Author Topic: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians  (Read 1935 times)

Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« on: March 20, 2019, 11:30:09 PM »
I have a few, but my favorite is "Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s" by Gerald Nachman.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2019, 11:34:46 PM »
Leslie Halliwell's Double Take and Fade Away from 1988 is worth getting if you can find a copy.  Being Halliwell, it's incredibly dismissive of everything after, say, 1962, but he's terrific on Golden Age film comedy, on US sitcoms up to about 1970 and especially on British comedy of the 30s and 40s.  He saw Max Miller, George Formby and Frank Randle live, and in the book he lists with a brief summary every British comedy film of the period, even though most of them are, as he admits, worthless.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2019, 11:45:23 AM »
Sounds fascinating. Thank you!

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2019, 11:53:54 AM »
I have a few, but my favorite is "Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s" by Gerald Nachman.

Bought that in The Stand in NYC for two dollars a couple of years ago and never got round to reading it. Must dig it out. Got a book about Vaudeville there at the same time.

Also have Kliph Nesteroff's The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy in my unread pile.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2019, 01:11:59 PM »

Also have Kliph Nesteroff's The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy in my unread pile.

Is on Glibert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast earlier this week if you happen to be interested (or you probably know).

notjosh

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2019, 01:38:48 PM »
Agreed about the Nachman book.

Steve Martin's Born Standing Up is absolutely fascinating.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2019, 01:49:29 PM »
Is on Glibert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast earlier this week if you happen to be interested (or you probably know).

Thanks - downloading it just now. Didn't know about it.

Tony Tony Tony

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2019, 02:33:16 PM »
You could try 'Beyond a Joke: Inside the Dark World of Stand-up Comedy' from Bruce Dessau.

I picked up an ex libris copy for 50p and thoroughly enjoyed it as it is very Brit centric. The reviews seem to be split however with most of the negatives focusing on it being superficial and overly prurient. The superficial aspect I can agree with as he is covering a long period of British Comedy so it is a broad sweep. As for the prurience thems the parts I enjoyed most, and at 50p who can argue it wasn't worth the money?

EDIT: I would also add 'James Acaster's Classic Scrapes' for which I was willing to pay full price and got excellent value for my £7.00. It had me snorting with laughter however don't bother if you have heard him recount the tales on Josh Widdecombe's Radio Show as the majority of the chapters are rehashes of his bit on the show.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2019, 02:42:59 PM »
'Funny, Peculiar: The Life of Benny Hill' is quite the eye opener, especially when it comes to his magpie nature in stealing other acts jokes. A fair amount of creepy sexual behaviour as well.

magval

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2019, 05:13:00 PM »
Jem Roberts' book about Blackadder is excellent.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2019, 02:13:11 PM »
"Make Em Laugh" - Lawrence Maslon

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2019, 02:25:14 PM »
Norm’s autobiography is fantastic, obviously.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2019, 03:08:09 PM »
'Funny, Peculiar: The Life of Benny Hill' is quite the eye opener, especially when it comes to his magpie nature in stealing other acts jokes. A fair amount of creepy sexual behaviour as well.

In terms of using other people’s acts, I wouldn’t say Hill was unusual and to give him credit – something that Lewisown, I feel did a good job stressing – he would often substantially rewrite that material. For instance, his Chow Mein character was taken from Buddy Hackett’s Chinese Waiter routine but even though Hackett was furious, it wasn’t a direct lift and there are clear differences to the works.

It’s rather different to the comedy banter at folks clubs in the 1970s, say, where plagiarism was rife; on a BBC documentary, one person related that an audience sat stony-faced through a routine, which previously went like a bomb and afterwards, due to a comment an audience member made, realised that someone had ripped off his entire set and performed it the weekend before. Or Bernard Manning’s use of a blackboard to scribble down the jokes of acts performing at his club, which he would use.

Mind you, IIRC, according to Lewisohn there was the poor sod (think it was beach changing routine) at a live (Royal Variety Performance?) witnessed Hill essentially performing his act and having to immediately follow it, performing the same act. Not convinced that happened, but I like to tell the tale.

Re: sexual behaviour – IIRC, Lewisohn was relying on what Bob Monkhouse said. Later on in the book, Lewisohn comments that a ‘kiss and tell’ story about Hill in the tabloids is roughly what Monkhouse told him – ergo the story had a strong ring of truth. Although it might well be true, the tabloid story – which got a lot of attention – considerably preceded what Monkhouse told Lewisohn, so not sure about the logic there.

Around that time, Monkhouse was presenting himself as a statesman of comedy, but never utterly convinced by him. For example, Kenneth Williams’ disdain of Monkhouse would rather go against being able to give the kind of insights on the Williams Reputations documentary where Monkhouse was one of the main talking heads. From what I recall of the Hill book, Monkhouse doesn’t offer any insights in Hill’s work, so rather curious that his comments were so restricted.

icehaven

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2019, 03:21:24 PM »
Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook is great, it's been a few years since I read it but I remember thoroughly enjoying it.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2019, 03:26:29 PM »
Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook is great, it's been a few years since I read it but I remember thoroughly enjoying it.

