Since his last movie An American Pickle, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, Seth Rogen presided over the signifcant expansion of his and Evan Goldberg's Houseplant canna-brand into California and quietly wrote a memoir called Yearbook.
It's a funny read, to say the least. I hesitate to compare Rogen's Yearbook to Woody Allen's first book Getting Even, because of the controvery around Allen. But it is comparable. Allen was 36 and had already starred in, written and directed some of his best movies. Rogen is 39. He too has starred in, written and directed a number of succesful movies.
Both were stand-up comedians early in their careers and became actors and directors. Both are Jewish.
Rogen loves to obsess about his Jewishness.
The opening chapter, "Bubby and Zaida," is about his grandparents who he immediately makes fun of. "Because they grew up in the Depression they would steal EVERYTHING," he reveals. They'd lift plates and silverware in restaurants whenever they went out to eat. "They really were my first comedic inspiration."
Growing up in Vancouver, Rogen started doing stand-up at 13, the same age he began smoking weed (which he refers to about 100 times in the book). It started innocently puffing with the guys behind the local 7-11. But then Rogen decided to be a big shot and buy $300 worth from an older guy who ripped him off. Welcome to the drug war.
After Rogen got his first role on Freaks and Geeks when he was 17, his career took off. There's not a lot of movie talk in Yearbook, other than him referencing favorites like The Karate Kid and The Last Starfighter. While two chapters are reserved for the craziness around the release of The Interview, which really pissed off the North Korean government and almost caused an international incident, he only makes passing references to Pineapple Express, This Is the End and Superbad. Rogen does slag Neighbors 2 though when he writes in Chapter 3:
"I understand the pressure of giving people more of what they want. That's how you end up with movies like Neighbors 2. 'This one worked! Everyone loved it! They want more! Not NEW more! Just MORE more!' I've been there."
"I'm not quite cut out for this world, but weed makes it OK."
Three chapters are especially reserved for Rogen's thoughts on weed, 'shrooms and acid. He discusses MDMA, cocaine and alcohol as well.
On his beloved weed:
"I used to think a lot about why I smoked weed, but, honestly, I stopped. Because I realized the only reason I was thinking about it was because of the negative stigma, and the only reason it has a negative stigma is that it makes it easier for white people to control nonwhite people, which unfortunately is also the reason for a shitload of other things...
"There's stuff that makes our lives better that hasn't been stigmatized, and nobody gives those things a second thought. Nobody thinks about why they have a strong desire to wear shoes... That's why I smoke weed. It's additive to my journey. It makes getting here to there manageable and comfortable... Weed is my sunglasses. Weed is my shoes. I'm not quite cut out for this world, but weed makes it OK."
Rogen later tells stories about tripping on psilocybin in Amsteredam and LSD at Burning Man. He calls alcohol "way more shitty for you" and says, "Cocaine is a fucked-up drug."
He even devotes a chapter to negative pot stories, such as when his father-in-law got too high one night before they went out to dinner, though he survived to declare, "Holy shit, that was crazy."
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Some of the Rogen's best stories are his meetings with Hollywood legends like George Lucas, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage and Kanye West. all of which didn't go well. Lucas talked about the end of the world happening in 2012, Cruise pitched Scientology, Cage played the part of a white Caribbean and West demo-ed some new material.
Rogen sheds no tears for Amy Pascal's fall at Sony Pictures and has zingers for Eddie Griffin, Dennis Miller, Steve Jobs, Jack Dorsey (a whole chapter is devoted to Twitter), Bryan Singer, Michael Lynton, Burning Man, UB40, Steven Spielberg and Lucas. However, he's mum about James Franco, his co-star in Pineapple Express, who recently settled a sexual misconduct suit.
The final chapter returns to Rogen's youth when he and fellow Jewish campers went on a near-death-defying wilderness hike on Vancouver Island that required an emergency rescue.
"When you think about it, it's still kind of a funny story, isn't it," Rogen says to a friend who was there that he recently contacted.
"Nope," the friend replies. "Not at all."
More Book Reviews
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• Greenlights by Mathew McConaughey
• Beautiful Things: A Memoir by Hunter Biden
• Drug Use for Grown-Ups by Dr. Carl Hart