHale. Thanks is a tongue-in-cheek journey through a ex-athlete comedian’s life. I would have no problem with the concept of reading the writings of someone playing a self-absorbed version of himself. What I do take issue with is that Money is obviously ghostwritten. McHale’s blatant acknowledging the ghostwriters doesn’t make it funny, either. McHale’s narrative voice spouts a ton of pop-culture references; I suspect McHale’s actual comedic shtick wasn’t formed by watching The Simpsons or absorbing TV and movie trivia. After reading McHale’s biographies, either the facetious one in the book or the real one by piecing together Wikipedia articles and interviews, that smart-aleck guy in the book doesn’t seem plausible.

If one looks hard enough, there are glimpses of the real McHale. A man who overcame the horrors of being a middle sibling, a knife incident, being a non-entity on the Washington Huskies football team, losing two jobs simultaneously early in his career, dyslexia, follicular troubles, and Chevy Chase (an episode with the Church of Scientology may or may not have been the basis of a humorous action set piece; Scientology is an easy target). No mentions of some acting jobs past (IT Crowd remake) or future (The Great Indoors).

While it’s disappointing knowing Chase is an ogre, he was part of one of my favorite Joel McHale moments. It was an episode of Community where McHale’s character is dealing with… some issue with his father. Winger and Chase’s character chat and bond with each other; that moment was when I realized that beneath the smarmy charm, McHale could be a good dramatic actor.

Note that I’m recalling that episode from memory and am refusing to get bogged down in researching so I can get this review out. I’ll admit my memory may be mussed; I’ve moved on from expecting a movie from Dan Harmon’s six-season ensemble.

There are a few humorous moments. McHale’s tales of the E! channel and its recently-cancelled show he hosted, The Soup are amusing. I chuckled at some of the puns (yeah, yeah, I’m a sucker for wordplay…) sprinkled throughout. Sparse moments of mirth doesn’t make for a good 250+ page book. I would’ve preferred if Joel McHale made the premise into a special on Comedy Central or HBO. A TV special would be a more fitting platform for the funnyman known for presenting snark and being Ryan Seacrest’s doppelganger.

Rating: ** out of *****

NEXT: a South African dreams of filling some Jersey guy’s shoes.

Author: Clarence

I like to read books. Do you?