You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations, by Michael Ian Black

Before I read this memoir, You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations, I'd never heard of the author Michael Ian Black. After reading it, I still know little about his career, because he barely mentions what he does. Black was on a comedy show on MTV in the early 1990s and he's been a TV and movie writer and actor most of his adult life. The reason I read You're Not Doing It Right is because Ruben Bolling strongly recommended it on a recent episode of Gweek (Gweek 055, with Rainn Wilson).

Ruben and I are both fans of Little Lulu and Uncle Scrooge, so I figured if he liked this book, so would I. And I was right! You're Not Doing It Right starts out as a sarcastically funny memoir of Black's life as a young, horny pick-up artist with a terrible track record. But as it goes on, it becomes a much darker and revealing confession of a middle-aged man struggling with his marriage, his family life, and his painful insecurities.

Black is brave to write openly about the inner goings-on of his marriage counseling sessions. I'm surprised his wife was OK with him being public about their troubled relationship. His two chapters on the misery of caring for newborn babies ("I Hate My Baby" and "Baby Jail") were refreshing and I completely related to his experiences of having no sleep yet being responsible for tending to a perpetually screaming, shitting infant for months on end. Taking care of little babies is hideous (update: of course it's worth it, there are amazing moments that I wouldn't trade for anything, and I love my kids more than anything), and I'm thankful every day that my kids are out of diapers.

If you're looking for an inspirational book about marriage and parenthood, look elsewhere -- this is heavy stuff. But if you're in the mood for a dose of messy reality mixed with dark humor, Black delivers.

You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations


  1. I remember Black when he was trying out for the position of host for the Late Late show.  I was impressed with him.  He had a particular cool… and a sincere and earnest odd ball intellect that was vulnerable and endearing.  Thanks for the heads up on the book.

  2. I grew up watching The State on ABC/MTV/whatever other channel it moved to, and have following his career through the various movies and shows he’s been in. I love his stuff, so I’ll probably read this book too. 

    I have to disagree with his/your comments about taking care of infants though – yeah, it may be “hideous”, but you must have some perpective, because the whole time I’m changing a diaper and cleaning up messes I’m aware of how awesome the whole thing is. It’s demanding, sure, but it’s rewarding too. Every milestone, every smile, more than make up for some shit on your hands.

    1. Yes, Michael. Even while my kids were shitting and screaming I couldn’t believe how great it was to be blessed with the little monsters. :)

      1. I’d also like to add that… I mean… Have you ever really dealt with the unique, horrible, codependent & self-destructive personalities that dominate most of comedy world?

        I grew up in abject poverty, had friends who ended up being hookers, drug dealers, con-artists & just plain old jerks but those folks were genuinely easier to deal with than the majority of comedians I have dealt with.

  3. Can’t help but get a little offended at the description of The State as “a comedy show on MTV in the early 1990s”. That’s like a Chevy Chase bio mentioning he was “briefly on some network TV ensemble show in the ’70s”.

    The State and KITH were my comedy staples back in the day.

    1. This. The State was punk to Silver Age SNL’s disco. They were one of the first shows to seize on SNL’s lazier sketch writing habits — and instead of just mocking them directly, they based some brilliant meta-comedy about audience expectations on them. The State and its many spinoffs are worth watching. (I still can’t freaking believe Reno 911! is mostly improv…)

      1. As I say above, I missed seeing The State originally, but have caught some clips on YouTube and agree. Almost all of my exposure to Michael Ian Black is from Reno 911!, and part of me wishes that he’d been incorporated into the regular cast at some point.

        1.  The core State group is really funny, and they continue to work together in some form or other – Reno 911, Viva Variety, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models, etc… Anything involving Kerri Kenney (the proto Jane Lynch, oh how I love those tall hilarious ladies), Thomas Lennon, David Wain, Michaels Showalter & Ian-Black, KEn Marino, etc. All deeply strange, funny people.

    2.  Well, The State was far, far less well known than SNL at any point in that show’s history after the very beginning, so they’re just doing some basic definition there for people (like me) unlucky enough to have missed it. (And, honestly, even for a show that, at the time, consisted of a lot of very dated drug humor, Chase’s contributions have probably aged the least well of anyone’s from the original cast; in particular, he was strongly overshadowed by his second-season replacement, Bill Murray.)

