Book Review: How I Slept My Way to the Middle by Kevin Pollak

I probably first took notice of Kevin Pollak when he played one of two brownies in the Ron Howard directed fantasy comedy WILLOW, opposite Rick Overton.

I have since stayed a fan and tend to enjoy everyone of his performances.

Despite being a “character” actor he’s avoided the “that guy” stigma. His other career as a stand-up and impressionist are part of the reason for that, but the fact that he’s completely versatile owes to it to. He can somehow be both cute, nebbish and non-threatening as he is at being menacing, hyper-intelligent, unlikable and a jerk, sometimes at the same time even.

I got to enjoy him as a stand-up luckily early on in the late 80’s, as we had cable along with HBO and by 10 my folks let me watch things that weren’t for kids. This probably screwed me over mentally but I’m here to talk about Kevin Pollak, not myself.
Although as I read his autobiographical memoir “How I Slept My Way to the Middle” (available November 6, 2012 from Lyons Press) I could not help to see parallels from his discovering himself as a performer at a young age and my own experiences. While they were very different in many ways, his slow rise through hard work and determination makes me wonder where I’d been by 30 if unlike Kevin I didn’t let my setbacks cause me to give up for a long time before climbing again.

Kevin never gave up though. He was tenacious with making a firm edge in becoming both a successful actor and comedian as well as now an excellent memoir writer or in the very least chronicler/collaborator for co-writer Alan Goldsher.

Starting in introduction with a hilarious anecdote about acquring his role in CASINO, the book quickly leaps into a chronological first person prose of Kevin’s upbringing, discovery of comedy and development as a performer. Interceded in the middle of stories and at the end of chapters are “words” from other well known people who have worked with, for, against, aside or just have been in the same room as Kevin. One of the funniest ones has to be Matthew Perry’s, although James Roday’s anecdote is pretty hilarious as well. There are also “A Few Good Words from Kevin’s Mom”, which may not actually been from his mom, but who knows. Many of the stories also have a post-script, in some cases a pre-script which actually is at the end of the story, but is still a reflection of a detail left out.

All together it fits as a 200+ page comedy special, which might be like a 4 hour show if performed. Maybe more, maybe less. Mostly funny, sometimes stupid, occasionally tragic. Kevin didn’t always have it easy, he had relationship problems, financial problems, and confidence problems. He’s very mellow in one breath and a sarcastic egomaniac in the next. A man who think he’s accomplished nothing and is extremely humble about his career, then a braggart who thinks no one else could achieve what he has. This personality has probably kept him as a commodity, but away from that breakout role that made him a household name. Not that he isn’t a household name, his name is known, but he definitely teeters on that strange balance between star and “that guy who was in that thing” on a regular basis. He seems comfortable with this too, as much as he hates it, he’s embraced… as much as one can.

What’s fascinating about the memoir is that it actually does go all the way up to the point of the publication, covering the bases of him getting into internet and the creation of Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show and it’s very exciting success. In a time when many stories of celebs (autobio and biog) stop at pinnacles of success 10-15 years before the actual writing of the book, this makes this one just that much better.

(Also, it has photos throughout, black & white yes, but published in context instead of just an insert in the middle)

{This review is based on Advanced Reading Copy}

As an addition to this review, here’s once again (it was embedded in a Book Expo overview) a video I filmed of Kevin promoting the book using his Christopher Walken impression:

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