Wow, this was way better than expected. I know Kristen Johnston primarily as Sally from Third Rock, as I’m sure you do, too — but don’t expect more than the briefest mention of Third Rock in this book. It is not a memoir about her “life in show business”. Guts is a book about addiction — starting with a drinking problem (in high school), adding on pills and culminating in an ulcer tearing open in stomach in London in 2006.
“It was a dark day indeed when I was forced to admit that I was about as “special” and “unique” as a manila envelope. Even worse, I was beginning to suspect that this whole time, my fun, fabulous life was really just one long, meaningless, self-indugent, cliché-ridden thrill ride.”
Johnston discusses her ascent into stardom, and like many other comedians, describes the awkward, painful childhood that propelled her there. While she doesn’t go too much into her relationship with her parents, she makes it pretty clear that her family’s general attitude of not discussing anything painful or embarrassing lead to her difficult seeking help as an adult. She became suddenly famous as the gorgeous Sally on Third Rock, which utterly terrified her — for years she’d be teased about her height, and now she was worshiped for it. It created a constant feeling that the bottom was going to drop out, and she medicated this with booze and pills.
Post-Third Rock, which is what the majority of the book covers, she returned to her theater roots — and continued using. One night while living in London for a play, she felt an excruciating pain that turned out to be an ulcer that had literally ruptured. Despite the fact that she knew her alcohol- and drug-abuse led to the ulcer, she continued to deny her problem (she blamed it all on cigarettes). Finally, a few months later, two friends helped her realize what was going on, and she checked into rehab.
The book maintains a tone of horrifying hilarity, from Johnston’s childhood bullies to her terrifying experience in the London hospital to her time in rehab. She’s honest but funny, and a much better writer than I would have expected.