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The Underminer: The Best Friend Who Casually Destroys Your Life Hardcover – January 27, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"…a hyperactive monologist with a gift for capturing the most mundane sound bites in modern conversation and juxtaposing them..." (New York Press)

"…a poet's ear, a novelist's eye and a speed freak's tongue, Albo is downtown's fast-talking monologist…a wizard with words and refreshingly sweet..." (Paper Magazine)

"Rapid-fire rants, skits and anecdotes, [Albo is] a sharp satirist." (Pittsburgh Tribune)

"Pitch-perfect...The Underminer is a compressed comic classic of New York, a kind of anti-E.B. White fable...Nasty. But fun. And very funny." (New York Observer)

"I started laughing with the first sentence, didn't stop until the last sentence and then, randomly, for the next week, the slightest reminder of one of the zillion funny lines in The Underminer would set me off again." (Malcolm Gladwell)

"Hilarious and sick, The Underminer is one of those books that makes you insane with rage and laughter. I loved it more than I hate people like this." (Margaret Cho)

"Whether your Underminer is an actual nemesis or merely the voice of a particularly ornery self-loathing, Albo & Heffernan have done humankind the favor of nailing the bastard, with wit and style in excelsis-cringier than a ninth grade PE humiliation, more scouring, compassionate and incisively lamenting of the human condition than a four-day acid trip hosted by Oprah, and hilariously upbraiding of pretentious trends in a way that will make you involuntarily blow your soy-chai frappaccino through your nose. I can think of no more priceless stocking-stuffer for that special insensitive someone. The Underminer beats a bucket of Paxil, six months of therapy and an exorcism-it bestows the healing gift of revenge." (Cintra Wilson)

"The ultimate satirist of the downtown New York social landscape...The Underminer displays an astonishing capacity for condescension." (New York Times)

"Fascinating… enormously funny… perfectly pitched…The Underminer is a small voice whispering in your ear, 'Read me.'" (Newsday)

"Albo's jokes punch hard." (Entertainment Weekly)

"Everyone has one: the 'friend' who somehow manages to turn every compliment into an incredibly subtle insult…Addictive." (New York Post (Hot List))

"Pitch-perfect...The Underminer is a compressed comic classic of New York…Nasty. But fun. And very funny." (New York Observer)

"It's classified as fiction, but anyone who's lived it will know the novel is anything but imagined." (Washington Post)

"Diabolical…it makes you chuckle, but it also makes you squirm." (Arizona Republic)

"A treasure…You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll wince with recognition…Wickedly funny…richly detailed and pitch perfect." (Chicago Tribune)

"A novel masquerading as a self-help book--or is it a self-help book masquerading as a novel?" (USA Today)

"Scathingly funny...It's an era made for the Underminer." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

"The narrator of Mike Albo's new novel is a psychological predator of the highest order…[Drawn with] sharpness and hilarity." (Boston Globe)

About the Author

Mike Albo is a writer and performer who has performed his comedic monologues all over the country and abroad, in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, and London. His first novel, Hornito, was published in 2000.

Virginia Heffernan, who co-writes with Albo for his performances, is a television critic for the New York Times.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (January 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582344841
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582344843
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,522,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hi there interested person:

I am a writer and performer living and loving in Brooklyn. My first novel, HORNITO: MY LIE LIFE, was published by HarperCollins in October 2000. My second novel, THE UNDERMINER (co-written with Virginia Heffernan) was published by Bloomsbury USA in 2005. Now I am releasing THE JUNKET exclusively on Kindle for your pleasure. Check me out on, on Twitter at "albomike" or on FaceBook...Below is a more extensive bio written in the 3rd person as if I had nothing to do with its creation:

Mike Albo has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, GQ, Elle Décor, Country Living, The Daily Beast, Out, The Village Voice, Details, and many other magazines and websites. He was a Senior Editor and Fashion Writer for Cargo Magazine from 2004-2006.

Albo wrote The Critical Shopper column for the New York Times from February 2007-October 2009. He has also had columns in Blackbook and Surface magazines, and wrote "Torascopes" for Heeb Magazine from 2005-2007. His love advice column in Out Magazine, "What's Your Problem?" appeared from 1998-2000. He also wrote horoscopes for (Horoscopes by Randy Lavender), from 1998-2000.

His fiction and essays have appeared in many anthologies, including The Worst Noel, Girls Who Love Boys Who Love Boys, Rejected and The Show I'll Never Forget. Selections of his "Junk Mail" poetry have appeared in the Tin House.

As a monologist and comedian, Albo has completed four critically acclaimed, sold-out solo shows: MIKE ALBO, SPRAY, PLEASE EVERYTHING BURST and MY PRICE POINT, as well as many solo performances and tours across the United States and Europe. Fast-paced, hilarious, highly emotional and punctuated with dance, his performances have been praised in many publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Paper, Time Out, The Independent in London, The Boston Globe, the Pittsburgh Tribune, and the LA Times.

Selections of his work appear in EXTREME EXPOSURE: An Anthology Of Solo Performance Texts From The Twentieth Century (ed. by Jo Bonney). MY PRICE POINT won the award for Best Solo Performance by Independent Reviewers of New England in 2006.

