Picks and Pans Review: Dear Dad

updated 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Louie Anderson

Always with the jokes, this guy.

Dear Dad is the stand-up comic's wrenching attempt, in epistolary form, to understand and reconcile himself to the lingering legacy of his father's alcoholism. It packs an emotional wallop. But in the midst of all the sorrow, Anderson can't help throwing in gibes and wry observations, adding for instance, a bit from his act about how to wrangle peanuts out of flight attendants.

If the tone of Dear Dad is a bit confused, well, it reflects the author's ambiguity toward his father, now almost 10 years in the grave. Anderson was the 10th of 11 children born in St. Paul to a one-time trumpet player who turned to the bottle and a series of blue-collar jobs.

Louie's bitter childhood memories won't go away, such as the time his drunken father passed out behind the wheel of his car during a snowstorm. At the time, he was driving home from a bar to which he had shanghaied his two frightened young sons. Worse were all the instances of physical and verbal abuse heaped on the boys' mother. Yet Anderson still tries to find traces of decency in his father by asking other family members for their recollections, by reading his father's courtship correspondence with his mother and by currycombing his own memory.

In the process Louie tells how he got started in comedy and manages to mention all his professional projects. Despite this bent toward self-promotion, Dear Dad is a touching journey of discovery, one that ends with Anderson sitting by his father's grave and crying in the midst of a blizzard. Attempts at comic relief aside, the book clearly conveys one man's pain, as well as his sad and stubborn love for his father. (Viking, $16.95)

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