I’ve always thought Chris Elliott was a riot from when he first started doing guest shots as oddball characters on Letterman. I thought the inane Get a Life was at times laugh out loud funny. I even thought Cabin Boy had its moments.
It would seem my taste in humor is not a common one. Get a Life, during its very brief run, ran dead last or close to it in the ratings week after week. If you can find someone who has even heard of Cabin Boy, they’re probably only familiar with it from having seen it on one of those “10 Worst Movies of All Time” lists.
So I guess his career has been something of a dud. I still say he’s a hoot though.
One of the best things about Get a Life was that his character’s father was played by his real life father Bob Elliott, of the Bob and Ray comedy team, and they had a hilarious—to me anyway, though again I’m probably the only one—chemistry, with Chris’s goofiness and Bob’s deadpan disdain for Chris’s goofiness. I also like the fact that Bob remained in a bathrobe all day every day for some reason.
Daddy’s Boy is the literary collaboration of father and son. A humor book, needless to say.
The bulk of the book is by Chris. He writes as a kind of therapy exercise, telling the story of his traumatic childhood, and hoping thereby to exorcise his personal demons.
He is something of a fantasy-prone lad. As he remembers it, Bob Elliott was not just a member of a moderately well-known comedy duo, but the greatest star who has ever lived, dominating film, theater, popular music, and more for decades. He had nine (or ten—there’s some discrepancy with the math) children before Chris, all boys and all named Bob, Jr. The family lived in a mansion in Manhattan that is today the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Bob, at least as Chris tells it, was a thoroughly domineering father, with more than his share of eccentricities, including an obsession with gold-toed socks. As hard as Chris tried, he could never earn his father’s approval.
Among the childhood events that most scarred him was the time he and his father took a transatlantic boat trip and were shipwrecked, an experience that somehow becomes an odd combination of the sinking of the Andrea Doria and the movie The Poseidon Adventure in Chris’s telling.
Allegedly due to the insistence of the publisher’s lawyers, after each chapter Bob is allowed a rebuttal. Actually, though, Bob’s responses rarely even reference anything Chris has written. At most he might quickly dismiss something in the preceding chapter as obvious fantasy, but mostly he just writes his own random nonsense.
Chris writes in an absurd purple prose style, employing metaphors that he extends on and on until he’s lost track of whatever it is he was trying to express. I smiled at that, but frankly almost every time I actually laughed was at something in the short Bob rebuttals.
They’re both weirdos, but something about Bob’s weirdness connected better with me, from his futile efforts to organize a finnan haddie festival in Maine, to his stray musings (e.g., “I never could see any resemblance between Candice Bergen and Charlie McCarthy”), to “The PXG-297 Game” (a road game he invented where players score points by spotting license plates with some of the same letters or numbers as his PXG-297 plates).
Daddy’s Boy is a fun little book, less than 150 pages. It’s not anything great, but if you like what you’ve seen of Bob and/or Chris Elliott on TV or elsewhere, it’s the same kind of dry humor.