There’s an early passage in Andrew Rannells’ debut book, “Too Much Is Not Enough: A Memoir of Fumbling Toward Adulthood,” in which the 40-year-old actor lays out a thesis statement of sorts. “Please consider this book the longer, more honest version of my bio — the one I’d share with a friend over a few drinks,” he writes. Rannells settled on that approach in late 2017 while chatting with director Paul Feig at a bar in Toronto, where they were filming the movie “A Simple Favor.” “I certainly didn’t want to put on any sort of pretend writerly voice to tell these stories,” says Rannells, known for TV’s “Black Monday” and “Girls” and Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon” and “Hamilton.” “As Paul and I were talking about [the book], I was like, ‘Oh, I want it to sound like this: I want the tone to be one that’s friendly, one that is personal.’” Rannells uses the memoir to recount his early days in New York, as a 19-year-old Nebraskan who set his sights on the Broadway stage, then endured a barrage of embarrassing auditions, bad relationships and family tumult. In a talk Thursday at Sixth and I with President Obama’s former speechwriter David Litt, the Tony nominee and Grammy winner will offer additional insight into his book, which hit shelves Tuesday.
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This book covers a number of difficult chapters in your life. How did it feel to revisit your past?
I sometimes didn’t recognize the person who was doing these things. I was like, “I can’t believe that was me who felt so lost and felt so scared and felt so insecure.” You think you know yourself, and then you start going back through your past and you’re like, “I made some really silly mistakes here and there.” But it was a good way to own them, and in a larger sense it gave me permission and the space to forgive that kid that I was, that I had been very judgmental of.
Which authors or works did you draw on for inspiration when you decided to write a memoir?
Tina Fey’s book, “Bossypants” — that was a big one. I just really loved the way that it sounded like her when you read it. David Sedaris is another. I’m a huge fan of his, and have read I think all of his books at this point. I wanted it to have that same candid nature to it. Obviously, it’s a different tone because it’s my voice, but the way that they both tell their story, I wanted to do my version of that.
How has your family responded to the book?
I think my mother probably could’ve lived her whole life not learning certain sexual details about my life, as moms are wont to do, but that had to all be part of it, right? So I gave her a little bit of a heads-up about what chapters might be tricky. They’ve all been very supportive, my family, but I have no doubt certain parts of it were harder to read.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
Oh, God, I don’t know! That’s the scary part. Hopefully it’s relatable in a way for anybody who has ever left home to pursue a greater dream, one that is out of the norm of where they came from. It can be very isolating pursuing something that you want so badly and that’s personal. It can be scary and lonely, so I wanted to share that. Hopefully people can read these stories and see a bit of themselves in this. And I hope that it’s also entertaining. It’s certainly not a self-help book — it’s not that I have any sort of grand secret or lesson I can teach you to make any of this easier. It’s more of a way to have a shared experience.
Now that you have a book under your belt, what’s next for you as a writer?
I would love to write another book, and I’m hoping to do more screenwriting as well. I had a screenwriting deal several years ago through Universal with Judd Apatow, and I think I was a little bit in over my head when we started that process. This has given me some confidence that I could go back into that and tell stories with a clearer voice and a clearer point of view.