Back in the beginning of 2013, I rented a movie from Netflix called American Loser. I knew very little about it beyond the fact it was based on the memoirs of comedian Jeff Nichols. The film starred Seann William Scott (who played the titular Nichols) and it is basically about the troubles Nichols has growing up with learning disabilities and just trying to have his life together. A big part of the appeal was the stand-up element. For those readers who were unaware, for 15 years I was a comedian performing on stages, clubs and colleges all over the Midwest. (I “retired” from it after I could no longer deal with other comedians’ egos and the fact that I grew tired of headlining places and not even getting enough money to cover to fill up my gas tank in my car—or, even worse, promoters trying to pay you in “experience.”)
The film wasn’t anything that really commanded attention or stood out in the sea of films readily available on all mediums. It has a simple enough story and there were some funny moments here and there but it wasn’t something that blew me away. I watched, gave a 3 out of 5 score and moved on.
Just recently, I got an email from Jeff Nichols himself. While my blog may not get a lot of traffic, I do occasionally get a star or a creator from a film I review get in touch with me. Sometimes it’s cool because I gave the feature a good review and they thank me and sometimes it can be ugly and they are mad at me and send me threatening emails. Since I review a lot of movies, I had a bit of a panic attack when I saw what movie Jeff was talking about because I couldn’t remember the score I gave it or what I said in the review. Rarely am I ever outright mean in my reviews but there have been times in the past where a joke I’ve made might have been taken as an insult.
Thankfully, Jeff wasn’t emailing me to tell me that my opinion on American Loser was “wrong” but rather he thanked me for the review and mentioned he wrote a book about the ordeal of that film getting optioned and produced. He asked me if I wanted a copy and I immediately answered back with an affirmative. The film may have slipped into obscurity but, from the sounds of Jeff’s book, there seems to be an immense wealth of interesting stories to be told. That’s exactly what My Life (Direct to DVD) offers up: Fascinating stories. Sure, sometimes it is gut-wrenching to hear about the struggles and torments Jeff went through as he attempted to get his book published and how it was optioned and made into a film (the movie itself is loosely based on his autobiographical book titled The Little Yellow Bus) but other times they are amusing and out-right inspiring as you see the lengths he goes to not give up on publishing his dream.
On the negative side, the book definitely has some issues. Jeff is clearly a storyteller and clearly not an editor because this book is littered with spelling errors and punctuation mistakes. This is actually a regular problem for him and one of the many hurdles he faced while trying to get The Little Yellow Bus published. Literary agents and nearly every publisher he sent his manuscript too would toss the work out and, one of the things they would cite, is the grammatical issues and spelling errors.
Occasionally, this is a problem in the book and can be distracting. Sentences sometimes can be confusing but, honestly, most of the time this isn’t that big of a problem. Nobody is perfect and this is a self-published book that didn’t have the advantage of a professional editor; it wasn’t hard to gleam what Nichols was getting at in the times where the punctuation and spelling weren’t perfect. Hell, there are plenty of times that I’ve missed my own mistakes here on The Robot’s Pajamas and on my blog and didn’t catch them till after the piece was published.
The last issue I had with the book is the fact the ending feels a tad abrupt. That’s not me saying the ending of the book is bad—no, in fact, Nichols’ stories are very entertaining and the ending left me wanting to hear more—but after all the hardships and headaches the man went through everything starts to turn around and things begin to look up and, as it hits that book, the story ends. It’s still a very natural conclusion to what Nichols is presenting in the book but a part of me really though there would be more coming.
Ultimately, my favorite part of My Life (Direct to DVD) is the conversational feel and tone it contains. The narrative isn’t stuffy or perfectly polished and that’s what works about it. The whole time I was reading it, I felt like I was listening to Jeff speak directly to me. The whole thing felt laid back and laid back in a good way. It was like I was having a casual lunch with him or hitting up happy hour for some after work beers and listening to him tell me about how he struggled to get his memoirs published and the ensuing shock and headaches that came when the book was optioned and made into a movie with Stifler from American Pie. Combine that with Nichols’ genuine honesty (sometimes shockingly so) about his past and often less-than-flattering moments in his life and it made for a book that centered on a sympathetic man and a very intriguing ordeal.
We here at The Robot’s Pajamas are insatiable consumers of pop culture. We love to experience, ingest, digest and disgust all things movies, shows, literature and whatever is popular in our reality. We know our readers are also that too but another thing that comes being obsessed with pop culture is a desire to create and add to it. Nichola has done his share of work in the comic industry and I used to be a comedian and work in the world of radio. For anyone who has a desire to create or has created and wants to see their dream creation set upon the world for all to see My Life (Direct to DVD): How to Sell Your Self-Published Book to Hollywood and Other Disaster Stories is something to consider checking out. You don’t even have to identify yourself as a writer because the ordeal that Nichols goes through is easily relatable and pretty amusing at time. Imagine the horror you’d go through if you sent your book to what you thought was a Hollywood hotshot only to discover that the person you are speaking with is just an intern? Yeah, that’s just part of the headaches Nichols went through and the entire thing serves as a fun life lesson in the madness that is the pursuit of one’s dreams.
Rev. Ron is a guy who is absolutely struggling to balance work, a social life, and his writing now that Pokémon Go exists. Aside from contributing to this site, the good Reverend also writes movie reviews on his blog at RevRonMovies.BlogSpot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@RevRonster) where he is talking about the Ghostbusters reboot a lot and what Pokémon he is trying to catch. Thanks!