I Drink For A Reason

David Cross
  • Review
By – September 16, 2011

Fans of David Cross’ stand-up com­e­dy won’t be dis­ap­point­ed by his new book, I Drink for a Rea­son. Much of the book is writ­ten in the per­sona that Cross assumes onstage: per­son­al, rant­i­ng, pro­fane, polit­i­cal, often antag­o­nis­tic and hyper­bol­ic, and enlivened with an engag­ing and imag­i­na­tive silli­ness. The book com­pris­es dozens of short chap­ters, most rough­ly five pages long. Some of them read like stand-up rou­tines set on the page; oth­ers are elab­o­ra­tions on mate­r­i­al that has earned Cross his rep­u­ta­tion as a fear­less polemi­cist. Many are essen­tial­ly con­cerned with lan­guage, mark­ing Cross as a poten­tial heir to George Car­lin, the lan­guage-obsessed and con­sis­tent­ly hilar­i­ous lapsed Catholic comedian. 

Cross explains that he was raised Jew­ish and now con­sid­ers him­self an athe­ist. He fits into that cat­e­go­ry of athe­ist Jews whose Jew­ish­ness informs their out­look with­out touch­ing their ethics or spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. The basic polemic pos­ture Cross strikes — the sar­don­ic crit­ic attack­ing estab­lished assump­tions and pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tions with sar­cas­tic and impas­sioned com­men­tary — sounds rec­og­niz­ably Jew­ish. Orga­nized reli­gion is among Cross’ favorite tar­gets and, since he would iden­ti­fy him­self as (at most) cul­tur­al­ly Jew­ish, orga­nized Judaism and its adher­ents come under the ham­mer fre­quent­ly in I Drink for a Rea­son. Cross’ self-crit­i­cism, which he points out is not self-loathing, is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the opin­ion­at­ed sec­u­lar moder­ni­ty that Judaism’s tra­di­tion of argu­ment has helped cre­ate. This may be the ulti­mate Jew­ish joke: After every­thing we’ve done to shape this free and mod­ern world, this is the thanks we get?

Joshua Daniel Edwin was born into a fam­i­ly of incur­ably com­pul­sive read­ers in Bal­ti­more, MD. He now lives in Brook­lyn, and is a stu­dent in Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty’s MFA pro­gram in Cre­ative Writing.

Discussion Questions