Everything is Horrible and Wonderful

We are all horrible and wonderful and figuring it out

—Harris Wittels

Harris Wittels was a goofball. He was an extremely gifted writer—the go-to guy to punch up a script. He was a producer, an actor, a comedian, an entertaining podcaster. He was a son, a brother, a friend, and he was an addict. This book was written by Harris’s sister Stephanie Wittels Wachs, alternating between telling stories from their childhood to chronicling the first year after he died.

Goodreads Summary:

The space between life and death is a moment.
But it will remain alive in me for hundreds of thousands of future moments.

One phone call. That’s all it took to change Stephanie Wittels Wachs’ life forever..

Her younger brother Harris, a star in the comedy world known for his work on shows like Parks and Recreation, had died of a heroin overdose. How do you make sense of such a tragic end to a life of so much hilarious brilliance?

In beautiful, unsentimental, and surprisingly funny prose, Stephanie Wittels Wachs alternates between her brother’s struggle with addiction, which she learned about three days before her wedding, and the first year after his death, in all its emotional devastation. This compelling portrait of a comedic genius and a profound exploration of the love between siblings is A Year of Magical Thinking for a new generation of readers.

A heartbreaking but hopeful memoir of addiction, grief, and family, Everything is Horrible and Wonderful will make you laugh, cry, and wonder if that possum on the fence is really your brother’s spirit animal.

I first heard of Harris from his small part on Parks and Recreation as one of the Animal Control workers, only appearing in nine episodes—I would come to later learn that he was one of the writers and producers for the show. After getting into the podcast Comedy Bang Bang, I got to know him as Foam Corner Harris—a part of the show where he reads off his phone the jokes that weren’t good enough for his Twitter account.

Harris also made two episodes of the You Made it Weird podcast with Pete Holmes where you not only learned about his fast rise to comedy fame but also all about his struggles with addiction. Many people didn’t even know about until hearing him discuss it so candidly with Pete, especially in the second episode—released only three months before his death—where he reveals that he has relapsed.

What really makes Stephanie’s book so great is that not only do we get an inside look into their relationship, but she also doesn’t shy away from how angry she feels with her brother. Her frustrations with him turning down help, lying to her and their family, and for relapsing after rehab. Of course she loves and misses him, but I think the anger she feels for him is so valid but is also comforting. It’s okay to be angry with a loved one when you’re grieving.

When he died, twitter just blew up with memorials, he touched so many people’s lives just by being wholeheartedly himself. He was such a charming and effortlessly hilarious guy that I felt like I knew him just from listening to his podcast appearances.

I laughed a lot and I cried a lot. I listened to most of it on audiobooks, narrated by Stephanie. I can’t even imagine having to narrate your own book about something so tragic. I loved learning more about this silly guy who left the world way too soon.

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