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M. R. Johnson
- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Gerald Nachman is the ideal writer to capture the excitement of the ground-breaking satirical comedy of the 1950s and 1960s. A respected critic and a very funny man himself, he knows how to do his homework. Better yet, he writes crisply, with style and humor. Nachman began earning his spurs in the 1960s, reporting on, among other theatrical things, new voices in comedy for major newspapers on both coasts. He's an expert on funny. He even looks funny.
Now he has put that golden era in perspective. "Seriously Funny" (Pantheon) is the definitive word on the comedy revolution that changed the way we laugh, at least for a few fantastic years.
This book will please two audiences -- those who want to relive the euphoria they felt when the revolt happened, and the younger crowd that always wondered where these people came from, whether they were any good, and where they are now.
Mort Sahl, Sid Caesar, Tom Lehrer, Steve Allen, Jonathan Winters, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Bob Newhart, Lenny Bruce, Shelley Berman, Godfrey Cambridge, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers are all there, among several others.
Nachman's 30,000-word introduction, a sweeping overview that explains the roots of the revolt, acknowledges its ephemeral nature: "It's hard to find traces now of those brilliant, perceptive, funny comedians. The comics who came later mostly aimed for the gut and the groin, not the brain or the soul." And he laments: "The laughter they left behind in all of those little underground clubs is long gone, but their legacy still smiles brightly, warmly, and merrily."
Nachman seems to have combed through all published sources available, adding personal interviews with the principals and their associates wherever possible. Some cranky characters such as Mort Sahl and Bill Cosby declined to cooperate in this project, but many others added fascinating detail on their career zigzags and what they're up to today. Sahl may be surprised to see that Nachman produces a 48-page profile of him, perhaps the strongest piece in the book, pieced together from Sahl's recorded material, Nachman's occasional encounters with him over the years, and a crystal-clear analysis of the man.
Offstage, Nachman reports, some of these wits were prickly, some were grey and businesslike, some still had the comedy magic. Sadly, many of them are wasting away in retirement. You want to shout: "Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters, come back. We need more of you."
A deft touch with the language pulls the reader through this 659-page book. Some of Nachman's gems:
-- Of Vaughn Meader's short-lived career as an impressionist specializing in the voice of John F. Kennedy, he writes: "One twist to the single-bullet theory that didn't make it into the Warren report: the same bullet that killed JFK also murdered Vaughn Meader's career."
-- Of Woody Allen's lesser movie scripts: "If the actors were delivering the same lines in a club, they'd be drenched in flop sweat."
-- Of Lenny Bruce: "Bruce gouged under the skin, creating jucier, Jewishier characters in his gallery of gargoyles and showbiz sharks, and made much more racket."
"Seriously Funny" is a brilliant combination of dense research and incisive interviews, presented through the eye of senior critic.
As a bonus, the narrative is sprinkled with some of the performers' best lines and how they came to be. For example, Woody Allen, in his early gag-writing days, was a veritable joke machine, writing easily and prolifically for other comics. Many of his weird one-liners still make me laugh today. Example: He first suspected his parents didn't love him when they put a live teddy bear in his crib. And Jonathan Winters, famous for being "always on", is said to have adlibbed to a lady who complained "You're not handicapped" when he parked his car in a spot reserved for the handicapped, "Madame, can you see inside my mind?"
This history of intelligent comedy is anything but a doorstop. It is a feast. No, it's more than a feast. It is a smorgasbord so big it threatens to collapse the table. It's hard to believe so much history, mirth and critical analysis can be squeezed between two covers.