Nathan Timmel’s memoir begins in Madison in 1970, opening on a more serious note than one would expect from a stand-up comic: the Sterling Hall bombing.
“I’m obviously not making jokes about that,” said Timmel when reached by phone at his home in Iowa City. “I’m setting the stage for my life.”
Timmel’s self-published memoir, “I Was a White Knight … Once,” has been experiencing some significant buzz in the world of indie books. It was the top-rated e-memoir on Amazon.com recently, as well as the Indie Book of the Day at IndieBookoftheDay.com in July. Timmel’s book also is available in paperback and can be found at Barnes & Noble West Towne as well as the Barnes & Noble website and Amazon.com.
Timmel spent most of his life in Wisconsin, graduating from UW-Milwaukee with an English degree before beginning a career in comedy.
He stresses that his memoir is not a comedy book, even though it might make people laugh.
“There is a narrative arc that goes from childhood to today, but interspersed are stories of the trips I’ve taken to Iraq and Afghanistan to perform for the troops,” Timmel said. “Much of the subject matter isn’t funny, but people have told me they laugh a lot. As a comedian, I can’t make it not funny.”
Timmel said the most common comment he receives from readers is that, despite his unique experiences of traveling with the military overseas, his story is relatable.
“I compare it to ‘The Breakfast Club.’ That was a very quiet movie about being a teenager, about how it’s almost universal to feel isolated and alone in high school,” he said. “My book is like that. It’s not an escapist book, it’s more internal. It’s something that people can feel connected to on some level.”
Timmel said he always kept a journal in one form or another, be it writing in crayon as a child or typing up his exploits in the 1990s on his Brother typewriter to mail to friends. So in a way, writing fits elegantly into his life as a comedian.
“When you’re a comedian, you have a lot of down time,” he said. “That’s what helped me write the book, sitting in hotels with my days free. A lot of comics enjoy drinking all night and sleeping all day and using the career as an excuse to retain a reverse form of adolescence.”
But Timmel’s English degree served him well in the end.
“I used my free time to write a book,” he said. “Comedy is my first love, but my book is my mistress now.”
Timmel returns to Madison in December for a three-day run at the Comedy Club on State at 202 State St. Visit his website, nathantimmel.com, for more information.