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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of You Can't Be Serious by Kal Penn

Penn's thoughtful memoir explores serious issues yet also made me laugh out loud. You Can't Be Serious is both thoughtful and playful, and I loved the audiobook.

I'm generally in for memoirs, and lately I've been drawn to memoirs by funny people.

Kal Penn's smart, fun You Can't Be Serious explores his early struggles to make it in Hollywood as he straddles humorous roles and dramatic opportunities; attempts to deflect racism from casting heads and writers; and digs in to try to be one of what he hopes will be an ever-increasing number of diverse faces on television and movie screens.

He takes the reader through his discovery of his passion for acting, his immigrant parents' practical initial resistance (they urge him, "at least get a real estate license"), the various early road bumps he encountered, and his dogged determination--which was admittedly shaken after landing very few roles, and consistently stereotypical ones at that. He grew weary of the casting question "Can you do an accent?" and grilling about where he was "from," and he wondered if this acting thing would ever work out.

Meeting like-minded creative types interested in both funny writing and reflecting diversity led to opportunities that ultimately changed his career and cemented his acting commitment. But he continued to want to spend a big part of his life in service to others, and he tried to reconcile his two seemingly conflicting paths, wondering if they can ever work together.

Penn pulls his memoir into another gear when he adds the fascinating layer of his accidental political activism that became a passion and, ultimately, a career, one for which he took a sabbatical from his steady acting job at the time, his role on House.

I laughed out loud multiple times; Penn is funny without trying too hard, and his tone is accessible even as he takes the reader deep into worlds most won't have experience with, Hollywood and the White House.

I listened to Penn read You Can't Be Serious as an audiobook.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

For more more MORE memoirs I've loved that you might want to try, check out the Greedy Reading Lists Six Illuminating Memoirs to Dive Into, Six Illuminating Memoirs I've Read This Year, Six More Illuminating Memoirs to Lose Yourself In, Six Foodie Memoirs to Whet Your Appetite, and Six Powerful Memoirs about Facing Mortality. Or simply search "Memoir" in the Bossy search bar on each page of this site.

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