Yes, he did a really great job - he also wrote one about Richard Ingrams, which is also worth a read.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2019, 08:56:20 PM »
"Last Man Standing: Mort Sahl and the Birth of Modern Comedy" by Jim Curtis

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2019, 12:33:53 PM »
Bill Hicks: Agent of Evolution
by Kevin Booth

Rizla

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2019, 12:37:34 PM »
"Lost in the Funhouse" by Bill Zehme is the best book about Andy Kaufman - don't bother with the one by Bob Zmuda, that's just irksome.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2019, 04:04:48 PM »
`American Scream' by Cynthia True on Bill Hicks

'Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy: The Double Life of Laurel and Hardy' by Simon Louvish

ToneLa

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2019, 06:31:01 PM »
`American Scream' by Cynthia True on Bill Hicks


No, that one is unfair and horrible

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #20 on: March 24, 2019, 02:19:33 PM »
No, that one is unfair and horrible
Can you elaborate? I have this book, but I haven't read it in years.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #21 on: March 24, 2019, 03:09:47 PM »
Can't recommend "The Comedians" highly enough.

"Born Standing Up" by Steve Martin is a good, short read.
"Kovacsland" by Diana Rico is a good biography, and sadly, the only one about Ernie Kovacs.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #22 on: March 24, 2019, 04:04:55 PM »
'James Acaster's Classic Scrapes'

Yes. The audiobook is good too.

Jake Thingray

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #23 on: March 24, 2019, 06:03:42 PM »
Around that time, Monkhouse was presenting himself as a statesman of comedy, but never utterly convinced by him. For example, Kenneth Williams’ disdain of Monkhouse would rather go against being able to give the kind of insights on the Williams Reputations documentary where Monkhouse was one of the main talking heads.

Not meaning to nitpick, honestly, but Bob wasn't in the BBC2 two-part Reputations special, though did appear in another in the same series on Liberace, and gave his memories of Williams in an ITV short-run series of themed clips, What A Performance!. Unfortunately, regarding the horrible Hill and sex, comments stating that Hill did not respect women were made to Lewisohn by Graham Stark, about whom posthumous allegations were made.

Of Monkhouse's "statesman of comedy" period, I recall seeing his late life BBC1 pair of retrospective specials, when he claimed he and his doomed partner Denis Goodwin had written for Tony Hancock, on radio in pre-HHH times, and thinking "Oh yeah" -- then looking in Roger Wilmut's Tony Hancock - Artiste and seeing it was true, starmakers. Wilmut's books are excellent, it should go without saying, especially the much-plagiarised From Fringe To Flying Circus, as are John Fisher's biographies of Hancock and Tommy Cooper, the latter including the heartbreaking claim that Cooper was asked more than once to do a daft cameo on The Avengers, but his agent Miff Ferrie kept saying no.

Bennett Brauer

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #24 on: March 25, 2019, 01:26:49 AM »
'Funny, Peculiar: The Life of Benny Hill' is quite the eye opener, especially when it comes to his magpie nature in stealing other acts jokes.

Strange how he nicked/reclaimed Tony Hancock's monicker, "The Lad Himself".

Quote
A fair amount of creepy sexual behaviour as well.

Some of the Hill's Angels dance routines in the show's senescence last years were creepier than anything Legs & Co or even Hot Gossip did. This routine (ignore the non-original soundtrack) is fairly typical - the slow motion vaults at around the minute mark really were slowed down in the original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri-N4DkRSps. Arguably NSFW, although shown at 8pm originally.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #25 on: March 25, 2019, 02:33:33 AM »
Quite surprised that Stewart Lee's two annotated stand-up books haven't been mentioned, but that's probably because everyone assumes everyone else has read them. You should if you haven't.  Simon Day's, Steve Coogan's, Richard Pryor's and Lenny Bruce's books were pretty good too.

Bennett Brauer

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #26 on: September 12, 2019, 02:38:53 AM »

easytarget

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Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #27 on: September 12, 2019, 05:22:22 AM »
Tina Fey's Bossypants made me actually, physically laugh out loud more than anything else I've ever read.

I second the Stewart Lee books and would tentatively recommend:
Stand Up by Oliver Double (who hell he? some 90s stand up)
A Comedian's Tale by Ian Cognito - fascinating, must read.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #28 on: September 12, 2019, 06:17:35 AM »
Have enjoyed all of Jem Roberts' books, particularly the Blackadder one, but also the ones on Fry and Laurie and I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.
Agree with the consensus on Born Standing Up by Steve Martin.
There's also much of interest in Steve Coogan, Robert Webb, David Walliams and Matt Lucas's autobiographies. David Mitchell's Back Story is interesting too, although structured badly.
And yes...Les Dennis's autobiography is worth a read. I got it because I was researching Dustin Gee and ended up reading the whole thing  despite finding the Celebrity Big Brother stuff much less interesting. He was a childhood friend of Clive Barker.

Re: Great Books about Comedy/Comedians
« Reply #29 on: September 12, 2019, 10:51:03 AM »
I enjoyed Judd Apatow's Sick in the Head. Mostly just interviews with comedians he's a fan of but it's a high standard of interviewee - Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Garry Shandling and Mel Brooks among them.