My first memory of seeing Ali Wentworth was when she was a regular on the Fox series IN LIVING COLOR. Since then, Ali has gone on to appear on shows such as Seinfeld, The Tonight Show and Oprah, as well as the films Jerry Maguire, Office Space and It's Complicated.
Ali has lived quite a colorful life. She was born and raised in Washington, D.C., but after college she moved to L.A. to pursue her acting career. Later, she moved back to D.C. and eventually ended up in New York with her husband, George Stephanopoulos and 2 daughters.
Ali In Wonderland is part memoir, part essay collection and all funny. Written in groups of related topics, these stories reveal much about Ali's early years, living among the political world of our nation's capitol. I loved the style of writing and often felt as if she were speaking directly to me. She made me feel like it was a personal "girl's night" gossip session, where she revealed parts of her life reserved for very special friends.
One of my favorite stories was about an attempt to hand deliver a thank you gift to Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, after attending a Christmas party at his home. I will not spoil it by giving it all away here, but it is quite humorous.
Ali said her mother taught her to always be gracious and send thank-yous. She proved she still follows that rule today, as when I posted on Twitter I was preparing this review, she responded by asking if she "should I send brownies?". (I promise my review was all thought out before the offer).
This was a very fast read for me and I found myself wishing it were longer. Maybe Ali will write a follow-up some day, telling tales of raising her daughters and more of her marriage to George. I am sure she has many more tales to tell.
I don't know what it is about Ali Wentworth I like so much-that she is clever, off the cuff, self-deprecating and hilarious? The facial expressions? The no-holds barred, ok, I'll try that kind of attitude, that gets her into "Lucy" kind of predicaments or what, but I have found her to be a great and underated comic. I have enjoyed her on her show "Headcase" as well as her spots on the Oprah show. I was hoping her book would be just as entertaining and it was.
Ali is the daughter of Reagan's Social Secretary and grew up in DC. She had a privileged upbringing and some of these tales make for some of the funniest chapters of her book. Her book doesn't necessarily run in any type of order and is not a memoir per se, it is short chapters of funny stories about her life. I think of it like having your best friend come over with a bottle of wine and you sit and play remember when......there are stories of her childhood, like when her older sister is recovering from major surgery and is in a body cast and decides to run away and her mother tells her to go too, so her sister won't be alone....Ali doesn't want to go, but doesn't want anything to happen to her sister so she hurriedly packs snacks, including a can of tuna, sans opener and dutifully treks behind her sister, but not too close... There is the story about the family she stays with in Spain and how the family needed a chicken for dinner and Ali, not understanding that they don't want her to "buy" a chicken, they need one to slaughter plays a curious games of charades until she figures it out.....there are stories about her internship at Christie's auction house and tales of her dates prior to George and how she and a friend once rented a house from Robert Englund (aka Freddy Kreuger in the Nightmare on Elm St. movies).
I read the book over a short weekend away and found myself reading it out loud to my husband. Often I would be laughing so hard that I would have to stop and start over since he couldn't understand me.....then we both got going.
Ali and I are the same age, so I enjoyed reading about her teenage stories because a lot of the references were flashbacks to my own teen years and so it was a fun book for me on many levels.
Overall, if you are a fan, I'm sure you will enjoy Ali's adventures. If you are looking for a more serious memoir, then I'm not sure why you would be looking for a book with a woman in a polka-dotted bathing suit, jumping into a teacup....really?
Enjoyed it immensely!
This is a wonderful book by comedienne Ali Wentworth that I can only describe as part memoir, part monologue, with essayist thrown in.
Ali has managed to pop up all over the place for a number of years, but the turning point in my life re: Ali was when the "O" began her big exodus from her daily talkfest grind and handed the show over to a panel which included the bubbly and relatable Ali Wentworth on Fridays. I became a faithful Friday viewer and really looked forward to Ali's take on life, love, and current events. I was semi-amused when I realized Ali was married to George Stephanopolous. Suddenly I realized that George must be a pretty funny guy because he had Ali around.
This book was fun. Ali Wentworth writes as if she is talking to a friend. You feel like she is a gal pal and a very approachable one at that. Whether she talks about her politically involved family, growing up among power people in D.C., a summer spent in Spain as a teen or her mother who seems like quite a character, nothing is off limits. She looks for humor and irony in the mundane and ordinary, finding true love after some misfires, and odd/funny encounters with famous people. Regardless of what she is talking about, the end shot is going to be funny and very uniquely Ali Wentworth. That's the thing that makes her comedy and her standout. She appears to be a naturally funny person and has no qualms when it comes to making herself the joke.
