Perhaps best known now for her work on Chelsea Lately and After Lately, writer, comedian, mother of three Heather McDonald knows what sells books. She makes sure to load every rift of her latest, My Inappropriate Life*: *Some Material Not Suitable for Children, Nuns, or Mature Adults, with references to and anecdotes about Chelsea and her merry band. And no question she’s doing the right thing, while McDonald has her own slice of fame, it is Chelsea that has the pizza.
Stories about a prospective weekend partying with the star that turns into a dinner of cooling Chinese take-out and being left behind when Chelsea and some of the rest of the cast go cruising on a yacht while in Australia are more than likely to please fans. And the one about someone on the show hiding an anatomically correct rubber replica of the female genital in a bag of swag McDonald was contributing to a silent auction for her child’s Catholic school is solid gold. Hardly a page goes by without some mention of Chelsea or Chuy or Jen Kirkman or Fortune Feimster or Sar… well, you get the idea. This is not a knock on the book or McDonald: edit it out and she’d have a lot of disappointed readers. Throw in a few mentions of Jennifer Anniston, the Kardashians, and the Wayans Brothers and what more could anyone ask?
But there is more. Chelsea may be the star, but here she’s just product placement. The star of McDonald’s inappropriate life turns out to be McDonald. And it is the self-deprecating stories about her own life, her family, her friends, and even a former friend or two that makes up the bulk of the book. Rather than a coherent whole, the book is a series of anecdotes. It works because McDonald knows how to tell a story. Her oldest son Drake insists she tell him a new story every night at bed time, and it’s easy to see why. Mom tells a good story. Whether it’s the one about the family visit to Wild World or the night on the town with some new lady friends, she is always entertaining. The anecdotes read like extensions of the kinds of stories she could feature in her stand-up act.
Did you hear the one about the woman who kept a stuffed monkey in a child’s car seat so she could drive in the commuter lane? Or the one about the woman who took her kids to the raunchy pool party at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel? Or the one about the woman asked to donate one of her eggs to her sister? I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the anecdotes in the book hadn’t been tested in some form on stage one night when she opened for Chelsea.
McDonald has the brash, no-holds-barred style of the stand-up comic. Everything is fair game, especially pretentiousness and smarmy self-righteousness. It is the mother who is always talking about how much smarter her kid is, the mother who objects to drinking at a weekend pool party, the mother who flaunts herself and flirts with every man she bumps into—these she gleefully skewers. She will make fun of her husband, but it is gentle, good-natured fun. He’s cheap. He snores. He is officious at times. She will make fun of her own foibles. As often as not, she makes herself the butt of her story. We hear about her drinking. We hear about her Spanks. We hear about her attempts to get her youngest into Catholic school. She laughs at herself, and so do we.
Perhaps, however, not quite as often as I would have expected. You see the woman on television and she’s a riot. You expect the same in her book. While there are laughs in My Inappropriate Life, they are rarely riotous. This is not a book I would call hilarious, and hilarious is what I expected. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a good bedtime story, one with a little genial humor, one that’s a little naughty, but nice—Heather McDonald has the recipe.