By Bret Watson
November 22, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

I'm Not Here

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If you were looking for spiritual guidance, would you turn to a comedian? While many an actor’s secret ambition is to direct, Tim Allen apparently wants to be a guru. In I’m Not Here, the Home Improvement star presents his take on (brace yourself) Taoism, quantum physics, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Descartes, Jung, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Hinduism, the Big Bang, The Celestine Prophecy, Plato, Deepak Chopra, string theory, God, and John Travolta’s Phenomenon. All this is interspersed with comic riffs on marriage, parenthood, cars, fame, cinnamon buns, and nose hair. Yikes!

In his best-selling Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, Allen offered his men-are-pigs take on the differences between the sexes. Now, at 43, the comic isn’t content merely to make genitalia jokes. Having ransacked his entire life for his first book, he frames I’m Not Here in the span of a weekend, during which he fights a midlife ”malaise.” He’s set upon by a series of bizarre coincidences — excuse me, synchronicities: A homeless man, a FedEx carrier, dreams, a movie, long-absent friends, and a turtle all offer strange hints in his quest to find both a hood ornament for his car and his ”place in the universe,” which are somehow connected.

As he muses, Tim the mystic and Tim the jester fight for primacy. Allen’s favorite trope is to reach for a deep thought and then humble it with a dopey joke. ”Maybe our minds are our connection with what the Hindus call the Brahman, the Buddhists call the Buddha, and the verifiably paranoid — or perceptive — call the Phone Company,” he writes. His stand-up instincts seem to warn him to tread lightly around this-heer hi-falutin’ New Age fee-loss-o-fee. Yet he still ventures such earnest platitudes as ”love is God and God is love” and ”I feel like everything is a matter of perspective.”

Allen should be commended for noble intentions. But I’m Not Here suggests how observational humor can come perilously close to navel gazing. ”I’m looking for my truest self,” Allen writes. Here’s a hint, Tim: You’re a comedian! Write funnier books! C

I'm Not Here

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