I fell in love with Curtis Sittenfeld’s writing when I read The Thirteenth Tale. Although I told everone to read it, now I can’t remember what is was about and I still struggle spelling her name. In her latest book, a Reese Witherspoon book club pick, Romantic Comedy starts as a primer on the popular live weekly comedy variety show, Saturday Night Live.
If you have watched SNL, you will recognize the format, and appreciate the behind the scenes tutorial. Sally Milz is a ten year veteran comedy writer for the show, who provides the insider information about fellow writers and staff. The target episode has Noah, a thirty-something handsome singer who is both hosting the show and providing the musical numbers for the show. As handsome as he is, he may be wearing a wig, but this does not stop Sally from making a connection as preparation for the week’s show progresses. Sadly, Sally inadvertently insults him – in a not so funny way – and the burgeoning romance fizzles.
Two years later, enter Covid and Part 2, with Sally and Noah emailing each other. Mel Brooks could not have written better dialogue, and sometimes I felt I was reading one of his parodies, or maybe it was a farce? At any rate, the laughs are subtle and the romance intensifies. With Noah secluded in Los Angeles, with a housekeeper, chef, and trainer, and Sally in Kansas City with her eighty year old step father and his dog, their emails are long and comfortable, revealing past relationships, attitudes, and secrets (most times funny) about themselves. I have been in both LA and Kansas City, and I doubt I would have wanted to spend Covid isolation in either place, but maybe the chef would have helped. They decide to actually talk on the phone, and eventually set up a meeting.
As Part 3 begins, Covid is still in the air, so Sally drives to LA, supplied with protein bars, hand sanitizer, masks, and water. Secluded in the bubble of Noah’s beautiful estate, they finally provide the love scenes – until, predictably, the paparazzi invade their privacy and Sally’s step father’s bout with Covid prompts her return to Kansas.
All ends well, and as with any good romantic comedy, they live happily ever after. A fun romp and timely. This may be the first novel written during Covid that not just acknowledged its impact on lives but also had the characters emerging better for it.