Essay collections seem to be becoming popular again, especially amongst high profile women. I Don’t Know What You Know Me From was my third such collection, following Tiny Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
I Don’t Know What You Know Me From (Confessions of a Co-Star) is by Judy Greer, an immensely prolific actress, who will be familiar to most people who own a TV set. I picked this up because I do know what I know Greer from, having seen/owned enough films she has appeared in to legitimately start a Judy Greer collection. Greer is known for being a smart comedy actress and for playing a multitude of best friends in various romantic comedies. I like her a lot as an actor (seeing her name on a cast list usually means a plus for me when it comes to choosing films) and I think it would be fair to say that those best friend roles are usually far more interesting than our leading lady. I Don’t Know… is both a sort of memoir and essay collection, taking us from Greer’s childhood through to her move to Hollywood and subsequent acting career.
I really enjoyed I Don’t Know… While Fey and Kaling’s collections were sharper, Greer’s was infinitely warmer and sweeter. Her written voice was not what I had expected – I think I was imagining it would be snarkier. This though, is Greer’s great trick. Because that expectation is my confusing Judy Greer the person with the many sassy, sharp-tongued best friend roles she has played. Judy Greer the person writes in an endearing and funny voice, on a huge variety of topics, both professional and personal.
Greer is honest and reflective about acting and her career and I think has written probably some of the most honest pieces on what it is to be a working actor. Her career development is all the more interesting because you know, reading this, that she worked for it. There is genuine progression and growth to Greer’s acting life and her ubiquity now is testament to both her talent and the work ethic which is evident throughout the book.
She is also comfortingly self-aware and unassuming, taking us through her awkward teenage years, her dog’s gas, her not-what-expected Oscar night and confusion over how to feed her step-children. Like Fey and Kaling before her, while Greer confesses to moments of doubt, she also has a fairly sunny outlook and the faith that persistence and hard work will take her where she needs to go.
Greer’s gift as a writer is to draw you into whatever topic she’s discussing and to make it feel like a chat over lunch with an old friend. There’s not too much co-star gossip in there (Greer is still working, after all!) but there are little moments, like talking about peeing next to Jennifer Lopez, or being in a George Clooney film. The book is peppered with great stories and I had such a fun time reading it. Proof of how much this book charmed me? The first thing I wanted to do when I finished it was to break out that collection and have a Judy Greer TV/movie marathon.