Firstly, whether or not you end up reading Zach Anner’s book, it’s definitely worth a trip over to YouTube to check out some of his videos. (Might I recommend this one, this one, and this one?) The guy is goofy and slyly funny. It’s always a happy day when one of his videos shows up in my inbox. He’s the kind of guy who decides to create a video series where all he does is give people virtual high-fives. Often he’ll make a joke that is funny at first, and then a second later, it gets even funnier because it’s got a second level you didn’t even realize was there.
So if you’ve never heard of him, and most people probably haven’t, Zach Anner first popped into the public eye when he won a spot on Oprah’s reality show, the one where she was determined to make the next TV star. He’s also in a wheelchair, and has cerebral palsy (which he calls the “sexiest of the palsies” in his audition video). He actually ended up winning the competition and was given his own show for a year. The show ended up getting canceled, but it gave him some valuable life experiences, namely realizations about the kind of person and comedian he wants to be.
Zach’s main thing in life, and in his work, is to be seen first as a human being and not as a person in a wheelchair. And at that, I believe he succeeds admirably. He tells stories of his life with extreme honesty and it really gets you inside his experience and all the things he has to deal with on a daily basis that non-disabled people never even have to think about. His attitude towards his chair is really interesting. He doesn’t let it define him, and yet he’s not afraid to use it, for gain, for laughs, for whatever. It’s just another tool in his arsenal, right alongside his gift for comedy.
Stories include his misadventures in dating (his first kiss and first relationship happened late in life), his experiences with Oprah, his college years when he was still finding his voice and learning what lines he shouldn’t cross as a comedian, what it was like to have a show on the OWN network (exciting but frustratingly limited), working with Rainn Wilson on SoulPancake, having his own YouTube travel show to finally do what he wanted to do on the Oprah show, and stories from his childhood being in a wheelchair.
This was a fun reading experience, but as a book it wasn’t the best written thing I’ve ever read. I’m very willing to look past that, though, especially considering the circumstances. He explains that he actually doesn’t really read because of his two lazy eyes, and writing is similarly limited. (His girlfriend helped him with the actual putting together of this book.) So of course a person who doesn’t read or write very much isn’t going to produce a perfectly calibrated book. What he did produce is a book that showcases his generosity of spirit, his mischievous sense of humor, his love for his friends, and his attitude towards life (take what comes at you, and don’t worry about what you’re missing out on).
My only regret is that I wish I would have gotten the audiobook. I kept hearing his voice in my head as I was reading, but I know that he’s so good with his delivery when I’ve seen him on video that he would have made it a very enjoyable listen. If I ever re-read, I’m definitely doing the audiobook.