My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

October 27, 2016
My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business Book Cover My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business
Dick Van Dyke
Random House Audio
May 3rd, 2011

Dick Van Dyke, indisputably one of the greats of the golden age of television, is admired and beloved by audiences the world over for his beaming smile, his physical dexterity, his impeccable comic timing, his ridiculous stunts, and his unforgettable screen roles.

His trailblazing television program, The Dick Van Dyke Show(produced by Carl Reiner, who has written the foreword to this memoir), was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s and introduced another major television star, Mary Tyler Moore. But Dick Van Dyke was also an enormously engaging movie star whose films, including Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, have been discovered by a new generation of fans and are as beloved today as they were when they first appeared. Who doesn’t know the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

A colorful, loving, richly detailed look at the decades of a multilayered life, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, will enthrall every generation of reader, from baby-boomers who recall when Rob Petrie became a household name, to all those still enchanted by Bert’s “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” This is a lively, heartwarming memoir of a performer who still thinks of himself as a “simple song-and-dance man,” but who is, in every sense of the word, a classic entertainer.

(via Goodreads)


Hilariously enough, I picked up this audiobook thinking it was a 2016 Audie Award Winner. It’s not. my-life-in-and-out-of-show-business-3My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business was released in 2011— I was looking for Keep Moving— both of which were written and narrated by Dick Van Dyke. That said, I wasn’t disappointed, but it was apparent that this wasn’t an Audie Award winner as well.

Dick Van Dyke was born in the Depression, and out of those hardships grew into a conscientious, level-headed, religious, family-friendly liberal. Known for his roles in Bye-Bye Birdy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Mary Poppins, Van Dyke was always playing himself both on and off the screen. In fact, after listening to his memoir, one could almost consider Van Dyke’s life to be a continuation of his character Rob Petrie’s life from The Dick Van Dyke Show: A blissfully self-contained world that gradually admits the realities of life while keeping a smile and song nearby.

I have also heard and read various accounts of why [Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner] liked me. My favorites? I wasn’t too good-looking, I walked a little funny, and I was basically kind of average and ordinary. I guess my lack of perfection turned out to be a winning hand. Let that be a lesson for future generations.

Listening to this, I learned much more about Dick Van Dyke’s life than I ever expected to. 1As a child of the 80’s, I knew some of his works well. However, I never really was into television or the movies, so I was not familiar with the majority of his work. Or the work of his contemporaries. In the earlier portions of this novel, when Van Dyke reviewed his major work in TV and film, he introduced many actors, actresses, producers, and directors. But he did so in a way that implied all Americans should know these names. Honestly, it made me feel left out. It was similar to name-dropping, but instead of showing off, Van Dyke was just sharing the facts.

Unfortunately, I was not impressed with Van Dyke’s writing He told his life mostly in chronological order, but sometimes jumped into the future to make a connecting point. It was a challenge to follow sometimes. I love listening to memoirs read by their authors because I hear so much more raw emotion in them. I get to hear how the words were intended to be heard. That said, I was not particularly emotionally affected by Van Dyke’s story. Divorce, alcoholism, the unexpected death of his granddaughter– all of these were told with the inflection of one who cares, but was unattached. The lack of impact from Van Dyke’s words made me realize this was not the Audie Award winner I had expected.

You do your best, then take your chances. Everything else is beyond your control.

In the end, I’m glad I listened to this book. my-life-in-and-out-of-show-business-2This is an amazing man who really pushed for family-friendly comedy in a world where violence and sex was becoming the mainstay. He had his highs and lows, and it’s obvious that Dick Van Dyke is just a man. But he is a good man, and he’s constantly striving to make the world the best place it can be. He’s not overly driven, but that also made me relate to him– you can be successful without pushing yourself over the edge.

I certainly recommend this to any fans of Dick Van Dyke. Perhaps I’ll even get to reading Keep Moving someday. It’ll be nice to compare the two memoirs and see if I get anything new out of it.

3 stars

What do you think?

  • Have you read this book, or Keep Moving? What did you think?
  • What are your experiences with Dick Van Dyke’s works?
  • Have you ever read a memoir and been surprised at how honest, open, and genuine a person was? If so, what memoir?


  • M @ A Blog Of One's Own October 27, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    This really sounds like a perfect read (listen? :D) for a film fan. It’s too bad it wasn’t what you hoped for though!

    • Jackie B October 28, 2016 at 9:40 am

      That’s okay, in the end. I learned a lot about Dick Van Dyke’s life, and he is definitely an interesting dude. He’s just not a great writer– and who can blame him?
      I am looking forward to listening to the audiobook for Keep Moving someday soon, though.

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom October 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    “Divorce, alcoholism, the unexpected death of his granddaughter…
    Whoa I didn’t know any of these! Not that I know that much about DVD, but still I can’t picture this. Sorry this fell a little flat for you 🙁

    • Jackie B October 30, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Right?! It is all quite shocking out of context, for sure. But, I can say he did have great transitions. I was never once shocked when I learned of something like this. Or, perhaps in the audiobook format, it was just soothing to listen to DvD narrate. 🙂

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel October 30, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    I am not a fan of memoirs, usually I prefer fiction reads. I am glad you enjoyed parts of the book even though the writing was not what you expected it to be

    • Jackie B October 30, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      I can relate– I only like memoirs if I am listening to an audiobook read by the author. I feel I better understand the intent of the memoir in that case. Perhaps the next one will be better?

  • Anne October 31, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve dipped into the world of celebrity memoirs recently as well, also in audiobook versions. I was a huge fan of Dick van Dyke when I was still a little girl, so this is definitely going onto my audiobook list even though it’s not what you hoped for exactly. Or maybe I should start with the one which won an award, hehe, all depending on if my subscription has his books in their collection anyway (okay, I just checked and they only have Keep Moving, making it easy for me to decide). So far, the person who narrates his memoirs with sincere emotions is definitely Wil Wheaton for me. I listened to a chapter in which he describes how his cat dies and I was just bawling in bed. If you want funny memoirs, I can definitely recommend anything written by Bill Bryson. He always cracks me up by playing the grumpy old man :).

    • Jackie B November 2, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      Oooh– I didn’t know what Wil Wheaton had a memoir! I definitely should look into that. Wil Wheaton narrated What If? and I really enjoyed that. I’m certain his memoir will be for a great audiobook. And Just a Geek has a foreward by Neil Gaiman?! SOLD.

      I have read some Bill Bryson (A Walk In the Woods, In A Sunburned Country), but the only audiobook of his I tried was A Short History of Nearly Everything. But it was so dated (Pluto is still a planet, etc.) that I had to DNF. I need my science to be more accurate than that. What would you recommend as another option?

      • Anne November 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm

        Just a Geek, Dancing Barefoot in The Rain, and The Happiest Days Of Our Lives all consist of blog posts and ‘essays’ Wil wrote years ago. I loved listening to the latter two recently (Just a Geek wasn’t available on my audiobook app 🙁 ). A lot of it is about Star Trek but you can feel how much he misses being on that show. Nostalgia happens to be when his depressions kick in as well. But er, yes, lovely books to listen to! A Walk in the Woods narrated by William Roberts is my favourite audiobook so far. Brilliantly read! Hahaha, A Short History was actually part of a entire module in my studies last year (I study environmental sciences), the outdated facts were fixed I believe, though. Or I’d certainly hope so! I can also recommend Neither Here Nor There, narrated by Bill himself. He’s exploring Europe and a lot of the encounters cracked me up (as usual)!

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