I named my cat Fluffy after fictional Angelica’s cat on the show Rugrats. Angelica was my favorite character, which is an odd choice for other people, but not for a dramatic, bossy Sagitarrius like myself. So when I found out that one of the voice actors for Rugrats had a new memoir, I was instantly intrigued.
Not only was Chartoff the voice of Didi Pickles, one of the most iconic cartoon characters in the history of animation, she voiced the role for almost 20 years and won a Daytime Emmy for it. As someone who had Didi Pickles in her living room often, glaring from the big box TV in early mornings with my Captain Crunch on my collapsible food tray parked in front of a fuzzy backrest pillow, it’s fascinating how little I knew of Melanie Chartoff.
The memoir Odd Woman Out is a set of non-chronological essays from Melanie’s young life—to her start in Broadway, to her first love and its fizzling out, to her work on television. To me, it reads as an older, wiser version of Lindsay Lohan’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.
It was a riot to be able to go backstage on Broadway sets, behind the scenes of network television, and understand what it’s like to be an up-and-coming woman in the industry. I feel like I really got a peek at the inside of the complicated psyche of an extremely talented woman who felt anxiety boiling inside her constantly, struggling to play the role of a complete and fulfilled human being.
It’s fascinating to me that we spend hours and hours with certain people on our screens, in our living rooms, and form connections with them through our own lived experiences, but we don’t know very much about their lived experiences at all. Odd Woman Out exposes the nature of identity in the life of a performing artist who I spent hours with in an intimate, inspiring way.
I knew I would like the book when the first essay literally starts with Melanie hitting menopause and hits the town for a new vibrator. She details abuse she endured growing up and the uncomfortable situations she found herself in constantly as a woman trying to find work in the entertainment industry. She had a lot of doubts in regards to self-love and relationships. There is an essay that details her run-in with a homing pigeon sent to her by an adoring fan that will have you laughing hysterically. Her essays range from comedic relief and tiny moments to more heart wrenching honesty around her constant struggle to love herself more fully than the characters she played on screen.
There is a story that details the practice sessions of her first Broadway work—she appeared in Galt MacDermot’s space opera (yes, space opera!) Via Galactica in 1972. It is laugh out loud hilarious.
I think it is important for women of all ages to talk about love and relationships and male encounters candidly and playfully, and Melanie did just that. If you are looking for a quick-paced read for a woman who played a handful of characters that probably shaped your childhood, give this essay collection a go. As a person who read a lot of gossip rag mags in the hair salons as she got her roots bleached, each story of this collection digs into a deeper theme, emotion, or life changing period in Melanie’s life and it provides for a wholly entertaining read.
Each story and essay within Odd Woman Out provides readers a comical sense of enjoyment as Chartoff plays on her comedic roots to draw readers further into her Hollywood life. There are many celebrity tell-alls out in the world, but this one is different. Melanie has a long list of acting credits, but has more anonymity than an A-list celebrity. Melanie was able to write a more nitty-gritty, bare-all kind of memoir and you can tell it was carefully crafted and curated and not popped out with a ghostwriter and a sensitivity reader from a PR firm. While this book is hilarious at times, it also showcases a certain kind of pain that Melanie has lived with and it is hopeful, inspirational, and wildly heartbreaking.
Read this one, you won’t regret it.
Odd Woman Out
By Melanie Chartoff
229 pages. 2021.