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Employee of The Month And Other Big Deals Paperback – October 7, 2011
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About the Author
Mary Jo Pehl is a writer/performer/producer with Cinematic Titanic, the live version of the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy- nominated TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, for which she was a writer and on-air ac- tor in the recurring role of “Pearl Forrester.” For these two projects, she has bravely withstood hundreds of the worst movies ever made. The experience hasn’t killed her, only made her stronger. Mary Jo has worn out packs of pencils for Austin Monthly, Austin Chronicle, Minnesota Monthly, Minneapolis StarTribune, Catholic Digest, Salon.com, PBS and more. Her work is featured in several anthologies, including Life’s A Stitch: The Best of Contemporary Women’s Humor and Travelers’ Tales: The Thong Also Rises. Her commentaries have aired on NPR’s All Things Considered and Weekend America, and The Savvy Traveler on Public Radio International. As a standup comedian, Mary Jo has appeared on Comedy Central and A&E, and she has also appeared in stage productions in New York and Los Angeles. She has also contributed to RiffTrax.
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* Who Rick and Julie are
* How glamorous it was to be the daughter of the Mayor of Circle Pines
* What it means to be Employee of the Month at a temp agency
* How much MJ loved Roddy McDowell
* What MJ learned from late night movies she watched while babysitting
* How we fans are perceived by the MST Alumni, well, MJ anyway
* The truth about Krusher Kowalski
and so much more, including what MJ was up to between MST3K and Cinematic Titanic. The New York stories were my favorites, including some truly horrific dating stories that made me worry much less about being single myself. I also share her ergasiophobia, and her work stories put my mid-going-on-late 20s crisis into perspective.
But MSTies are not the only people who should read this book. Aspiring writers and comedians may find inspiration in the conciseness of these narratives, often but not always leading up to a punch line of a tiny moment at the end. You will marvel at how much story and comedy Mary Jo can extract from just one moment at a circus or the discovery of pepper jack cheese on burgers.
Whether you love to laugh at pop culture, or you just like to people watch sometimes, this book is for you.
After reading Mary Jo's book, I can hear her voice in many of the best lines that have been delivered on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I made the mistake of attributing the writing to the actor that spoke the words; such a lame thing to do on my part. Mary Jo clearly put her stamp on every episode she was a writer on, and this book is proof of her ability to tell a funny story, tell it well and deliver a punch line. What increases the enjoyment of this book for me is that they are personal stories.
Reading about her life paints a picture of where her sense of humor and irony comes from, and I get entertained in the process! SCORE!
To give you one, small sample from the book: "Me, for some time I have known that I cannot have children-if I want to sleep late."
This is a compact book of 121 pages, yet it is crammed full of good stuff. I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes about MST3K fans showing up for the live shows. A good writer can make you look at things in a new way, and this book accomplished that for me. Because no one has asked for my autograph I can get a glimpse about how obsessed fans react to meeting TV show characters and the funny and strange interactions that sometimes ensue.
Pehl's stories come directly from her personal experiences, and it's fascinating to be in the audience as we read about her growing awareness of her own talents and shortcomings. In other words, she's a lot like all of us. She tackles topics from heart-throb pre-teen love in "The Two Mrs. McDowells" and "The Crush", to the frenzied emotions of working in "To All The Companies With Whom I Was Never Employed", to matters of adjusting to life as an adult in "A Bridge Too Far" and "I Thee Wed". Every story finds Mary Jo meeting the challenges of a life that is far more fascinating than she allows herself to believe. We follow her as she relocates to New York City after years of working in television in Minneapolis, on trips to China and Peru, in the awkwardness of dealing with family and the rough roads of dating.
Every humorist has a particularly clever tool, and for Mary Jo, it is what I like to call the 'sudden recognition'. It's that moment when everything comes whirling together into a moment of clarity, or more often a moment of rude awakening. She describes a date with a gentleman in which she's emphatically stating her rights to be treated with respect, when he suddenly grabs her nose to wiggle it - the painful, patronizing act is both rude and hysterical. So it is with her sudden awareness that Chewbacca had a wife, or that volunteering to help a child learn to read is, in fact, a tedious, arduous and thankless task.
Throughout all the laughs, Pehl manages to let some quietly beautiful moments peek through. In her essay about SCUBA training, she confesses her embarrassment of being unable to get into her wetsuit unassisted, and she takes us on a lazy summer day in the water when she and her sister frankly discuss the death of that sister's son years before. Pehl, known for her blonde locks and voluptuous figure, takes on society's perceptions of beauty and equality head-on: What does it mean personally to be a full-size gal in this world?
Employee of the Month is a fascinating and unbelievably funny read. For those of us who fit more or less within this generation that came of age as the interwebs invaded our newly adult lives, there are many mirrors to the struggles we've all gone through. Mary Jo's clarity of vision guides us through those rites of passage with sharp wit, and a brilliant generosity of spirit.