by Danny Wallace, appearing at Barnes & Noble in Jantzen Beach, 1720 N. Jantzen, Wednesday March 17, 7:30 pm
The tagline for Join Me reads: "The true story of how one man started a cult... by accident. As if some guy was just lounging around his flat one day when--poof!--a cult appeared in his living room!
In reality, British journalist/funny guy Danny Wallace worked his ass off to get his "accidental cult" going. He built an elaborate website, had a theme song composed, and completely neglected his girlfriend until she dumped him. He also dropped money like Keith Richards dropped acid; buying plane tickets, printing up expensive fliers--and all with no income outside of occasional film reviews.
I'm not trying to imply that Wallace had a book deal from the start--replete with expense account--just that he's more cunning than the bumbling cad he and his publisher work so hard to present. Bored one day, he posted the words "Join Me," in a local newspaper, along with an address where people could send a passport-sized photo. He did not explain what "Join Me" actually was, but, thanks to his aforementioned obsessive efforts, soon had hundreds of "joinees" regardless. When they demanded, understandably, a reason for the cult, Wallace ordered them to do good deeds every Friday, which they proceeded to do with amazing diligence.
Wallace peppers his adventures with terrible jokes. For example: "I picked up the next envelope and opened it with a smile... Which is to say I smiled while I was opening it, not that I have some kind of magic smile which can open envelopes."
Blimey. And yet, the unabashed corn is also somehow endearing. Wallace is a likable guy, and it's not hard to envision him as a cult leader. It's also easy to see why, in spite of his dismal gag writing skills, he has recently ascended to the head of comedy development at the BBC. TV after all, is not about good writing, but good ideas, and Wallace has those to spare. Ultimately, Join Me has the gravity and entertainment value of a good reality show, with that same sneaky editing that makes things seem far less calculated than they probably actually were. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS