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Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny

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Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny is a book that only Marlo Thomas could write—a smart and gracious, witty and confident autobiographical journey.

For as long as Marlo Thomas can remember, she's lived with laughter. Born to comedy royalty—TV and nightclub star Danny Thomas—she grew up among legendary funny men, carved much of her career in comedy and, to this day, surrounds herself with people who love and live to make others laugh. In this long-awaited ...

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Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny

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Overview

Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny is a book that only Marlo Thomas could write—a smart and gracious, witty and confident autobiographical journey.

For as long as Marlo Thomas can remember, she's lived with laughter. Born to comedy royalty—TV and nightclub star Danny Thomas—she grew up among legendary funny men, carved much of her career in comedy and, to this day, surrounds herself with people who love and live to make others laugh. In this long-awaited memoir, Thomas takes us on a funny and heartwarming adventure, from her Beverly Hills childhood, to her groundbreaking creation of That Girl and Free to Be . . . You and Me, to her rise as one of America's most beloved actress-comediennes, to her marriage to talk-show king Phil Donahue.

Her youth was star-studded—Milton Berle performed magic tricks (badly) at her backyard birthday parties. George Burns, Bob Hope, Sid Caesar, Bob Newhart and other great comics passed countless hours gathered around her family's dinner table. And behind it all was the rich laughter nurtured by a close and loving family.

Growing Up Laughing is not just the story of an iconic entertainer, but also the story of comedy. In a voice that is curious, generous and often gleeful, Thomas not only opens the doors on the funny in her own life, but also explores the comic roots of today's most celebrated comedians, in personal interviews with: Alan Alda, Joy Behar, Stephen Colbert, Billy Crystal, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Griffin, Jay Leno, George Lopez, Elaine May, Conan O'Brien, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Ben and Jerry Stiller, Lily Tomlin, Robin Williams and Steven Wright.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Some know her as the star of the 1960s TV show That Girl, or creator of Free to Be... You and Me, or perhaps major fund-raiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Thomas, author of five bestselling books, here focuses on a role she's had her entire life: daughter. Laughter was the soundtrack for Thomas's formative years in 1950s Beverly Hills. Her father, comedian Danny Thomas, regularly had funny friends--including Bob Hope, Sid Caesar, and George Burns--over to the family home. The author, actress, feminist, and philanthropist shares fond memories of enjoying and learning from these comedy luminaries, and of being a Hollywood kid long before game-changers like the Internet and cable TV. She chronicles her path from childhood to adulthood; particularly interesting tidbits include her meeting and marrying Phil Donahue, becoming friends with Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug, and, with her siblings, "producing" her father's funeral. But this book is more than a well-written memoir. Thomas also includes interviews with comedy powerhouses galore, from Tina Fey to Alan Alda, Chris Rock to Ben and Jerry Stiller. On the whole, this book offers a delightful firsthand look at how comedy has become integral to American culture--and the way it's shaped one woman's colorful life. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Thomas, an award-winning actress known for her lead role in TV's That Girl (1966–71), has published five best-selling self-help and children's books, including Free To Be…You and Me. In her memoir, she describes some of her early memories and humorous situations growing up with her father, comedian Danny Thomas. The funniest stories relate to her father's famous friends, such as George Burns, Milton Berle, and Sid Caesar. Thomas discusses their work ethics and then describes her interviews with more recent comedians, including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Rock. VERDICT All in all, this is a nice, light read with a lot of laughs. Recommended for readers interested in celebrity memoirs, performing arts, Marlo and Danny Thomas, comedy, and biographies.—Sally Bryant, Pepperdine Univ. Lib., Malibu, CA
Kirkus Reviews

That Girl star and Emmy-winning TV veteran attempts to find out how humor works.

Thomas (The Right Words at the Right Time: Volume 2: Your Turn!,2006, etc.), the daughter of funnyman Danny Thomas, builds on her thriving second career as a nonfiction writer. Each chapter contains an autobiographical section—with the author's memories of encountering funny famous folks during her upbringing in Southern California—along with an interview section featuring big-name comedians in the league of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. Although interview banter with natural wits like Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert is an easy sell, it's Thomas's autobiographical musings that are the most compelling aspect of the book—e.g., the surprisingly affecting story of her determination to carve out an identity as an actress without the help of her famous father. Particularly refreshing is the description of her coming-of-age in Beverly Hills at a time when the neighborhood still had a middle-class feel and was full of unpretentious eateries and mom-and-pop shops. Even more surprising to learn is that her father, unlike so many celebrity fathers, seems to have been a kind, caring, loving patriarch. On the downside, Thomas's interviewing style is fawning at best, and except for a chat with a feisty and recalcitrant Elaine May and the always-amusing Don Rickles, the author's questions fall too often in the "So, you were the class clown?" category. Her responses are often limited to "That's so funny," "Ah-ha" and "Wow." Although all her subjects have big personalities and star-quality wit, there's rarely any original, penetrating insight into the formative human experiences that coagulate to create the perfect comedic brain. There are patterns, of course: Often a comedian will come from a funny family or use humor as a way of masking insecurities, but these are hardly major revelations.

Good for beach-readers interested in celebrity memoir and famous comedians.

From the Publisher
"This one is special."—USA Today
USA Today
"This one is special."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401323912
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 9.62 (w) x 11.22 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Marlo Thomas is the author of five bestselling books, including Free to Be You and Me and The Right Words at the Right Time. She has won numerous awards including four Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, the Grammy Award, the Peabody Award, and has been inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame for her work in television, including her starring role in the landmark series That Girl. She is the National Outreach Director for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. She lives in New York with her husband.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 82 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(30)

4 Star

(16)

3 Star

(18)

2 Star

(12)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 82 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 30, 2010

    That Girl definately has it!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I grew up watching "That Girl" and "Make Room For Daddy" and when I first heard that this book was coming out...I could not wait to get it...Well let me tell you I enjoyed it so much and the memories it brought back were astounding. Get it...read it...and relive your own memories, you will not be sorry.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2010

    Highly Recommended

    First read on my nook. Wonderful remembering things as I was growing up. I would highly recommend this and all the memories it brings back.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Funny and fun

    She grew up among the legends of comedy; Milton Berle, George Burns, and Sid Ceasar to name just a few. She was referred to as "Danny Thomas' little girl" or "That Girl." But through it all, Marlo Thomas has been her own woman, independent, opinionated, and very appreciative of her loving family. Growing Up Laughing is as much a story of Danny Thomas as it is of his daughter Marlo. The well-known actress recounts a myriad of stories of her dad, his career, and the company he kept within the pages of this book. There are many tales of Danny Thomas with "The Boys," (Red Buttons, Milton Berle, Art Linkletter, Don Rickles, Carl Reiner, etc.) that are both touching and humorous. It quickly becomes clear that this was a tightly knit group of friends. The Boys liked to hang out at Hillcrest Country Club and they wanted their friend Thomas to join them for Sunday afternoons at the club. The only problem was that the club was restricted to Jews and Thomas was Catholic. The board had to decide if an exception would be made and with all of Thomas' friends pushing for him, he was allowed honorary status. They went on to share many great times at the club. The Boys were also constantly trying to one-up each other, creating havoc as they all would surrender in laughter. The book is filled, particularly the early pages, with the exploits of these famous comedians and what they did and said to keep their friends in hysterics. Growing up in Beverly Hills, Marlo didn't have the typical middle-class American suburb upbringing, but rather the privileged childhood that came from her elite zip code. Still, Marlo and her two siblings remained amazingly "normal" and happy and avoided many of the pitfalls of other celebrity children they went to school with. Throughout the book, the reader gets a sense that her's was a happy life, full of laughter and love. If you're looking for ugly gossip on those famous comedians of the past, or of celebrities Marlo has encountered in her own career, you will be disappointed with this book. The author is at all times respectful of others and is far more interested in recounting the funny in life rather that the dirt. There's a chapter on "The Donald," (no, not that one, the one from That Girl) Ted Bessell, who played Donald Hollinger on That Girl. We also meet Lew Parker, who played Marlo's father on the show. We're introduced to many greats Marlo has worked with such as Orson Welles. In addition, Marlo recalls her awakening as a feminist and her fight for women's rights alongside Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinemn and her courtship with future husband Phil Donahue. Growing Up Laughing is not just a memoir of Marlo Thomas but a look at what "funny" is and what makes a good comedian. Interspersed throughout the book are interviews the author conducted with over 20 well known comedians. Through her questions, we get to see what in their backgrounds led to their life in comedy, how they struggled, and what they find funny. There are also a LOT of jokes in this book, some from Marlo but most from those comedians who have touched her life. You can't help but laugh as you read this memoir. Quill says: Funny and fun - a great look back at the comedians of the past, as well as an enjoyable look into Marlo Thomas' life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2011

    A Great Read

    When I was younger, I wanted to be Ann Marie from "That Girl". By the time I finished reading this book, I wanted to be Marlo Thomas!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2014

    very good book

    so enjoyed the different ladies lives and their courage and get up and go to change their lives. One really realizes all the strength we have when reading these ladies lives

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  • Posted December 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Somehow went from a nice commentary on growing up the child of D

    Somehow went from a nice commentary on growing up the child of Danny Thomas to a feminism brochure...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    Love the book love her in Thats Girl

    What a great story What A Beauitful Lady Love What she Does For St Judes We Need more Beauitful Ladies like Her in Hollywood like her I send money to StJudes to help the little ones with cancer Thank You And Your very wonderful Father

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

    Good read

    If you remember danny thomas and love comedians, in general, this is a fun book to read.

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  • Posted May 17, 2011

    St. Judes

    Ilove what she did to the children at st judes shes is really nice and have met her

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    You'll Laugh Reading it...

    If you grew up knowing Danny Thomas, you will love this. Brief chapters offering snippets of life growing up with "Daddy" and his pals, George Burns, Jan Murray, Rickles, and many more. MT provides insight into her life, how she got where she is today, and interviews many of her favorite contemporary comedians. A fun read. What a life!

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  • Posted February 22, 2011

    Light Hearted

    It was nice she interviewed other comedians. This made it a little more interesting. It gave us many different perspectives.It will make you laugh.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2011

    Enjoyed That Girl

    I loved the book and all the stories about her father and other famous comics. Also enjoyed her interviews with current comics. Ms. Thomas sounds like she comes from a very loving and warm family. Her love for her family was well reflected in book. Stories about her father were so enjoyable. He sounds like his character on Make Room for Daddy was very close to home. Would highly recommend. Surprised that more people haven't written reviews. Marlo Thomas is still That Girl.

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    Posted February 9, 2012

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    Posted October 24, 2010

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    Posted October 19, 2010

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    Posted December 27, 2010

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    Posted July 30, 2011

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    Posted October 18, 2010

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    Posted October 22, 2010

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