  4. Dammit, Mark, between you and Cory my amazon wishlist has outpaced my reading speed by orders of magnitude.

  5. Funny, I love infants and would gladly trade my kids for the babies they were.  Then again my kids are in middle school.  I was lucky enough to take 7+ months maternity leave, and had a lot of family support.  The book sounds very interesting.  Thanks.

  6. I’ve been a fan of his ever since The State, but if this is available for kindle, I have a feeling I’m about to become a much bigger fan.

  7. Mark, you are turn after turn becoming more and more disappointing.

    …and I completely related to his experiences of having no sleep yet being responsible for tending to a perpetually screaming, shitting infant for months on end. Taking care of little babies is hideous, and I’m thankful every day that my kids are out of diapers.

    As a stay at home father of two, I have never found that to be true. Both of the boys never left my side as infants and rarely have left it since.

    Children are neither perpetually screaming or shitting, and I reckon I’ve changed upwards of 8,000 diapers, and I’m still wiping asses on occasion.

    To any parent, if your child is perpetually screaming and shitting, you’re not doing it right! Try a Maya Wrap. Learn to recognize your child’s attempts at communication and feed on demand before they are screaming. Try co-sleeping. And above all, if this is your view of your child’s infancy, man up.

    1. Hey Bob, you are right. I was trying to be funny by being harsh but it came out wrong. Raising babies is tough but I really did find it an amazing experience that I would do all over again.

      1.  Thanks Mark, you have always appeared that way, so I was taken aback by that statement.

        You have an amazing daughter and are following and supporting her on her amazing journey.


        1. Thanks Bob! I also loved carrying my baby girls in a a sling. I used to wander through the rainforests of Rarotonga for hours in a sling with Jane when she was three months old. She would sleep, then stare wide eyed with me at the jungle sights. Good times.

          1. What a wonderful experience you gave your child. I always wonder about people that say, I’ll do that later when they are old enough to remember.

            BTW I was once called papoose daddy, by the kids at the local co-op.

      This is why I don’t read parenting blogs.

      1. Exactly. And watch out if you are so bold as to say that you don’t want to be trapped near other folks’ screaming infants for hours on a plane, or you’ll get it (as I learned right here on Boingboing not long back).

    3. Well I happen to agree with Mark’s sentiment that “taking care of little babies is hideous” and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this.

      I love my children.
      I don’t enjoy raising them (though I realize it has to be done and I do the best I can.)
      The two are in fact mutually exclusive.

      This is akin to hating your regular work out in the gym, but loving the effect it has on your body – you go through the difficult times to enjoy the end result, which makes it all worthwhile. It doesn’t mean you have to pretend to love the difficult times though.

  8. I see the warbly-necked, quavery voiced old lady crowd is out in force in this thread.  Please contain your outrage to your insufferably smug brunch meetings.  Whether it’s calling an Asian woman “Asian” or acknowledging that babies shitting themselves is miserable, you can always be counted on to “bring it”… unfortunately.   

    1. Translation:  If you disagree with my views, I will immediately resort to the personal attack.  

      1.  Correction:  I attacked a “crowd” not a “person”.  I checked the Constitution.  This is OK.

      2. And also I will resort to misogyny. Because we all know it’s old women that are the real problem in this world. Agree with me and be a real man!

        1. There are details of the comment that make it easy to target, but come on – shitty babies that keep people up all night can cause extreme depression, suicide and a whole manner of other crap. The people above giving about how great it is to change nappies have clearly fille their Xanax prescriptions recently.

          I’m sure that having kids is awesome, but anyone that doesn’t recognise the huge compromises (sanity, sleep) involved is delusional.

          1. FWIW I don’t have kids and never will because I think it seems awful and not worth doing at all. It just bugs me that anything critical is getting jumped on and yet other people’s lifestyle choice (and breeding is one, sorry) can be ripped to shreds. And yes, rich men and their woes are perfectly fine to write about, and praise be to all who like the book. There’s nothing wrong with liking a book other people don’t seem to be interested in. Still, the overreaction to criticism is a bit much here.

