Chris Gethard, who spent years at UCB and is currently developing a show at IFC, is undeniably funny, and while his memoir A Bad Idea I’m About To Do is funny as well, that’s not what sets it apart from other books about living with bipolar illness. The book isn’t all about bipolar, per se, although his struggles with it are the underlying cause of many of his misadventures and the poor choices alluded to in the book’s title.
What makes the book worthwhile is how Gethard is both funny and unflinchingly sincere and honest; he’s never afraid to look stupid or ugly when describing himself, but more importantly, he’s also fearlessly genuine and vulnerable in how describes his feelings towards other people. He got a lot of deserved, positive attention a few months ago for his response to a suicidal fan, and a lot of his book takes a similar, heartfelt tone. Yet, overall, the book still manages to be hilarious.
A Bad Thing is also noteworthy for describing bipolar from a man’s point of view, since most people who suffer from it, and certainly most who write about it, are women. If you’ve read any of those other memoirs by women, you know that mania often exposes the authors to scary, life-threatening situations that make for distressing recollections. Gethard pulls his share of scary, manic stunts, but since most of it involves fun stuff, like late night car chases and amateur wrestling, and non-yikes stuff, like going out to a bar half-naked and deciding to marry the first guy you meet even though he’s a huge Nazi, it’s much less unsettling.
Because of that, he could’ve gotten away with writing a book that was all jokes n’fun, but he was smart and skilled enough to keep the narrative grounded with very real moments of sadness and fear. That choice makes it both more realistic as a memoir and a portrayal of bipolar, since the illness isn’t just about mania, but depression, as well. It also makes it a worthy read overall.