Comedian Paul Scheer Reveals Past Trauma in Touching and Hilarious Memoir

Comedy Reviews Paul Scheer
Comedian Paul Scheer Reveals Past Trauma in Touching and Hilarious Memoir

Paul Scheer’s first memoir, Joyful Recollections of Trauma, was pertinently named, and that’s evident right off the bat. Fans of the actor, comedian, and podcaster might expect to pick up a more lighthearted collection of stories, yet Scheer delivers something more meaningful. The book delves deep into the comedian’s life, offering an unflinching look at the trials and tribulations that shaped him. His ability to juxtapose his darkest moments with humor results in a memoir that is as emotionally jarring as it is entertaining.

I first took note of Scheer in the 2010s on FX’s The League. He plays Dr. Andre Nowzick, the awkwardly hysterical member of the fantasy football league who just wants to be accepted as cool by his friends but instead often hands them fodder for jokes. Soon after, Scheer popped up as a guest on Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s old video game podcast The Indoor Kids (RIP), which led me right to How Did This Get Made?, a bad movie podcast he co-hosts with the outrageous Jason Mantzoukas (“GEOSTORM!”) and incomparable June Diane Raphael, to whom which Scheer is married. 

I quickly devoured a modest back catalog of HDTGM episodes as I scrubbed who-knows-what off toilets at my day job as a janitor for a concert venue. This was back in the early days of podcasting, the Wild West, as it were. It was so early, in fact, that I had to download episodes onto my hard drive and load them directly onto my iPod. It became a comforting show with guaranteed belly laughs. As soon as I caught up with what was available, I listened to them all again. I appreciated Scheer’s enthusiasm for movies, whether good or bad. He wasn’t just a comedic actor but a genuine fan of the medium he was lucky enough to work in. It’s one of the handful of shows that have been on this long that I never get behind on.

Over a decade of episodes, Scheer has shared anecdotes about growing up that have often surprised, delighted, and confounded his co-hosts. Fans of How Did This Get Made? are sure to enjoy reading some expanded pieces of Scheer lore in Joyful Recollections of Trauma, like when he worked at Blockbuster as a teen and set up a fake autograph session with a coworker’s friend just because she sort of looked like Jami Gertz from The Lost Boys

However, longtime Scheerheads shouldn’t expect him to go deep on his acting career. There are no stories from the short-lived MTV sketch show Human Giant co-created with Rob Huebel and Aziz Ansari, nor is there any indication of how cool it must have been working with Don Cheadle on the hilariously brilliant but canceled too soon Black Monday. (Presumably, he’s saving all the juiciest Hollywood stories for a grizzled, late-career, The Kid Stays in the Picture-style tell-all book.)

Instead, the first half of Joyful Recollections of Trauma drops you instantly into Scheer’s tumultuous childhood growing up in Long Island in the 1980s. Scheer paints a vivid picture of the chaos that ensued after his parents’ divorce. For those in need of a trigger warning, Scheer became a literal punching bag for his abusive stepfather. Depicted with stark honesty, these scenes are sometimes painful to read, yet Scheer’s storytelling remains infused with an inspiring sense of hope and resilience. These segments of the memoir highlight Scheer’s relentless drive to pursue his passion despite the obstacles in his personal life, a part of his past that he has kept close to the vest until now. He reflects on the hardships that shaped and informed how he took control of his life, career, and eventual journey into fatherhood.

As Scheer navigated young adulthood, his passion for comedy became a central theme. He found solace in humor, which eventually led him to improv, the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, and an audition for Saturday Night Live. There are more bits of Scheer’s success, but the major highlight for long-time fans comes towards the end of the book, focusing on his courtship and relationship with June Diane Raphael. Scheer depicts their relationship with warmth and wit, offering a deeper look into the couple’s dynamic and the mutual support that you only hear snippets of throughout HDTGM’s run. 

Joyful Recollections of Trauma stands out not so much for its humor but for its authenticity. Scheer’s ability to blend comedic elements with sincere reflections on his past experiences offers a refreshing take on the memoir of a comedy and movie nerd. He expertly balances the humor with heartfelt ruminations on resilience, personal growth, and parenthood. Scheer’s candid exploration of these themes makes the memoir relatable and profoundly moving, even as it keeps you laughing.

Joyful Recollections of Trauma is available now wherever you purchase books, and check out Scheer’s book tour dates here.

Jack Probst is a writer and record collector from St. Louis. He appreciates the works of James Murphy, Wes Anderson and Super Mario. Send any and all complaints to @jackdprobst on Twitter. He enjoys writing paragraphs about himself in his spare time.

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