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Book Review: Coming Clean by Rodney Carrington with Bret Witter

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Rodney Carrington has been a slow-burning fuse in his career, but his successes have exploded him onto the stand-up comedy scene while allowing him another career as a red-necked country singer specializing in “blue” songs that some consider pornographic. Granted, the man has a warped and strangely wonderful sense of humor that you can’t exactly showcase to anyone.

In fact, many of Rodney’s initial CDs seemed to be sold out of the tool boxes of suspicious-looking pickups. You couldn’t just buy them anywhere. Now they’re everywhere, but they come with warning labels. If you’re sensitive or easily offended, or if you’re giving one as a gift to someone who is sensitive or easily offended, pay attention to the warning labels. Rodney goes where other comedians fear to tread. And you won’t find any angels there.

Still, for all that, he’s a keen observer of humanity and society. In order to be a successful comedian, I think those skills are necessary. You can’t make a joke out of nothing. The best jokes are always those that are based on the truest things in life. Rodney does that. The problem is, he looks at those things the way many of us do but would never comment on. At least not in polite or mixed company.

I had the good fortune to meet Rodney backstage one night back in 1993. His career was just getting started and he had a baby on the way. In addition to doing stand-up comedy, he was hawking shirts to help pay for the baby. I bought one and still have it. One of my older boys was talking about one of Rodney’s CDs and I mentioned that I had met Rodney. Then I told him about the shirt. It was everything I could do to hang onto that shirt. I guess I'm going to have to leave it to someone in my will.

Rodney’s career has blossomed, and he’s deserved every bit of it. There’s no one in the stand-up comedy business who’s worked harder or more diligently to make his career happen. He spent two years in Hollywood starring in a television show based on his stand-up comedy. Of course, he toned down a lot of material he was dealing with to get it past television censors.

Today he’s back on the stand-up comedy circuit and doing well. He’s a fellow Oklahoman and a fellow artist, and I’m right proud of him! I just know I can’t never take him to meet my momma. Because she’d wash out my mouth and Rodney’s with soap and maybe tan our behinds. I know Rodney would understand.

His new book, Coming Clean, written with Bret Witter, just came out on the stands. Rodney, as genuine and giving as a man can be, admits that he had nothing to do with the book and that the writer did all the work. Of course, the book is based on the stage material that Rodney presents routinely. But that’s the kind of guy Rodney is.

At times while reading the book, I felt certain that it should have come in a brown paper wrapper. And it’s not gonna be a book I’ll leave lying around so my momma can find it. I’m not sure I want my wife to know I own it.

And you can’t read this book in public despite the disarming and somewhat cute cover of Rodney in the bathtub with the little rubber ducky. It will make you laugh out loud, snort Coke through your nose, and make you a Depends candidate way before your time. People will ask you what you’re reading. Then you’ll be in trouble. If you try to tell them and they’re easily offended, you’re going to get slapped or stomped on. If you show them, they may confiscate the book and burn it at the next Moral Majority weenie roast.

Just as bad, they may take your book so they don’t have to be seen buying a copy of their own. Because if you’re going to own a Rodney Carrington book, you’re going to have to man up at the bookstore and reveal part of that twisted nature that you’ve been hiding from everybody.

The book is a delight to read. Witter has captured much of Rodney’s speech patterns and sense of timing. It reads like episodic on-stage performances captured on the page. Not only that, the chapters are really short, so you can read it while on the go, in the truck while nobody’s looking, or while taking your morning constitutional. (And Rodney’s had some words to say about that, too.)

You just can’t get passages like you’re going to find in this book anywhere else in the world. Take Rodney’s bit on guys telling hunting stories, for instance:

Killed a deer this weekend. He snuck up on me, I couldn’t get to my gun, so I beat him with a stick. Rode him three miles, chased him another two, finally broke his antler off and stabbed him through the heart with it three times.

But along with the laughs, Rodney also pours out some heartfelt truth about how he learned things. Such as his brief tour as an Amway representative, how he got into stand-up comedy by lying about how much material he had, the seduction of erotic dance clubs while he was miles from home, and being broke — a lot.

Rodney is genuine and warm and truthful. This book is a lot like that. But, when he’s got his game on, he takes no prisoners and you can’t have him in mixed company or over to your momma’s house. Pick up the book, though, and have a laugh on Rodney – while nobody’s looking.

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About Mel Odom

  • Sarah

    I like it. Very thorough.