Adam Resnick’s fingerprints are on some of the most cultishly adored film and TV of the last couple of decades, from Late Night With David Letterman and The Larry Sanders Show to Get A Life and Cabin Boy—he directed and co-wrote the latter with his longtime collaborator Chris Elliott. Resnick’s goofy, smart résumé doesn’t necessarily point to the deeply misanthropic vein that runs through his soul, though that’s on full display in Will Not Attend: Lively Stories Of Detachment And Isolation, his dark, hilarious first book.
Comprising 15 personal stories that cover everything from his childhood to fatherhood to a run-in with a fast-food corporation over a razor blade, Will Not Attend acts like a herky-jerky memoir, but notably skips Resnick’s professional life almost completely. And that’s fine—preferable, even—because his stories and pained inner monologues don’t need celebrity status to be touching and funny: Resnick is a guy thoroughly uncomfortable in his own skin, and he knows how to wring laughs and pathos out of that fact.
In the first entry, “An Easter Story,” a childhood romance is cut short by the discovery of a horrifying photo possessed by his young crush’s father. Later, all grown up, Resnick decides to let Scientologists in the subway audit him—maybe he’s taking the piss, and maybe he’s searching for something. In many stories, Resnick’s constantly fuming father, Merv, looms large. In “The Panther,” he’s something of a hero, threatening Adam’s teacher; in “The Lion In Winter” he tells Adam matter-of-factly that if Adam’s mother dies before he does, “I’ll blow my head off,” a statement followed closely by “no fucking funeral and no Jews.”
If that all sounds a little morbid, it can be, but Resnick delivers his sad little histories with such wit, insight, and hilarious detail (“He was practically a dead ringer for Jerry Lewis, and his every waking moment was the nineteenth hour of the telethon”) that they never come across as pitiable. He doesn’t want pity—like kindred spirits Louis C.K. and Larry David, he just wants the rest of the world to see how stupid it all is.