Eddie Sarfaty's Mental -- Funny in the Head -- and Everywhere Else

08/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Eddie Sarfaty makes me cry. He also makes his grandmother cry.

To be fair, my tears were caused by hilarity. Grandma cries because she's unhappy for Eddie that he's gay until she reads the classic Now That You Know, which Eddie cynically refers to as Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Homosexuality but Were Afraid to Hear. Two weeks later they have the following exchange:

"Hey, Granny, did you read that book?"
The crochet hook stops, she looks up and says point-blank, "Yes, and it's disgusting!"
My heart sinks and my guard goes up. "Disgusting?"
"Yes, it's disgusting! It says that some of the parents don't love their children anymore."

Eddie's grandma makes him cry, too.

Eddie Sarfaty is a gay stand-up comedian. Stand-up is not my favorite art form. This is not to say that I don't think it's funny. It is, but it's also tragic and angry and painful. Eddie is no stranger to tragedy, anger or pain. He knows this.

"Let's be clear: if a guy's witty, he's got a Samsonite filled with issues. And if he's a laugh riot, he's got a steamer trunk with decals of where he's been -- depression, suicide, addiction. Humor doesn't just come with baggage; it's the matching cosmetics case that completes the set."

His tale of accompanying his parents on their long-postponed second honeymoon to Paris and London made me laugh so hard, I cried again. His father has Pick's Disease. Often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's, it has components of Lou Gehrig's disease and Parkinson's. He writes, "It's kind of like winning the neurological trifecta." Hilarity. Tears. Eddie's mother puts him in charge of the itinerary.

Here they are at Versailles:

"We enter the famous Hall of Mirrors -- a spectacular room that's a nightmare for anyone insecure about their appearance. Who can fully appreciate the intricate carving and gilded bronze when everyone can see your cold sore, bald spot, and fat ass all at the same time?"

In the Louvre, Eddie's seen so many paintings that "the art is going in one eye and out the other."

Eddie takes us on a quick tour of the London theater scene, his first comedy teaching assignment -- Comedy Boot Camp, and his employment as the assistant manager at the exclusive Eton Club.

His long-term relationship with Doug the Cheapskate had my sweetie and me howling on the sofa as I excerpted bits to read aloud. I particularly enjoyed this: "When his mother inquired about his new roommate, Doug told her I was a woman named Heloise -- which I supposed was to give her a hint about our household." This is the kind of witty writing we can expect from Eddie Sarfaty.

As he's ending the relationship, Eddie writes, "[S]ometimes you need to get kicked in the heart as well as in the head." Haven't we all been there, done that?

As our hero describes his first foray into Internet dating, his escapades on dissolved me. An intrepid sexual Livingstone, he exposes the underbelly of cyber-hook-ups and laughs so well at himself that we do not feel like voyeurs, but sympathetic friends listening to a most human story.

Eddie Sarfaty owns his identity as a cultural Jew. Of spirituality -- my mainstay -- he writes, "I'm not particularly 'spiritual' either; I'm not even sure what that overused word means." (Me either, sometimes.) "Apparently it's got something to do with honoring trees, playing Peruvian panpipes, and assigning excessive profundity to tattoos written in Asian characters. Also, a lot of 'spiritual' folks like to point to coincidences to prove the existence of a higher power."

He's right, on all counts, except there's a glaring omission. Eddie forgot to include the delicious frailty of the human condition in real spirituality. There's a good reason he forgot. He's so woven into that terrifyingly wonderful condition, his observations are so spot-on, and his rendering of them so poignant, that he doesn't even know how spiritual that makes him.

I don't need Eddie Sarfaty to identify as spiritual, but I do need to tell you that I agree whole-heartedly with one of the authors who supplied advance praise for Mental, Michael Thomas Ford. The author of Last Summer, he wrote, "Anyone who reads this book and doesn't fall in love with Eddie Sarfaty is an idiot."

I'm with you Michael. I'm in love.

Eddie Sarfaty is an insightful, deeply spiritual -- try this: "the dark side of funny makes life bearable -- comedic genius. I think it should be required reading for everyone who voted for Prop 8 in California.

Gay humor? Sure. And much more. Human humor. Do we need it.

P. S. Eddie, I totally get it about the spinning jenny.

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