Reading this book provided a great respite from the flurry of holiday activities and gave me the chance to relax and laugh. My only question is why this lady doesn't have her own tv show. Too busy I guess, but she is a real hoot.
I'm really surprised that I disliked this book so much. I loved Ali when she was on Oprah and I even love her Tweets. I thought I was going to love the book, but it was just not good. Ali's humor isn't exactly vulgar, but it definitely made me feel uncomfortable. I love comedians who are self deprecating, but the picture Ali paints of herself and people around her is definitely unappealing to me. I caught myself making a face most of the time I was reading this book. To quote what her mother says on the back of the book, "I would tone down the pee and fart references - Muffie Cabot (Ali's Mother)". I would add vomiting references to that also. It's probably just me because I'm overly sensitive to talk about bodily functions, but if you are too, this may not be the book for you.
I must confess that I have never heard of Ali Wentworth and if I had seen her in any of the television shows/movies, I would not have remembered her. After reading this book, I will definitely be on the outlook for her books and shows. She is one funny lady! Jerry Seinfeld endorsed this book with "Everything that comes out of Ali's mouth is funny!" ... and he is right.
Ali doesn't pull any punches in this book but she is also not that crude about it either. She is just naturally funny. I love how she described her mother and how she described her siblings and friends and life in a boarding school, her boyfriends and finally her marriage to a famous political speechwriter, then becoming a mother. Ali is funny but she is also down to earth.
Ali covers all the subjects that are important, family, relationships, friendships, parenting, acting, her inability to tolerate alcohol, Muffy, her mother, peer pressure, sex, ... need I go on? And if anyone asks if I have a favorite chapter, I will be hard pressed to pick out just one. I just find this book refreshing and funny and close to home. Ali was born and raised in Washington D.C., to parents heavily involved with the political scene there. Her mother, Muffy, was a big part of the social scene there. Ali spent her growing up years trying to get away from D.C., only to marry someone whose career is about D.C. This book talks about all the years in between.
If you need a good laugh or something that will take your mind off of things, this book would do it for you. It is really one of my favorite memoirs this year. It is a quick read and yet, it isn't a typical forgettable book. It may not be as big as Tina Fey's book, but it is just as memorable.
I enjoy humor - oral and written, so I thought that "Ali in Wonderland" would be a good read for me. The cover touts: "Everything that comes out of Ali's mouth is funny!" Unfortunately, Ali's humor escaped me.
Out of 243 pages, there was only one laugh out loud moment: the description of Ali, while vacationing with her four-year-old daughter in Greece, happening on a beach with gay, scantily clad men enjoying each other.
I laugh often and out loud when reading Dave Berry, Konrath, Evanovich, Sedaris, Dorsey, Scottoline and Hiaasen. A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana, by Haven Kimmel is my idea of a hilarious autobiography. "Ali in Wonderland" left me cold, wondering why it was supposed to be funny.
Other reviewers describe Ali's humor as "toilet humor.' Clearly, by enjoying Dave Berry, I am not immune to toilet humor, nor juvenile antics. Ali's humor was simply not funny. An example: In describing the WASP background of her mother who is named "Muffie," Ali concludes by stating "[s]he's never peed in the shower." That's funny?
Perhaps other reviewers who enjoyed "Ali in Wonderland" were influenced by Ali's live performances. Since I had never seen Ali perform, my response is only to this written work, which just didn't strike me as humorous.
The format of "Ali in Wonderland" is confusing. Ali's stories begin chronologically, but as she continues there are huge gaps and the chronology goes out the window.
I didn't understand the factual inconsistencies. Ali describes her mother, Muffie, as contradicting the common concept of a person named "Muffie." In doing so, Ali states, "Plus, there is no more money. . . The money has since been invested badly, embezzled by greedy spouses, or drunk away." Yet, Muffie's response to any crisis is, "Go to the Four Seasons," and she does. There is no more money but she goes to the Four Seasons???
Humor is somewhat personal. Different people enjoy various types of humor. Humor comes in many forms. Some are:
1. Laugh-at-life humor
4. Self-deprecating humor
5. Dry/Deadpan humor
7. Highbrow/Witty humor
8. Jokes at others' expense
9. "Bathroom" humor
10. Quirky cultural references
The many "fart" references in "Ali in Wonderland" might classify it as in the "bathroom humor" genre. Whatever its style, the humor escaped me.
