I have long admired the work of Bill Scheft as the head writer of “The Late Show With David Letterman,” a program I have watch nightly for many years. However, it wasn’t until recently I discovered he was a renowned author, and despite how much I have bragged in previous posts as being a vast appreciator of literature, truth be told I really only take the time to read between five and ten books a year.
But when I saw Scheft promoting his latest book “Everything Hurts” on Letterman recently, it sounded like a story I would grasp onto. And I am always up for discussing topics that make me seem of a higher breed of intellect, so if you have been bothered by my recent outburst of literary prowess, tough luck, fuckers. I’m doing it again.
“Everything Hurts” tells the story of Phil Camp. Phil is divorced and had his plans of a second marriage derailed when his ex-wife called in a bomb scare on the day of his wedding. He is also estranged from his brother, a Rush Limbaughesque Conservative Radio host, who blasts him on-air on an almost daily basis.
Professionally, Phil has a successful newspaper column which he writes under the pen name Marty Fleck. The column came about after the success of his mega-bestselling book “Where Can I Stow My Baggage?,” a self-help parody book that people took seriously, leaving him feeling guilty about his success. In addition to all these problems, Phil has developed a psychosomatic limp and is in constant pain. He seeks out the services of a “real” self-help guru, Dr. Samuel Abrun, and in the process, develops a relationship with the doctors daughter.
“Everything Hurts” is a painfully funny book and a creative evaluation of the human psyche. The greatest gift Scheft seems to have as a writer is making the reader laugh at things that, upon reflection, are actually quite sad. Moments like the wedding bomb scare, or how he anticipates being found dead in his apartment complexes garbage shoot. The thought of the author seems to be that life is excruciating sometimes, and if we can’t laugh through the unpleasantness, it will be a struggle for us to ever get better.
Now I acknowledge having a neurotic writer as a protagonist is hardly an original concept, but when done well, these can be the most entertaining of stories. As a neurotic aspiring writer myself (in this example “aspiring” is used as a synonym for “unsuccessful”) I found this character to be particularly relatable.
That isn’t to say that non-writers won’t feel connected to the material because this isn’t about a writer, it’s about a man struggling with issues such as love, lust, personal and professional struggles and above all pain, of both the physical and mental variety. All these elements make this book all the more real. It’s not just a funny book trying to beat you over the head with a self-important “I’ve got something to say” message. The sadder elements of the book actually go along way towards enhancing the comedy.
If I were to lobby one complaint, it’s that there are sometimes too many characters to keep track of. You meet a lot of people in Phil’s life, some of whom have multiple monikers. It’s hard to care about all the characters because they are sometimes introduced simultaneously and in random bursts, making it hard to keep track of everyone.
There is clearly a lot of personal experience in “Everything Hurts” from author Scheft (who was working through his own limp at the time he was writing this book and eventually had to have hip replacement surgery) and it resonates strongly in the book. It’s a very funny and very relatable story about a man who very badly wants to be happy, but doesn’t seem to know how to make this happen. I have been a longtime fan of Scheft the late night sketch writer, and this proved to be an enjoyable introduction to Scheft the author. I eagerly await to read his previous works in the future.
- Hard to keep track of certain characters
Final Score: 8.0/10 (Great)