  9. I think it is ok to acknowledge that the first few months with a baby can be living hell.   Sleep deprivation and a baby with colic/acid reflux is not fun.  Why must we pretend that every moment of parenting is pure joy?  It’s not.  And the fact that it is so wretched in the beginning is what makes it so heavenly when the baby can finally smile at you and hug you and do all the other really adorable things.

  10. Try to dig up episodes of Viva Variety, a variety show parody that featured Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney-Silver (of Reno 911) as the divorced hosts, with Michael as their announcer and side-kick Johnny Blue-Jeans. He introduced them as “Mr. and the former Mrs. Leau Pan” and a different tag line with each show’s introduction: “He gave her a ring and she gave him the finger.” One memorable skit: Johnny was the first man ever to attempt a bicycle leap over Evil Knievel. Hilarious stuff and definitely worth searching out. I have a handful of episodes on VHS, but I’m not even sure if my VCR still works.    

    1.  This. Johnny Blue Jeans was a fantastic character. I remember watching Reno 911 the first time and thinking, “Damn, these people look really, really familiar. Not just the faces, but the comedy.”

      I find Michael Ian Black’s comedy hysterical, but all his shows seem to get canned. I figured he must be hard to work with, but he’s usually in a cast where all the characters play off each other and have good onscreen chemistry, so….?

      Might have to get a copy.

    2. That was how I first saw him, and any time I see him I still think Johnny Blue Jeans. 

  11. When you said on the podcast that you didn’t know who he was I was surprised. This happens frequently on Gweek, actually, but of course there’s so much stuff that you guys know about that I don’t that it all makes sense (and there’s a relevant xkcd about this). 

    In any case I wasn’t sure why I knew who he was, but he was well known to me anyway.

    I looked him up on imdb and it turns out that as far as I can tell I haven’t seen anything that he’s been in. Weird.

  12. As a stay-at-home, homeschooling father I must restate that anyone who thinks caring for their child was a wretched experience, a living hell, or any of the other claims of nightmarish proportion contained in some of these comments are in fact doing it wrong.

    Is the experience difficult, yes, but man up. This is the most amazing experience of my life. Can children be difficult and frustrating, sure, but calm the F down, a wretched, living hell is what happens in parts of HIV and civil war ravaged Africa.

    I don’t usually say this to anyone, especially to those who do not or cannot have children, but until you have a child you will never fully understand what it means to live or love.

    Until you have a child you have but glimpsed the best and the worst of possibilities.

    Meaning, until a piece of everything you appreciate and love within you is no longer within you, but exists outside of you in this fragile defenseless creature, which you know you can not fully defend, whose place you would take without hesitation when threatened, you will never fully appreciate what it means to share your life with a child.

    I know this is impossible to explain or defend; I know you have all, hopefully, had rapturous moments of love and lovers or friends for whom you would give your life, but being a part of and passing along into a new creature the data of a billion year old thread and watching them grow and experience this mystery is without doubt the most fully stunning experience of my life.

    To eventually sit by an ancient fire at night staring up into the universe, listening to your child ask the same questions we have asked since the dawn of consciousness is incredibly moving.

    Am I always the best dad in the world, sadly no, but I have never thought of any of this as a wretched, living hell, I love my children too much to be anything other than hurt when they cry and overwhelmed by their joy.

    1. Don’t tell me I was doing it wrong Bob. 
      Come on back down to earth now Bob.  
      The best things in life generally hold  a nature of great contrast. Taking care of my daughter as an infant. Well, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. It can be hell at times and anyone who denies it is a liar or medicated. The hellish parts only make the sweet parts that much sweeter. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the dark. Don’t be afraid, you know it’s there.

    2.  I believe that every baby is different and that the same methods may not work for every baby.  I was breastfeeding and swaddling and playing white noise and doing everything except hanging my baby upside down, but she still had acid reflux.  She would vomit and them scream for hours.  HOURS.  And it was hell because I couldn’t do anything more to help her, she just had to grow out of it.   I loved her the entire time, but I didn’t love the experience.   Being powerless to help your child that is suffering  is living hell to me.   Now that my daughter is nearly two, I am the happiest I have ever been in my entire life.   There are still moments that are less than ideal, but overall it’s really great.