My first thought while reading the early chapters of Ali Wentworth's hysterical memoir was something along the lines of "poor little rich girl", but that is not a fair characterization. Ali gets it! Yes, she comes from a privileged background, yes she was talented enough to enjoy something of a posh Hollywood existence. But Ali has the perspective that makes her story entertaining and sympathetic.
Maybe Ali just has too much perspective on life to live the life of a modestly successful actress (after all, she was featured in one of the more legendary Seinfeld episodes), but she notices too many of the absurdities of the film colony. Moreover, she's observant enough to recognize a good relationship when it get's dropped in her lap.
No... I'm not saying that she chucked it all for the life of a domestic diva. She still works as an actress when a role is offered, but now she's turned her delicious sense of humor into what I hope is a long career as a writer. Her observations and retelling of her life as the daughter of a top tier doyenne of Washington society, her past relationships and her newer role as wife and mother are fantastic.
Perhaps I should credit her mother with some of that wonderful perspective, as a Democrat working in the Reagan White House (as Social Secretary to the First Lady), Muffie Cabot could have dropped a brood of dysfunctional children on the world. But clearly that is not the case, and seeing Muffie through Ali's eyes will only make you admire Muffie as well. Mother and daughter are both independently minded women that I would be delighted to spend time with. I hope that I get to spend more time with Ali through her writing. She's a very, very funny story teller.
Oh... and George Stephanopolis (her husband of of ten plus years) is a very, very lucky guy!
The best way to be funny is not to work too hard at it, and Ali Wentworth tries a little bit too hard for the laugh. A less self conscious writer would have let the stories unfold naturally, and the absurd parts would be obvious on their own. Wentworth tends to beat you over the head with the punchlines. She is especially dependent on descriptives for her humor, and her descriptions are heavy-handed. It's not enough to just feel like you're floating. You have to float like a butterfly. But it's not enough to just float like a butterfly. You have to float like a butterfly that has washed a Percodan down with a shot of tequila. When you have two or three of those types of joke comparisons per page, it's time to call in an editor with a big red pencil.
Wentworth has a lot going for her, source-material-wise. She has been leading a very interesting life with many opportunities to travel and meet interesting, famous and crazy people. She has a natural sense of humor and is not vain. She is cynical, which I appreciate. No Pollyanna here. She had the benefit of a mother who shares the same kind of personality. She is brave and blunt, not afraid to talk about the various dog pee, poop, vomiting, and other gross things that go on in all our lives. Some of you may find it off-putting, as it does get gross at times. She's honest about being a third rate actress.
And just when you think it's all going to be light-hearted joshes, she'll throw in a chapter where she nearly gets gang-raped and her date is stabbed, or she is so depressed, she becomes skeletal. And then tries to end the chapter with a joke. Just like she reaches too far at times for funny descriptions, she often comes to the end of a story without knowing how to get out of it and leaves us with a limp last paragraph.
I read the book with some enjoyment of just the stories and experiences she had and appreciated a kindred soul who knows being a woman is often ludicrous. But she's no Nora Ephron. But who is? She would have benefited with a better editor and more work on finding the right "tone" to present her memoir as a straightforward story, and not like every chapter has to be an episode of a sitcom.
In contrast to many memoirs I've read, this one tends to stray on the lighter side. Even though this book is definitely not all laughs--Wentworth mentions scary stories of her encounter with a gang while pursuing acting in L.A., how her friend was shot during the same encounter, and her own battles with depression--most of the stories tend to be more optimistic.
The book is filled with many anecdotes from Ali's life--her upbringing among the Washington D.C. elite (her mom was social secretary under Reagan), her messy trip to Spain as an adolescent, the numerous jerks she dated (including a very sketchy French director), her attempts to break into acting (she used to be in the same comedy troupe with Will Ferell and Lisa Kudrow before they became stars, while her own acting luck stalled), her relationship with her family, and tidbits about marrying George Stephanopoulos, among other stories. And if you've never heard of her well-connected mother (the above mentioned ex-social secretary under Reagan) with a talent for disbursing her life's wisdom through witty punch lines, allow the author to introduce her to you.
The writing can be described like a stream of consciousness--the author is honest and unembarrassed about sharing some pretty sensitive stories about her life. This lack of inhibition creates a pretty interesting read. Humor is the main component of this book, and with few exceptions, is entirely present throughout the book. Overall, an entertaining memoir. Especially if you like memoirs by female comedians.
I read through this book expecting to find many laugh out loud parts, but I did not find any. Maybe I missed them, but then there could not be that many.
There were several mildly amusing anecdotes throughout the book. The "go to the Four Seasons" thing was a bit overused and got a bit silly.
There are funnier books out there.