Customer Reviews

What a great and distressing story.
Although I loved the idea of the novel (I mean, who doesn't know someone like the Underminer), this doesn't read like a novel.
Jon Nelson
Unfortunately, the story doesn't advance and you're unable to "care" about the characters in the book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. Kahn on February 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mike Albo creates enough brilliant monologue material for hopeful actors to last the next 20 years. Written in the voice of "The Underminer", you will instantly know this person, despise them, and wish for their quick death. The book is short (any longer and the voice could've grown repetitive), and sweet, but it never pulls any punches. Sure it's one note, but it's a great note. Send this book as a gift to your friends. Or better yet, give it to the Underminer in your life.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Alice Rose on February 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
By turns haunting and hilarious, The Underminer is a 164-page bitchfest as you've never experienced. Or maybe you have. . . . Every few pages, I was stifling SHRIEKS of recognition. Truly. It was if authors Albo and Heffernan had snuck a peak at my personal life, uncovering all the demons in disguise, and one in particular. . . . My absolute favorite lines: "I mean maybe you're not feeling upset because your body is in a kind of indecision about how to handle grief" and "It's just so great how yoga has spread its influence across the four corners of America. Old people are doing it, fat people are doing it, retarded people are doing it. . . ." This is the perfect book for everyone who's ever felt as if his/her so-called friends were lording their success/money/fame/real estate coups/babies over them. Buy one for yourself, and another for your nemesis. . . .
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Native New Yorker on March 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
After reading an excerpt in The New Yorker, I couldn't wait to get this book. It's spot-on satire--deceptively breezy (so difficult to pull off, but Albo does it perfectly), filled with passages you'll love to read out loud to your partner, but able to make you squirm as it begins to dawn that you're no slouch in the undermining category yourself.

How funny is it? I laughed out loud over and over--while in a "patient's family waiting room" waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery (he's fine). Now that's funny.

I immediately went out and got Hornito; can't wait to dive in.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Heidi Rose Robbins on February 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
We all know at least one of them: acquaintances who seem perfectly pleasant on the outside but offhandedly make you feel awful every time you encounter them. Who ARE these people, and CAN THEY BE STOPPED?? Albo and Heffernan's hilarious book finally calls this nasty social menace by his (or her!) true name: THE UNDERMINER. This book may inspire legions to finally call such "friends" on their passive-aggressions, but THE UNDERMINER is no self-help treatus: it's a hilariouly pointed piece of social satire. I can't count the number of times I had to STOP READING THIS book because I was laughing so hard. Down with Underminers and up with THE UNDERMINER!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dale Hrabi on April 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Completely diverting, if a bit one-note. Albo nails this character: The one-upping, passive-aggressive, self-esteem-eroding "friend," that we all recognize (even, disturbingly, in ourselves.)

The comic monologues from Albo's stage shows that have been adapted into this quasi-novel are funnier when he performs them--on stage, he gives the Underminer a motor-mouthed, shallow pathos that evens the score somewhat between him and his "loser" victim. This doesn't entirely come across in print, but the writing still rings hilariously true. This book doubles as a pretty good social/cultural history of the '90s.

I had a couple problems with it, however:

1) It's fairly static: The characters (the loquacious Underminer and his silent victim, a failure whom we only see through the Underminer's biased p-o-v) don't really evolve. They become more or less successful, briefly adapt trendy philosophies, but the Underminer doesn't seem to acquire wisdom, or undermine more deftly/softly/menacingly as time goes by.

2) After a while, the obnoxious Underminer is just not all that fun to be around. Although I kinda love that the book ends so very bleakly, the character has worn out his welcome by then.

Also, the interstitial illustrations and product parodies are a lovely idea, but they occasionally veer into a surreal humor that's at odds with the observational satire of the rest of the book.

But well worth reading...and if you get a chance to see Albo perform, seize it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on May 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I never heard of Mike Albo before this book, and wow! He is a real talent. I was frequently overcome with laughter as I read. What is truly inspired is the way Albo nails the trends of the past 15 years. The yoga theme is a hoot, with its Hinduisms spouted by the pretentious narrator. Another blast is the conceit of Disorder, for which the cure-all is Askalar. The tones of know-it-all worldliness with which these ideas and cures are touted add to the fun. Each chapter ends with a drawing succinctly encapsulating the preceding episode, and each is a fabulous, witty entry. I don't have words to describe the fun of this book. But are people really so begrudging of others' success? Mike Albo's social circle must be green with envy at his triumph.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jason D. Wick on April 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read this book with a mixture of unease and hilarity (the same I had with watching the UK version of "The Office"). This book has comic timing in nearly every paragraph, the narrator having this relentless delivery that flows like a coffee house conversation (but manages to get jabs in there that leave the reader reeling like the poor victim). The dialogue and details of the past decade (grunge, yoga, designer handbags) do take center stage over character development, but then again - the grim joke is that the victim will never be free of the narrator.

I've heard that one of the author's strength's is where he reads this as a live monologue, and you can see that the books pacing lends itself well to performance (they pause for laughter between one liners such as "Was it you or my other friend who breaks out with Acne when they're stressed?") - but the problem is that the plot punch comes a bit too late and too quickly in the last chapter. On stage it would probably be a more powerful few minutes, but with the novella structure, it's a bit too quick and over.

Overall - it's a hilarious quick read, like an entertaining trainwreck of a life and friendship where you're truly wondering if you've been dissed for an entire decade and a half by your peers, or if you're really ok.
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