“Treehab did something completely unexpected: it took me back to the days of my youth when I collected rocks in a box and regarded them all as treasures. That wide-eyed wonder so commonplace in children seems to have sustained Bob Smith all his life, even in the face of overwhelming challenges. He’s damned funny about this, too—hilarious, in fact. Smith doesn’t contrive to inspire us, he just does.”—Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City
In this bitingly funny and often surprising memoir, award-winning author and groundbreaking comedian Bob Smith offers a meditation on the vitality of the natural world—and an intimate portrait of his own darkly humorous and profoundly authentic response to a life-changing illness.
In Treehab—named after a retreat cabin in rural Ontario—Smith muses how he has “always sought the path less traveled.” He rebuffs his diagnosis of ALS as only an unflappable stand-up comic could (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease? But I don’t even like baseball!”) and explores his complex, fulfilling experience of fatherhood, both before and after the onset of the disease.
Stories of his writing and performing life—punctuated by hilariously cutting jokes that comedians tell only to each other—are interspersed with tales of Smith’s enduring relationship with nature: boyhood sojourns in the woods of upstate New York and adult explorations of the remote Alaskan wilderness; snakes and turtles, rocks and minerals; open sky and forest canopy; God and friendship—all recurring touchstones that inspire him to fight for his survival and for the future of his two children.
Aiming his potent, unflinching wit at global warming, equal rights, sex, dogs, Thoreau, and more, Smith demonstrates here the inimitable insight that has made him a beloved voice of a generation. He reminds us that life is perplexing, beautiful, strange, and entirely worth celebrating.
An award-winning, groundbreaking essayist and novelist, Bob Smith was the first openly gay comedian to appear on The Tonight Show and star in his own HBO Comedy Half-hour.
Smith is the author of five acclaimed books. His first collection of autobiographical essays, Openly Bob (1997), won the Lambda Literary Award for humor. His second collection, Way To Go, Smith! (1999) was also nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Two acclaimed novels followed: Selfish and Perverse (2007) a finalist for the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and Remembrance of Things I Forgot (2011), an Amazon Best Book of the Year.
In 2016 Smith published his third collection of essays, Treehab: Tales from My Natural Wild Life, which covered a wide range of subjects including his career in stand-up, his love of nature and fatherhood, and his experiences facing life with ALS. He wrote this final book on an iPad with the remaining use only of one hand.
Smith was a regular contributor to Out magazine and the Advocate and his essays appeared in the anthologies America's Best Contemporary Humorists, 101 Damnations, and When I Knew. His writing has been widely praised by writers including Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, David Rakoff, Paul Rudnick, Henry Alford, and Stephen McCauley, among others.
Published by University of Wisconsin Press in 2016.
More praise for Treehab:
“To say that Bob Smith can make a hilarious one-liner out of everything from imminent ecological catastrophe to his own struggles with ALS is to emphasize only one aspect of the beautiful and devastating Treehab. This is a profound meditation on the fragility of life and the enduring power of tolerance, love, and the many ways of creating families. A smart, funny, inspiring guide.”—Stephen McCauley, author of The Object of My Affection
“Bob Smith is a diamond with many facets: he is a novelist, a nature nerd, a stand-up comic, a history buff, a gay man, a father, and a person living with ALS. He displays his whole kaleidoscopic self in this wonderful collection of essays, a book as beautiful, funny, and strange as life itself.”
— Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters
“Smith, a successful comedian and author of both nonfiction and fiction, has lived with Lou Gehrig's disease, and even though he now communicates through his iPad, his wit is as sharp as ever. . . . Never moving too far from his comedic nature, Smith delivers one-liners throughout, and nothing is off-limits. A truth-telling tour conducted by an agile guide.” — Kirkus
“Stand-up comedian and novelist Bob Smith's potent collection of essays is as hilarious as it is immensely touching.” — Shelf Awareness
“One of the wisest of all wisecrackers. . . . Smith never fails to make us laugh, even amid the tears.” — Miami Herald
“ALS disability notwithstanding, [Smith] appears in fine form here, with nods to his career, his enduring sense of humor, and everything flourishing in the outside world.” — Bay Area Reporter
remembrance of things i forgot
An Amazon Best Book of the Year
"If H. G. Wells had been funny and Oscar Wilde obsessed with time travel they might have mated and produced Bob Smith, who has written the funniest and wildest ride imaginable through the recent past and near future." —Edmund White
It’s 2006, and on the very day that John has decided to break up with his physicist boyfriend, Taylor Esgard—a newly converted post-9/11 Republican, now working for Dick Cheney—Taylor announces that he’s invented a time machine. That night, John meets the vice president, who sends John back in the machine to 1986, where he’s disconcerted to meet his younger self. How should he reveal his identity—“I’m you, only with sagging flesh and problems you can’t imagine”? He meets the younger Taylor, too, and the trio teams up to attempt to alter history—hoping to thwart John’s sister’s suicide, prevent his father’s death from alcoholism, and ultimately stop George W. Bush from becoming president.
