I read Disaster Artist on a whim when the movie came out. I’ve since gone through the audiobook 3.5 times and can confidently say it’s one of my favorite books of all time. I expected just to hear funny anecdotes about the making of a famously awful movie and the man behind it, but I found so much more depth. In my eyes, Disaster Artist is an examination of insanity (which I am defining as “the inability to perceive reality to the degree of low or non-functionality in regular life”). The book is a pushback against a subtle cultural norm that sees crazy people as having some sort of gift or potential or insight that everyone else doesn’t.
This message hit me especially hard because I had my first real experience with a crazy person only a few months before I read Disaster Artist…We fired our employee. We offered a small severance, about ¼ of his monthly salary, just to smooth things over. The employee demanded a full month’s salary, which he said he needed to provide for his wife and child. Then he (an ex-marine) threatened to personally kill me if we didn’t pay him.
That 30 minute phone call was terrifying. I wasn’t actually scared of being murdered, and we never gave in to his demands, but it wasn’t until that call that I understood what it meant to be crazy. It unnerved me in a sort of staring into the abyss way. This man was truly detached from reality. He either didn’t know or could not understand the facts before him. When presented with reality, he would lash out in pain and anguish and fury at phantom targets. I would make calm, reasonable arguments about how he had violated his work contract, hurt our business, hurt our clients, and lied to us, and he would respond with nonsensical excuses, random tangents, blaming his personal life, and never ever coming close to acknowledging his own culpability.
I came away from the conversation with a mixture of pity, revulsion, and dread. I don’t know if this guy was bipolar, drug-addled, schizophrenic, or what, but I was 100% sure that this man lived in a nightmare. Everything was confusing and nonsensical to him. The world was dark, malevolent, and couldn’t stop hurting him even as he tried his best. I had an image of him sitting alone in his tiny apartment listening to that one student’s song over-and-over again on repeat while his mind blurred between random scientific and historical topics until he could no longer fight the urge to pick up the phone and call me or someone like me who took enough pity on him to politely listen for a few minutes until we made excuses and left him back alone in silence.
I see Tommy Wiseau, the creator of The Room and the subject of Disaster Artist, in the same category as my ex-employee. The form of their insanity is somewhat different, but both men live tortured, miserable lives, and constantly lash out at bystanders because of it. However, unlike my ex-employee, Wiseau is beloved by the masses precisely for his insanity. This is a dangerous, inaccurate, unfair reality, and in my opinion, is precisely what the Disaster Artist book argues against.