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BOOK REVIEW: A comedian’s life and faith

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I'M NOT HIGH (BUT I'VE GOT A LOT OF CRAZY STORIES ABOUT LIFE AS A GOAT BOY, A DAD, AND A SPIRITUAL WARRIOR)
By Jim Breuer
Gotham Books, $26, 262 pages

If you're looking for serious advice on finding God, you may want to ask Goat Boy. In his newly released autobiography, "I'm Not High (But I've Got a Lot of Crazy Stories About Life as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and a Spiritual Warrior)," comedian Jim Breuer takes us on a most unusual, life-in-show-business journey that's ultimately about faith, family and, well, faith again.

Fans of Jim Breuer need no introduction, and would be quick to rattle off his hip, impressive accomplishments, among them: four years as a regular cast member of "Saturday Night Live" (where, besides Goat Boy, his Joe Pesci impersonation butted heads with titans like Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani - even Joe Pesci himself), co-starring with Dave Chappelle in the 1998 stoner classic "Half Baked" and currently hosting the popular "Fridays With Breuer" on Sirius satellite radio.

And now Mr. Breuer is the author of an often funny, but more often than not, serious and sobering look at a life in show business, a life that can so easily pull "regular folks" down very dark and dangerous paths.

Key here is the difference between Jim Breuer's on-stage-and-screen persona as a stoner (even he has to admit he always looks stoned), and the real-life Jim Breuer, who is a regular family man with a wife, three daughters and a needs-a-lot-of-taking-care-of-87-year-old dad. But Mr. Breuer is exceptionally grounded in the hard work of living and puts family front and center.

Especially touching is Mr. Breuer's relationship with a nephew named Steve-O. After a five-year stint in prison, Steve-O was basically shut out by his family. But Mr. Breuer and his wife took him in for several years, helping Steve-O turn his life around. The former arsonist and petty thief is now "Uncle Steve" and a family man himself.

Perhaps most intriguing of all is how many times throughout "I'm Not High" prayer comes up. Prayer is there, as are "answers" from God, in Mr. Breuer's relationship with Floridian girlfriend Kristen, who would die suddenly in a car accident. And there is prayer full-throttle in another tragedy involving his older, half-brother Eddie. Prayer and its effects are even evidenced in Jim's spotty relationship with a "Saturday Night Live" alum, the late Chris Farley.

So it's also fair to say that, in Mr. Breuer's life, faith bookends family. Now even though his faith is not that of his born-again believer wife, Dee, it thrives. It appears a seed was sown when Mr. Breuer asked his wife one day - before her conversion and during a period of incredibly difficult marital conflicts - if she ever prayed. The Breuer's marriage was about to go kerflooey, and Mr. Breuer was at his wits' end. Mrs. Breuer had always balked at organized religion (as did her husband), but following his prayer suggestion, spiritual wheels were set in motion.

Not long after, an older lady who worked in a coffee shop that Mrs. Breuer frequented invited her to her house and prayed with her. Mrs. Breuer was eventually released from the depression that had crushed her for years. Her encounter had turned the tide and saved her marriage.

Today, when Mr. Breuer performs comedy, he plays "against type." Gone almost completely is the stoner image. And he credits that change to the time he had Bill Cosby as a guest on his radio show. As comedian Steve Harvey had done with him many years earlier, the iconic comedian gently but powerfully encouraged Mr. Breuer to confront his true self and become the entertainer he not-so-secretly wished to be.

That's one of the major reasons why Mr. Breuer now takes his stand-up show - and his wife and three daughters - on the road (literally, in an RV) when he does his "family friendly" performances. "I believe that if you're doing the right thing and being true to yourself, good things will happen," Mr. Breuer writes toward the end of the book. And, so far, with his wonderful home life and successful, multifaceted career, Jim Breuer seems to be bearing witness to that statement.

Albin Sadar, author of several humor books and former background player on "Saturday Night Live," lives in New York City.

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