‘Crying’ Over Modern America
Recent Alum Brings His Inventive Satire of American Life to Black Arts Festival
“What I think is scary about this book is that you don’t know where truth stops and the joke begins,” Thurston says.
Better Than Crying is a collection that includes essays, satires, and even some old Crimson columns. It unites a melee of political commentary and sardonic jeering. Each of the four chapters taps into a different part of the jilted contemporary culture Thurston constructs, and any given page guarantees at least one laughable sentence and a dozen opportunities to take a closer look at the appalling paradox that is the American media.
Despite Thurston’s deep affection for his humble alma mater, he does have a bone to pick with America. “There is room for violence in this country,” he sums up, “and it should be directed towards Bill O’Reilly.”
Thurston’s discontent began nearly ten years ago when he was still skepticizing though Harvard. In a desperate attempt to keep his friends informed during freshman year, Thurston, a philosophy concentrator who would end up in Lowell House, created Newsphlash.
The e-mail newsletter consisted of short blurbs on anything from national politics to the buzz inside the Yard, all with a certain tinge of irony. In time, that irony grew into a full-fledged satirical assault on Harvard’s curious rendition of campus life.
“It’s almost as if Harvard said, ‘Let’s take a big group of incredibly smart people with limited social skills and cram them all together.’ That’s funny,” Thurston says.
After graduating, Thurston headed for the consulting business. Life became a flurry of taxi rides and quarterly earnings statements. Needless to say, his writing was pigeonholed.
It took two years of the rat race and some good advice from his girlfriend before Thurston decided to chase his true passion and once again confront the hilarious struggle of American existence.
In the spring of 2002, Thurston enrolled in a stand-up comedy class and “ventur[ed] into a creative oasis.” Though the move necessitated him cutting down his hours at the consulting firm, he says he felt the search for his artistic identity to be more important. One could say he found it in Better Than Crying.
From the time of his initial retreat away from corporate life to the release of his book, Thurston has thrived in the lean mean world of stand up comedy, winning among other awards, a place as a finalist in HBO’s 2002 Comedy Arts Festival Talent Search. He also writes for The Boston Metro and ModernHumorist.com.
When it came to writing the book, Thurston decided to blend together material from his stand-up routine and previous writing. Be it a spoof of MTV Cribs or a lede to what may very well be an AP news release, every line of text challenges the reader’s dexterity of deliberation. Thurston’s humor, though often hit or miss, is just potent enough to open the mind to the new dialogues and perspectives. Ultimately, the book treats this country’s shambled state of affairs as a tragic irony.
Thurston’s hodgepodge of comedic asylum is tough to stomach in one sitting. He says he wants the reader to be able to open up the book to any page and enjoy it. Fifteen minute doses of witty acumens should be more than enough to satisfy anyone.
Better Than Crying would have a tough time holding its place next to The Catcher in the Rye on the bookshelf, he says, but it’s perfect for holding down a coffee table or adorning a bathroom.
But Thurston stresses that seeing his humor in print is quite a different matter from hearing it live. “Some of the best comedy in the country” can be found echoing off the walls of the Comedy Studio five days a week, he says. Wednesday to Sunday, from 8 to 10 this little know venue located two stories above the Kong attracts an entertaining mix of intellectual discourse and raw humor.
Thurston will bring his book to life at the Comedy Studio on April 8. There won’t be a dry eye in the house.