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Michael Showalter knows about comedy. He has written, directed, or starred in TV sketch comedy as well as one Hollywood film in addition to doing standup. Showalter also knows cats. He lives with cats. On his blog last year he posted a photo and description of a cat named Button his neighbors were fostering who needed a home. Several "doodles" on his blog feature cats (including "Overeducated Cat" and "Cat Hat").
Showalter mixes the funny with the feline in the book Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too: A Guidebook for Men and Their Cats, scheduled for release on Sept. 3. At first glance it’s not clear whether the book is pure comedy or a mix of the comedic and the useful. Fortunately for us, it’s the latter. Although not every part of Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too works perfectly, Showalter makes us laugh (out loud several times, in my case) while revealing that he’s a big softie who cares a lot about the future of felines on our planet. Illustrations by Son of Alan underscore and enhance Showalter’s humor.
Here are six things I love about Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too:
The book is packed with absurd humor. Yet if you look just past it, seriousness stares you in the face with its sincere big brown eyes. And vice versa.
Here’s a demonstration:
The book deals a lot with development of the self — Showalter, admirably, reinforces that being a better person will make you a better cat guy. Chapter three, for example, is called "What Are Other Things I Should Know?"
"You have nothing to offer a cat if you have nothing to offer yourself," Showalter writes; it’s "about becoming an all-around better person." He then presents a list of things the book will teach you, such as learning CPR, how to build a fire, how to change a tire, and how to pick a lock. "I ÔÇª strongly advise against skipping this section and skipping straight to the cat stuff."
Then we get the following one-page diagram.
End of chapter.
We do get his point — it’s about being a better person — but we get to laugh, and we get to keep reading.
Inventor and electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla got his inspiration from a cat. "Young Nikola Tesla first became fascinated with electricity when he petted his cat and received a shock," Showalter writes. Very interesting stuff. Great to put in my cat-guy file.
Soon afterward we learn this "fun fake fact" — the John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men was written by a cat.
Showalter addresses the "Dog Problem" by giving voice to a hypothetical reader who lists "all the great things dogs can do." His reply? "All of these things are true. And guess what? There’s a bunch more things that dogs can do that cats can’t do. ÔÇª Dogs can take cash out of an ATM. I’ve seen a dog buy groceries and carry them home."
His conclusion? "It’s not a competition. We can love dogs and cats! Isn’t that a crazy idea?"
E pluribus unum!
As I approached the chapter "Choosing Your Ideal Cat Mate," I braced for the worst — the dreaded "pet store." Instead — after another humorous-but-informative lesson on important things to consider when choosing a cat — I found, "Once you know what you need, head down to your nearest animal rescue and find your match."
A later chapter is called "Getting Your Cat Fixed." It provides basic information on the procedures, how to choose a vet, how to prepare your cat for the operation, and how to help your cat recover.
"Spay and neuter. Don’t think about it, just do it," Showalter writes.
Again with self-development comes Showalter: "You didn’t get a cat to help you chase women. You got a cat because you’d become the man you wanted to be and felt ready to share that evolution in a positive way with the world around you."
And again with the absurd humor: "But the fact remains: Your cat gives you a distinct advantage in the dating world, and it’s one you need to exploit."
This is a welcome counterweight to the ridiculous stereotypes of guys who have cats being emotionally distant, immature, noncommittal, or (conversely) overly dependent and needy.
In chapter 14, "What if My Cat’s a Boy Cat? How to Bromance Your Cat," you’ll find the following illustration:
Look! LOOK! It’s much like the Cat Dandy column header showing my cat, Thomas, and I wearing matching suits (rendered by the uber-talented Nigel Sussman).
More with the sports theme, in the photo below taken from an earlier column I "bromance" Thomas by watching baseball with him.
Reading the introduction, I wasn’t sure where the book was going or who it was aimed at. It was clearly well written with good comedic timing, but unfortunately the intro reinforces some negative stereotypes about men, and also about women who love cats.
"Though you [guys] retain many endearing qualities (you can crush a beer can on our forehead, you can juggle a Hacky Sack and talk on the phone at the same time, you can recite entire South Park episodes by heart), you lack the refinement and sensitivities necessary for successful cat cohabitation."
This fits the theme of absurd humor, but to me it’s going for the too-easy laugh and also reinforcing the idea that all men are muscle-headed buffoons — which is contradicted throughout the rest of the book.
Then we see the cat-lady stereotype, the veritable hoarder who obsessively runs her household while neglecting her personal appearance: "Fellas, if you complete my course ÔÇª you too can walk around all day in sweatpants mumbling to yourself about coupons while thousands of little cat eyes watch your every move."
Hmm. Yet despite my initial doubts, I stuck with the book. And I’m glad I did. Showalter’s message is sincere, his data is good, and his treatment is hysterical.
Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too goes on sale Sept. 3.
If I were a cat lady, would I still be a Cat Dandy?
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is associate editor at Catster and Dogster.