Okay, fine, I confess: I tracked this one down because John Ross Bowie—perhaps best know for his role as on The Big Bang Theory—was in Egghead., the same pop punk band as my pal and Zisk co-editor Mike Faloon. I thought I’d get a kick out of reading tour stories and reminiscences about the group. And I was right—Bowie has a great sense of how to highlight both the mundanities and absurdities of being a band on tour.
But I was engaged beyond just the band stuff, which doesn’t comprise a ton of time in No Job for a Man. Bowie grows up a child of divorce in New York City. He lives with his mom for a time before moving in with his High School Sweetheart (caps his). After Egghead. folds, he bumbles his way into a gig as a permanent substitute teacher and discovers the profession isn’t for him and gets into improv comedy, cutting his teeth at the nascent, now-legendary Upright Citizens’ Brigade. Bowie rides the highs and lows inherent in performance as his long-term relationship slowly disintegrates under a great cloud of his own self-denial. He meets and marries the actress Jamie Denbo, decamps to Los Angeles, and eventually starts booking acting gigs.
I’ve never been a Big Bang Theory fan; I’ve never watched Speechless, the other sitcom which Bowie co-starred in. After the band stuff wrapped up, I wasn’t sure I would keep reading—but I did. Throughout, Bowie knows how to set a scene, knows how to hook readers with sensory detail before packing a punch with honest, self-reflective (and occasionally self-depreciating) writing. The narrative came to a head at the end, when Bowie’s father’s health failed, finding him trying to figure out whether to stay in New York City while his father was dying, or fly back to Los Angeles to be with his wife for their birth of their first child—a page-turner for sure, all delivered with a sardonic wit and peppered with Easter eggs for aging punk nerds like me.
“There’s nothing particularly punk rock,” he says “about recurring on a CBS sitcom… but there is something very punk rock about doing something that fills you with adrenaline and serotonin, and not caring what anybody thinks.” Bowie never let his involvement in the scene limit his love for acting. I’m glad I didn’t let my skepticism limit my enjoyment of No Job for a Man, because this one is gripping and rewarding throughout. –Michael T. Fournier (Pegasus, pegasusbooks.com)