In this wickedly comic, provocative cross-country journey, John confronts his own (and the nation’s) blunders and learns that a second chance at life brings new opportunities to screw up—or maybe change things for the better.
Published in 2011 by Terrace Books.
More Praise for Remembrance of Things I Forgot:
“His characters are brilliantly drawn, the dialogue is Preston Sturges deft, the political satire is damning without being shrill, and you will absolutely cry when you read the last line. How did Smith do that? I didn’t think it was possible to be a bigger fan of Bob Smith’s than I already was, but I am.”
— David Rakoff, author of Fraud
“An extraordinary novel: smart, funny, fiendishly inventive, often moving and ultimately profound. I've never read anything like it. Bob Smith combines the ingenuity of science fiction with the emotional weight of autobiographical fiction. He then adds politics—in the form of the greatest villain of recent American history. This is a comic novel, but reading it can be a life-altering experience, like falling through a rabbit hole in space/time, and coming out the other side a better person.” — Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters
"Wildly comic political satire mixes with cutting comedy, social commentary, and a touch of sf in this seriously entertaining summer read.”— Booklist
“Bob Smith’s Remembrance of Things I Forgot is a delightful, moving portrait of a man who is given the rare opportunity to literally revisit his past, and the novel will likely be considered one of the year’s best.” — Christopher Verleger, Lambda Literary
Winner of the Lambda Literary Award
"Hilarious." — Entertainment Weekly
n Openly Bob, Bob Smith offers his own original, whine-free perspective on being grown up and gay. From bringing your boyfriend home to your father's funeral, to being the only gay couple at a family wedding, to surviving couples counseling, Smith's unique point of view on the very ordinary events of our lives resonates with keen observation and hilarious truth.
Sex education, meteor showers, lesbian ventriloquist dummies, flea-market shopping, body piercing, potsmoking drag queens, environmental correctness, Judgment Day, Samuel Beckett, Newt Gingrich, Coco Chanel, Sigmund Freud, nothing and no one has been spared Bob Smith's incisive eye in this very human collection of comic essays from a writer who knows how to serve up a truly fresh slice of American pie.
"Bob Smith is a real writer...a trusty and tart guide, and as you'd suspect, a master of the one-line observation..." — Lambda Book Report
"Bob Smith is that rare phenomenon: a hilarious gentile." — Paul Rudnick
"Emotionally powerful, obviously honest...a true heart and a very funny one as well." — San Francisco Chronicle
"Openly Bob is a dazzlingly funny, semiautobiographical, hardcover one-man show." — Paper
Way to Go, Smith!
“Smith can break your heart, and he does, often… The happy ending is that Bob Smith finds that going on, no matter how rough the road, is a viable way to go, just as long as he leaves ‘em laughing.” —San Francisco Chronicle
Selfish and Perverse
“A chatty gang of likable characters, a simple yet sexy plot line and camera-ready prose combine with panache in this immensely entertaining story.” — Publishers Weekly
Nelson Kunker is trapped in his job as the script supervisor on Aftertaste, the low-rated late-night sketch television show. His life in Los Angeles has come to a halt because he's unable to finish the novel he's writing, doesn't have a boyfriend, and, at the pivotal age of thirty-four, has reached the juncture where he has to decide whether he's really talented or just gay. One day he meets Roy Briggs, a part-time salmon fisherman/full-time archaeology student who's visiting from Alaska. When Nelson attempts to make small talk with the handsome Roy, he references an obscure but haunting story about bowhead whales that startles the science nerd in both men into suspecting that they might be soulmates. Unfortunately, Nelson discovers his soul is a bit of a slut when he also meets the guest host of that week's show, the surprisingly bookish movie star Dylan Fabizak, freshly paroled after a drug bust. When the three end up at Roy's home in Alaska, hilarity, love, and debauchery ensue. Wooed by both Roy and Dylan, Nelson comes to strongly identify with the salmon they are fishing for — another insanely driven species that will overcome every hurdle in its search for love.
Published by De Capo Press in 2007.
More praise for Selfish and Perverse:
“Former MADtv scripter Smith charms with a true-love tale while amusing with sly insider's digs at the Hollywood machine, including truthy translations of code phrases; for instance, There's been a change in plans equals Here comes a lie, or a broken promise.” — Booklist
“Selfish and Perverse is Smith's first novel, yet it's written with skill and flair honed by his years as a comedy writer and performer....Smith has the swift, casual style that moves some slightly implausible plot-points forward with only intentional clunks and crashes. Despite the author's claims that his stand-up work is different from his fiction-writing, there is a bounty of hilarious, funny, and wry one-line insights that our narrator shares; so many, in fact, that it's easy to gradually take them for granted. Toward the finale, things do get more serious, and not so funny, but certainly touching and poignant.”
— Bay Area Reporter
“Smith has a clever way of...combining his narrative skills with humor....Smith isn't shy about showcasing his erotic storytelling skills. The end product reads like something Penthouse would run.” — EDGE Boston