Review: Foolish – Tales of Assimilation, Determination, and Humiliation, by Sarah Cooper

Cover of Sarah Cooper's book features a photo of her in front of a light blue background

So many comedy and comedy-adjacent people have released books in recent weeks. It’s been paradise for me, a voracious reader of memoirs who would rather watch stand-up than any other form of live performance. If I had my career to do all over again…but I digress!

I remember the first time someone showed me a video where Sarah Cooper lip-synced perfectly to one of Donald Trump’s dumb statements. There was just something magical about it and no question that it was lightning in a bottle.

Here she was, a beautiful black woman, with some of the dumbest white-man words in history seemingly coming out of her mouth. It was a parody, sure, but there was a special quality that shook us out of our reluctant acceptance of what the then-President was saying. We’d gotten used to hearing incredible stupidity from his lips. When it came out of her lips, it was like shining a UV light on a hotel comforter. We all knew the stuff was there but it took Sarah to illuminate it for us.

And the more videos she did, the funnier it got.

How to Medical.

When I followed Sarah on Twitter, or whatever it’s called today, she had about 60,000 followers. One day, things blew wide open. Articles about her suddenly appeared everywhere. She got a Netflix special and a hundred other opportunities. It was big fun to sit in the cheap seats and watch it happen.

The New Book

Foolish is one of the funniest memoirs I’ve ever read and I’m on a fairly steady diet of autobiographies. It’s not like she rose from total obscurity. She’d already had a couple of books published and was finding her way out of tech and into the acting/writing/comedy industries. The “overnight sensation” narrative rocked her world and helped end her marriage, while simultaneously putting her in line for projects and opportunities most people only ever dream of. Who else goes from making videos in their apartment to costarring with Dame Helen Mirren and getting calls from Jerry Seinfeld about appearing in his movie**?

Foolish fleshes out Sarah’s life story, thoughts deep and shallow, and observations about her world and ours in witty prose. She’s unique and she’s also like every woman on earth, going through (accidentally creating?) hilariously awkward situations. Just because you’re suddenly famous doesn’t mean you automatically know how to handle being up close and personal with icons. And it turns out that she has a history of lip-syncing that dates way back. Her family emigrated from Jamaica and Sarah learned early how to fit in by, she says, becoming a people pleaser. She writes that she didn’t even realize she was black until she was eight years old.

This book is a one-of-a-kind take on the American Dream. Sarah Cooper is hilarious, self-deprecating, and hyper aware that what happened to her career was both a matter of luck and of working her tail off. Her trajectory reminds me of a popular meme that’s divided into two panels. In the first, what people think success looks like – a straight line on a steady angle from the bottom left, up the page to the top right. In the second panel, what success really looks like. The line goes up, down, in circles, and back and forth before heading up to the top.

Foolish shows that success doesn’t solve all your problems. But it’s a hell of a fun ride.

**The Seinfeld movie is a comedy called Unfrosted: The Pop-Tart Story. Last I read, it will be on Netflix before the end of the year.

4 thoughts on “Review: Foolish – Tales of Assimilation, Determination, and Humiliation, by Sarah Cooper”

  1. This sounds like a great read! Thank you for your recommendation. I also saw Keegan-Michael Key and his wife Elle Key on Kimmel the other night (or was it Seth? So good to have them back!) who have co-written The History of Sketch Comedy. Sounds like you’d love it!!

    1. Wow that’s a tough question. I gravitate to autobiographies and memoirs so I’ve read a LOT. I don’t think I can answer it!! I review everything (almost) that I’ve read on Goodreads, so I’d have to go back and read my reviews. I love the collections where comedians sit around and discuss and era of comedy and how they got their starts.

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