Laugh riot

Ellen cracks us up, on stage or page

……………

4 out of 5 stars
SERIOUSLY… I’M KIDDING
by Ellen DeGeneres
(Grand Central Publishing, 2011). $27; 241 pp.

…………….

Sometimes it’s hard not to laugh. When your 4-year-old says something hilariously profound, you bite your lip, knowing that you’d be in trouble if you bust a gut.  If your beloved does something silly but well-meaning, you twist your lips to avoid the outburst you know is coming. When your great-aunt shows up at holiday dinner dressed like that, you know there’d better not be even one “Ha!” to escape your lips.

Yep, sometimes it’s hard not to laugh — but you’ll want to when you read this book. “As it turns out, writing a book is hard,” Ellen DeGeneres says.

This is her third book, each one sharing the ellipses-in-the-title feature. She didn’t think writing it would be difficult because, after all, she has a lot to say every day for at least an hour. There’s a lot of talking on a talk show, you know.

There’s a lot of listening, too, and daydreaming is not allowed. DeGeneres listens to many famous people — one of her favorites is her wife, Portia de Rossi, who is “beautiful and one of the nicest people [she has] ever met.” No, she tells nosy people, they aren’t planning on having a family because “there is far too much glass” in their house. Besides, first you have to give birth.

“I won’t go into specifics,” says DeGeneres, “but ouch and no thank you.”

In case you’re thinking that this book is all fluff, you’ll also find useful advice in its pages. DeGeneres gives readers hints on being a supermodel and how to know what clothes will come back in fashion. She writes about polls and why people shouldn’t put too much faith in them. She offers several ways to gamble in Las Vegas, gives kudos to funny women who’ve paved the way for people like her.

But will you find laughs? Yes … but.

Seriously… I’m Kidding is like having a 241-page monologue in your lap. DeGeneres’ wicked wit beams bright from almost each page. But there are times when she dives below silliness. An entire page devoted to sound effects? Four pages of drawings for your child to color? Jokes like these and a few go-nowhere “short stories” may leave readers scratching their heads.

But if you’re a fan of DeGeneres’ talk show or standup, you’ll find a treasure-trove of classic humor that you won’t want to be without. For you, Seriously… I’m Kidding will be a hard book to miss. And we’re not kidding.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain,’ by Portia de Rossi

Atria Books (2010), $26, 308 pp.

There’s a fine line between “want” and “need.” When you were a kid, you didn’t need another cookie, or that creamy glass with holiday garnish. And definitely, you didn’t need the calories. But oh, you wanted them.

So imagine denying yourself those and almost all other foods. Imagine living on 300 calories a day. Then read Unbearable Lightness, Portia de Rossi’s remarkable memoir.

Amanda Rogers was a smart kid who aspired to become a lawyer in her native Australia, until the modeling bug bit her and she quickly decided that the runway was the way to run. She convinced her mother to drive her to an interview, and she convinced executives that, at age 12, she could handle the world of high fashion. Though she felt uncomfortable and self-conscious about perceived body flaws, she persevered, changing her name to Portia de Rossi.

Later, when given the chance to be in a movie, de Rossi was surprised that she loved acting, though she wasn’t confident about her beauty. She thought her face was too round, her cheeks too fat, her thighs too chubby. Her weight yo-yoed. Wardrobe tailors on the Ally McBeal set were kept busy with alterations. De Rossi was mortified.

But that wasn’t her only source of personal loathing. She had always known that she was gay, but it wasn’t discussed. She married, but the union ended when he learned the truth at couple’s therapy. Co-workers weren’t told because de Rossi feared for her job. She denied her feelings and lived in terror of being outed.

Embarking on a nutritionist-recommended low-calorie diet didn’t quell the diet demon in de Rossi’s mind, so she went on a program all her own.

She meticulously weighed each ounce of food, fretted over “hidden calories,” and obsessively avoided anything that might add to her daily intake.

On the day she hit 82 pounds, she said that celebration was in order but, “first I had to silence the drill sergeant that reminded me of that extra inch of fat. First I had to get rid of that.”

As with many memoirs like Unbearable Lightness, I had two very dissimilar feelings while reading it. First, this book reeks with pain. De Rossi is very clear about the bruising thoughts and negativity that she felt in hiding so many personal aspects of her life, and though this book has a make-you-grin, wonderfully happy ending, getting there hurts.

Second, it hurts to read not just because of the pain de Rossi relays, but because it can be slow. In the end, de Rossi’s pantry held a paltry handful of items, for instance, and that fact was hammered home in many ways, many times.

Still, if you’ve ever lived too long with a secret that ate you alive, read this. You won’t just want Unbearable Lightness, you need it.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

De Rossi to become DeGeneres

Several weeks ago, I did a story on same sex couples who change their names. Ellen and Portia must have been reading.

This week, Portia de Rossi announced that she filed to legally have her name changed to Portia Lee James DeGeneres. This won’t be her first name change. The actress was born Amanda Lee Rogers. De Rossi met partner Ellen DeGeneres in 2004.

—  David Taffet

Ellen and Portia give their first official interview today on Oprah

Together at last.
Together at last.

I dunno why it’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year since Ellen DeGeneres married actress Portia de Rossi. It’s even  harder to believe they haven’t been interviewed together since then. Perhaps red carpet interviews don’t count. Today, the power lesbian couple talk about married life and more on a very special episode of Oprah.

Oprah airs on WFAA channel 8 at 4 p.m. and rebroadcasts on KFWD channel 52 at 8 p.m. Now if anyone can TiVo this for me, that would be great.

—  Rich Lopez