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Monday, July 2, 2012

Pick of the Now: The Thunderbolt Kid

As I approach my ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY UNSPECIAL, I am reminded of some of the works and people that inspired me to do my thing. I could ramble on and on about any number of comedians or comedy teams that inspired all us Internet funny-people, but I decided to go with something more unknown: "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid."
Written by travel writer Bill Bryson and published in 2006, TLATOTTB (say that five times fast) is an autobiography recounting the author's younger days in Des Moines, Iowa. We don't get a bitter, self-congratulating heroic epic bragging about a hard upbringing in a shotgun neighborhood. Lord knows we get enough of that phony abalone (I was going to say bologna, but abalone is far more delicious). It's as refreshing as an abalone to read something a bit more positive but still honest and real. I for instance don't look at my upbringing as either stupendously great or stupendously stupid, but rather I see it for what it was: a mix of the good and the bad. That's the tone set here. Bryson riffs on 60s Midwestern society for the sake of parody and not animosity. He makes fun of his parents not to belittle them, but to mock his own childish mindset. Above all, he brings back his alter-ego, the Thunderbolt Kid, a super-powered alien prince sent to Earth to live among humans. I'm pretty sure Bill is actually an alien. How else would he be able to write about nearly everything?

Many of the chapters deal with a different aspect of Bryson's childhood, and much of it is told through a child's eyes, thereby forcing the reader to return to a youthful state of mind. It's this kind of nostalgia that brought about the series Memory Lane. I myself remember so many toys, games, movies, and aspects of life in my decade that few people outside of my generation will understand (AOL, anyone?). If you read any one part of this book, read Bryson's description about model airplanes. That chapter alone inspired the episodes "We All Scream for Yellow #5" and "Top 5 Obnoxious Toys." I just wanted to be a guy sitting back and recounting days long passed, cracking a few jokes, and looking at the things that made us the people we are today.

Then I discovered that people on the Internet had been doing this for years already. Damn... Oh well, this book is certainly worth a look. Here's an animated excerpt narrated by BB himself.

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