Although I am a fan of the The Office and the character of Dwight, I’ve always been a bit annoyed by Rainn Wilson. I always get the sense that he is trying way too hard to be funny. He constantly punctuates his sentences with uncomfortably lame jokes to the point that I have a hard time listening to him. He’s the kind of person that seems to have a hard time “turning it off” to just have an actual conversation. The writing in this book is… unfortunately very similar in most chapters. If I were editing the book and took out all of the unnecessary jokes, I think the amount of text would add up to at least a couple pages. Of course, the remaining book wouldn’t be as good of a representation of Rainn.
Despite my dislike of his quirky constant joking, I can’t deny that he had a unique life that is worth reading about. His experience as a classic nerd in the ‘80s (Dungeons & Dragons, playing bassoon in the band, getting bullied… the whole thing) was amusing and sad at the same time. As he puts it, it was like “literally living inside a John Hughes movie”. To his credit, he seems very gracious about the tough parts, is willing to be self-deprecating, and seems free of any regrets about his “nerdy” behavior.
Another interesting thing about his childhood is that his family moved to Nicaragua for a few years when Rainn was not yet grade school age. His father was a pretty unusual character himself, and he moved his second wife and Rainn to the Central American country on a whim. One chapter focuses on Rainn’s experiences dealing with “critters”, going to the bathroom in outhouses, and being thrown into Nicaraguan culture.
Probably the most influential part of his childhood was being brought up in the Baha’i faith. The Baha’I religion -a fairly new one as far as religions go- accepts all the major religious teachings as potentially valid sources of spiritual enlightenment. Baha’I followers believe that there is one god, and that the only difference between each religion’s god is the name that they use to describe that being. Obviously, this is a very basic summary of the religion. Growing up in this faith made for a unique experience for Rainn different from most American’s religious upbringing. Despite ignoring the faith for many years, he has returned to being a follower. I do get the sense that Rainn is a very caring and peaceful person who has a general harmony with the world. He even went on to create SoulPancake.com, his sincere attempt to have a source of enlightening and positive content on the internet.
My favorite part of the book was his discussion about his time on The Office. He provides some great details on how the show was started, the casting, and how the show developed its personality. He seems to have such reverence for the show and his friendships with his cast members that he writes these chapters without the incessant joking and silly sarcastic remarks that he peppers in throughout the rest of the book.
I gained some new appreciation for Rainn Wilson by reading The Bassoon King, but his jokey quirks still bother the hell out of me. I came to the conclusion that I think he’s an excellent comedic ACTOR with an incredible creative ability, but he’s just not that funny of a person without the benefit of a character to live inside.
The Bassoon King is a pretty easy, quick read if you’re actually interested in Rainn’s childhood, path through acting, his religion, and his non-Office projects. For those who are only really fans of The Office and don’t care about the other stuff, skip to chapters 14 and 15 and enjoy some tidbits about the show.