One of the biggest talents Bonnie McFarlane is known for is her writing, which explains why her new book is so hard to put down. You’re Better Than Me entertains us with hilarious anecdotes and wild childhood memories from chapter to chapter. Bonnie is also known for speaking her mind, which is why you learn so much about her from the book. Though we created a list of 10 things we learned about her, it barely scratches the surface in this jam-packed read. Want to hear more? Buy the book. Bonnie will also be doing an hour long interview in front of a live audience on Tuesday night in NYC. Here’s how you can get free tickets.
Bonnie didn’t grow up ordinarily poor, she grew up poor on a level that only Dickens could relate to. She didn’t just share a room with all of her sisters, she shared a room overrun with mice, in a basement her dad dug by himself, and by the way, that was an upgrade from earlier in life when she was living in a trailer. The sisters would argue over who got the top bunk because otherwise, you’d sleep with mice crawling all over you.
Not only did she grow up poor, she grew up on a farm. Bonnie spent her entire childhood on a small, secluded farm with her family. It was as traditional as farm life could get. Including the absence of running water. Read number two to see how hardcore it got.
That’s right, she describes in bloody detail how she was tasked to kill the chickens that her and her family would then eat. This is only one of the stories you learn in the book that makes you rethink complaining about your own childhood. She gives thorough instructions:
“Carry it upside down, out of the pen. Throw it onto the chopping block as you pick up the ax with your other hand and swing down as hard as you can. Hopefully you’ll slice it right across the neck, nice and clean. But not always. An inch to the left and you’ve cut into some of the precious chicken breast. An inch to the right and you’ve cut the head in half….After being decapitated, the bird, or rather its body, will take off running like, well, like a chicken with its head cut off.”
Bonnie didn’t have a television or a Walkman, or even telephone, but she did have her own cow.
See, in her family’s tradition, you got your very own cow on your 10th birthday. You even got to choose which cow was yours! Bonnie chose the fattest one and it turned out to be pregnant. Her cow produced twelve gallons a day, so she made ice-cream out of all the extra milk and made money selling them to customers in her community. Yes, while you were working at Hot Topic or Abercrombie & Fitch as a teenager, Bonnie was selling homemade ice-cream from her own cow named Bessie:
“I filled every order, I answered every call. I saved every dollar. This ice-cream money would be my ticket out of here. It would fund my worldly travels. It would pay for my new life. And I needed a new life. Because let me tell you something, if you’re a preteen and your best friend is a cow and you’re selling homemade ice-cream at the farmers’ market, you’re in desperate need of a new life.”
In the book, she talks about the various made-from-scratch food she ate on the farm. Most of it she speaks of fondly-except the ketchup. She describes homemade ketchup her family had as “a lumpy, sugary mess from hell.” She still can’t eat ketchup.
One of Bonnie’s goals at the beginning of her stand up career was to become best friends with Janeane Garofalo. Bonnie admired Janeane and thought they could easily become good friends if she just got the chance to meet her. One night while doing comedy, she saw Janeane at the same club. She had someone introduce her to Janeane and what happened next was heartbreaking:
“’This is Bonnie. She was on the show tonight.’ Janeane looked at me, not in a welcoming way, but also not in a dismissive way. She just looked at me. This was my chance. I’d tell her how great I thought she was, how I’d come to New York first and then was going to go to L.A. just to meet her and, ‘Wow, what a world, here we are!’ I’d be charismatic and smile and we’d go for a beer and be friends. Instead I just stood there and said nothing because of nervousness! I didn’t even offer her a cinnamon bun. ‘Okay,’ she said, slightly annoyed, and then went back to laughing with her cute friend.”
When Bonnie and her friend Stefanie tried to get hired on as a writer for the MTV Movie Awards, a male executive told them, “You’re too pretty…I can’t hire you as writers. None of the guys would ever get anything done.” In other words, the male writers would be too distracted to be able to get their work done with attractive women in the room. Through recounting stories like this, she illustrates her experience as a woman in showbiz.
Relatable to many readers, Bonnie discusses her battles with depression. The career she chose was chaotic and there were points when she felt helpless:
“I picked up smoking again because I’d read that smoking can prolong an upswing and stave off depression. In a further attempt to stay manic, I quit drinking, quit pot, quit sleeping, and quit eating. I limited myself to just a few activities, which included jogging up the side of a mountain, doing stand-up, and chain-smoking until the sun came up.”
As the contestants were gearing up to perform their material in front of the judges, Bonnie decided to use joke that was risqué but sure to please them. Thinking they would never air it as the show only presented a few seconds of everyone’s set per episode, she decided to go with a joke that used the much-hated and dreaded c-word. Her goal was to make Brett Butler laugh, which it did. Although she pleads that she did not do it to be sensational, the show turned her into their new villain.
Like many comedians, she believes comedy is a great tool when handling darker subjects. She speaks her mind unapologetically, so it’s no surprise that she has an aversion to people that try policing others on what they can and cannot say. In her book, she takes a thoughtful and powerful stand in her convictions stating, “I will not be bullied into being politically correct.”
Bonnie is married to the talented comedy vet Rich Vos, who most recently wrote for Chris Rock at the 88th Academy Awards (talk about a power couple!). But she wasn’t always fond of Rich:
“I’d never met him and, in my opinion, he was a fucking asshole. Everyone who’s ever encountered Vos has a story about how much they hated him when they first met him. He turns people off immediately, but later can somehow carve out a relationship with people based on deep affection while still maintaining his complete and utter dickishness.”
As said earlier, this is only a brief list of the things you’ll learn about Bonnie McFarlane from her new book. Pick up a copy of You’re Better Than Me at Barnes & Noble or find it on iTunes or Amazon or any local bookstore, and you can still get tickets to hear Bonnie talk about her book at the Village Underground with Ron Bennington. You won’t regret it.