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Rejected: Tales of the Failed, Dumped and Canceled by John Friedman

October 7, 2009


John Friedman runs a show in New York called The Rejection Show, which celebrates the all-too-common experience of not succeeding. This book is a collection of some material from that show, various writers, comedians, actors and cartoonists reflecting on their favorite rejections.

Overall, the material in all over the place. Some of it, honestly, should have been rejected. Other pieces have moments of laugh-out-loud humor. Neil Pollack’s short story, “Brother Elk,” is a pretty solid short story. And both the collection of rejected headlines from The Onion and rejected jokes from Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” both have some hilarious lines. But in general, the bigger the bomb, the better the comedy. And that goes to Kevin McDonald’s recounting of a show his comedy troupe did at El Macombo rock club. It ends with the audience hurling homophobic insults (their act followed a gay men’s choir) and two of the performers getting into a fistfight on stage.

I recently heard an interview with John Friedman, and perhaps better than anything in this book were some of his insights on what it means to fail and, in this case, what it means to celebrate failure. By looking at his failures as something to be collected, as positives in that regard, he gave himself the freedom he needed to really take some creative risks.

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