      I am glad your experience was positive. 

      1. Now that my daughter is nearly two, I am the happiest I have ever been in my entire life.

        Ah, the calm before the storm.

        People like me are the reason I don’t read parenting blogs.

    3. You really seem to feel that your experience is the only valid experience that anyone has ever had. Frankly, I’m a little concerned about your children being raised by someone with such poor empathy skills.

    4.  I’m sorry… the fuck you know about Africa? About as much as you think people know about child-rearing.

    5. I see your point – but you are forgetting child rearing isn’t in a vacuum. Parents experience things like depression or illness that can make the whole experience overwhelming. Some kids have behavior issues (which may or may not be something the parent can really control). I would never describe my experience as wretched – but if I swapped kids with a few of my Friends, I would probably be tempted to use the word.

      Also some of it is melodrama. While it doesn’t compare to a true hell-hole, there are some shitty parts of parenting we have to go through. Like anything in life – it really bothers some people, and others just shrug it off and don’t care.

    6. I’m glad the experience was amazing for you, but this sounds too much like one of those religious conversion experiences where the person thinks that because their conversion felt so amazing and gave them such a new sense of meaning, that means everyone else should have this experience too and if they don’t, they must be some sort of incomplete human being. How else should I interpret an grandiose statement like “Until you have a child you have but glimpsed the best and the worst of possibilities”? Also, the statement “until a piece of everything you appreciate and love within you is no longer within you” doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, did you really feel like everything you “appreciate and love” was within you before you had a child? Maybe I’m being too literal, but when I think of things I “appreciate and love” I think of people I care about, art, visual experiences, ideas I come across in books, food…all things outside me, not within me. Maybe you’re just talking about the sense of vulnerability and responsibility that comes with having something you care so much about being so irreplaceable (unlike, say, a book) and also so dependent on your care (unlike adult friends, family, loves), but if so that’s a pretty strange way of phrasing it.

    7. Wait, because there are people worse off in HIV (where is that, exactly?) or Africa, I’m not allowed to feel like parts of raising my two kids haven’t sucked? The past six months of getting  my 13  year old daughter through a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis and treatment in no way means that I don’t also look back at sleepless nights in the early months of her life as a kind of living hell, and that’s just comparing my experiences to my own.  Let’s not start invalidating other people’s experiences based on their comparison to those of entirely different people.  You are a very lucky person to see parenting as one “gifty joy-bomb” after another but I kind of don’t believe you.

  13.  Whoa there. You say you’re a stat at home dad. That’s you’re job, correct? Well, it’s easy to be good at one job, when you can give it all of your attention. However if you’re balancing the needs of a child, the demands of a job, and your own needs/wants, things tend to get a bit hairier. I’ve done the stay-at-home mom thing, and am now doing the single mom with 3 kids and a full time job thing, so I’m pretty well versed on the subject.

    All of my children were very different as babies. The oldest was a complete angel, the middle one a little more rambunctious and colicky, and my 10 month old is a fire breathing fucking dragon. He’s also crazy cute and can be very snuggly. But only when his environment is just-so.

    Now, imagine you work from home, sometimes up to 60 hours a week  because you’re poor and that’s what feeds your kids, you don’t have babysitters or a partner to give you a break, AND you have a colicky baby with massive reflux issues, a generally bad temper, and who wakes up swimming in a sea of shit nearly every morning. Are you enjoying that picture?

    I’m not doing it wrong. I’m just doing it. And it is fucking horrendous. But just like you forget the pains of pregnancy and labor (otherwise, who would do that more than once?) those times pass and you can focus on actually enjoying your kids.

    This is why I don’t talk shit about the people yelling at their kids in public. I don’t know how much sleep they had last night, or how long their kid has been needling them for something they can’t afford, or if this is the 1st or 15th time they’ve told them to behave, or whatever.  Get over yourself.

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