The big plus in a work like this is the writing. It must be so much easier to roll the words off in a script you have laboured over and reworked dozens of times
Finkelstein’s writing pedigree is impressive. Seinfeld, The Ellen Show, Late Night with Conan O’ Brien (Urgh!!). He has smart Jewish American humour down pat. However he manages to present his work in a charming, disarmingly ingenuous manner; the result, I suspect, of years of practise. I will not insult him by labelling his show ‘slick’ but the term ‘polished’ is appropriate.
Looking a little like (the also attractive) Bill Bryson, slightly shambolic and rather sweet, we are introduced to his post-College persona and the difficulties of becoming an on-line counsellor.
Glen, his mentor and examiner in the counselling course, is hilariously portrayed. His soft inflection and pseudo-psychological maunderings are sick-makingly accurate. We wince every time he speaks with his irritating, deeply concerned, sotto voce.
A lovely touch was the drop-down map of America. A large proportion of the map was coloured in red. These were the areas where residents “Were prepared to kill to preserve the sanctity of life.” A similarly coloured map of Australia centred firmly on Queensland and was revealed much to the delight of the crowd. So many issues shafted.
Hence to the story of Finkelstein’s major crisis call on the midnight to dawn shift. A suicidal College undergrad named Amy. The tenuous connection, the extended time frame, the working though the possibly dreadful outcome. All frightening stuff.
A link to the extraordinary actor and writer Spalding Gray is explored. He was an inspiration and role model for so many artists, including Finkelstein, yet a life with chronic depression was, for him, literally too much to bear.
There is a message here, underneath the jokey tales, self-deprecating asides and even the moving, tragic moments. Life is a sh…t storm. But the few perfect moments have to be enough to sustain us mortal fools, to live on and rise above. Nicely done!