Friday, July 16, 2010

Me of Little Faith

In Me of Little Faith, comedian and social critic Lewis Black searches for humor in organized religion – and he finds plenty. Black is an equal opportunity offender and by the end of the book he has given the reader his take on every major religion in the world – although he treads lightly when it comes to Islam.

In the tiny piece titled “Islam. All I’m saying is, I got nothing to say,” he states “I’ll get back to you later, when things have settled down.” He does follow this short piece with one called “When Bobby Goes Boom,” in which he skewers “religious suicide bombers” and another called “The Suicide Bomber’s Prayer” that is written in the voice of a Muslim bomber (although Black jokingly substitutes “Holy One” for “Allah”), but Black’s refusal to treat Islam in the same brash manner he treats every other religion weakens the impact of the book – and seems out of character for someone like Lewis Black who has an image of not fearing any backlash his comedy might create.

Black has particular fun with the multi-millionaire televangelists out there that still manage to scam their way to riches. He revisits the heydays of Jim and Tammy Baker, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart and others, and finds much humor in the personal failings and absurdities of each of them. Swaggart is obviously Black’s pick of the litter (he admits to having been fascinated by the man’s television shows), and he devotes several pages to explaining the great success of the ministry (basically, “he’s used-car salesman sexy”).

One of the funniest parts of the book is Black’s take on athletes who use entire post-game interviews to thank Jesus for their success on the playing field. He wonders why, if God gets all the credit for carrying the successful athlete, the day’s losers don’t say something like, “Yeah, we were in the game…until Jesus made me fumble. He hates our team. Jesus hates us.” You know, I’ve often wondered the same thing.

Me of Little Faith is really about Lewis Black, how he was raised as a non-practicing Jew, what religious experiences he has had over the years, and what he believes today. It is a comic-biography, if you will, and it is sharp and funny in places, but a bit uneven. Black made the mistake of ending the book with a 38-page play he co-wrote in 1981, a play that he admits was largely panned by the critics who bothered to see it. He did not understand then why it was not more of a success and he still doesn’t seem to get it. Simply put, it is not funny – and its inclusion in Me of Little Faith is a mistake, especially so near the very end of the book where it seems to drag down all the really funny stuff that preceded it.

Rated at: 2.5


  1. Wow!
    Despite your lacklustre [overall] rating of the book [and I appreciate all you have to say] it certainly sounds like a book I would like to thumb through at the store, at the very least.
    As a former incredibly-severely-fundamentalist believer myself [now a non-believer] I find the entire subject matter of interest.
    Based on your review, I would never ever buy the book -- yet the topic, as I say, intrigues me.
    Then again, I was browsing through a book written by Borat the other day -- I was in the store -- and I was laughing so hard I was crying.... I kind of like real sick, bad, humor.

  2. Cip, I have to explain what soured me on the book, two things really. First, the way that Black handled Islam with kid gloves after trashing every other religion and, second, the horribly boring play that took up such a large portion of this relatively short book. That thing is NOT funny...could have been written by two high school sophomores for the amount of insight and humor it contained.

    But the book had its moments, as I said...laughed at lots of things he said.