Sunday, March 20, 2011

Melinda Hill's "The Accidental Bisexual"


When I received Melinda Hill's The Accidental Bisexual for review, I was completely unfamiliar with her and her work and went in with a clean slate. It didn't take long for me to realize Bisexual isn't a stand up album per se, but instead eight written essays being read aloud by Hill.

Upon inspection of her website, I found a blurb that compared her to David Sedaris, except blonde and sexy.

Humorist/essayist David Sedaris' writing is funny enough on its own; when you listen to him read his works aloud in his own voice, they take on an entirely new level. Not so with Hill. For starters, when she reads out loud, it doesn't sound like the words are coming from her. There isn't a natural flow and - for lack of a better phrase - it sounds like she's reading out loud. She sounds a tad uncomfortable with the material, almost unfamiliar, as if it was written by a complete stranger and she didn't get a chance to skim the pages before stepping out onto the stage. Her tone, cadence, and regimented delivery sounds less like someone relating first-hand stories and more like an emcee at a local fashion show describing what's being worn on the runway.

And then there's the material.

To put it bluntly, I just didn't find it funny. At all. I can count how many times the album made me crack a smile on no hands. Whether she's talking - or more accurately reading - about appearing in a Creed music video, writing about a date that went wrong, another date that went wrong, or another date that went wrong, Hill manages to sift out everything that would be humorous about the situations and then leave those parts in the green room. A few of the essays are followed by a faux Cosmopolitan-style quiz that basically serves to recap the preceding essay. Seriously? You just read this story to me, do I really need a 2-minute re-cap?

After listening to the project I went online and found some clips of Hill performing "actual" stand-up. She was funny and energetic and the audience was obviously having a much better time. Why she decided to forego being funny for reading stories, I don't know.

We've all come across things we wrote when we were younger, papers or short stories or school projects; things that at the time we thought were amazing and our parents assured us were brilliant but in all honesty, were just kind of mediocre. Did Hill find a bunch of old essays in a box in her parents' garage that were written when she was in high school and think they were lost gems?

Whatever the story behind this game change, I find it a little misleading to categorize this album as stand-up comedy. Like David Sedaris' books on tape, this project qualifies more as Spoken Word, so I guess they do have something in common. Except for, you know, the whole "being funny" thing.

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