Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America

Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America

by Laurence Maslon, Michael Kantor
     
 

From the most popular routines and the most ingenious physical shtick to the snappiest wisecracks and the most biting satire of the last century, MAKE 'EM LAUGH illuminates who we are as a nation by exploring what makes us laugh, and why. Authors Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor draw on countless sources to chronicle the past century of American comedy and the

Overview

From the most popular routines and the most ingenious physical shtick to the snappiest wisecracks and the most biting satire of the last century, MAKE 'EM LAUGH illuminates who we are as a nation by exploring what makes us laugh, and why. Authors Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor draw on countless sources to chronicle the past century of American comedy and the geniuses who created and performed it-melding biography, American history, and a lotta laughs into an exuberant, important book.





Each of the six chapters focuses a different style or archetype of comedy, from the slapstick pratfalls of Buster Keaton and Lucille Ball through the wiseguy put-downs of Groucho Marx and Larry David, to the incendiary bombshells of Mae West and Richard Pryor . And at every turn the significance of these comedians-smashing social boundaries, challenging the definition of good taste, speaking the truth to the powerful-is vividly tangible. MAKE 'EM LAUGH is more than a compendium of American comic genius; it is a window onto the way comedy both reflects the world and changes it-one laugh at a time.





Starting from the groundbreaking PBS series, the authors have gone deeper into the works and lives of America's great comic artists, with biographical portraits, archival materials, cultural overviews, and rare photos. Brilliantly illustrated, with insights (and jokes) from comedians, writers and producers, along with film, radio, television, and theater historians, MAKE 'EM LAUGH is an indispensible, definitive book about comedy in America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Kantor, who produced and directed the Emmy-winning Broadway: The American Musical for PBS in 2004, returns with a six-part PBS series on comedy. For this companion book, he teamed with NYU professor Maslon, editor of Library of America's George S. Kaufman collection. Their guide to guffaws and giggles ranges from silent film actors (Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton) to sitcoms (Seinfeld), satire (Mad, SNL) and stand-up comics (George Carlin, Lenny Bruce). Taking a scattershot approach with 60-plus performer profiles and sidebars, the resulting text is sometimes superficial with curious oversights; two decades of radio comedy get squeezed into three pages, so Amos 'n' Andy and Bob and Ray rate only a few paragraphs; Stan Freberg sold millions of records yet is dismissed in a single sentence." With hundreds of fascinating photographs, this book benefits from the TV series' extensive photo research, but what is certain to be a hilarious cascade of clips on PBS is a pratfall in print. (Dec. 2)

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Library Journal

This well-illustrated companion to the PBS television series features concise yet captivating insights on the art of comedy in America and the men and women who have made us laugh for over 100 years, including expanded information and biographical narratives beyond the series. Maslon and Kantor (coauthors, Broadway: The American Musical) cover stage, radio, television, and film personalities, dividing the group into six categories: "Knockabouts," "Satire & Parody," "Smart-Alecks & Wise Guys," "Nerds, Jerks, Oddballs & Slackers," "Breadwinners & Homemakers," and "Groundbreakers." Contemporary colleagues add to the text with behind-the-scenes comments to honor those comedians who influenced their professional careers. The book reveals how Charlie Chaplin created his famous tramp character, how Harpo Marx finally spoke at his last performance to announce his retirement, and how Redd Foxx gained popularity through the "party records" phenomena. The authors include to-the-point analysis of such comedy greats as stone-faced Buster Keaton, scandalous Mae West, lovable Jack Benny, controversial Lenny Bruce, trailblazing Phyllis Diller, off-the-wall Mel Brooks, radical George Carlin, and adorable Gilda Radner. Recommended for all public, academic, and special libraries with film study collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ8/08.]
—Richard Dickey

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780821258316
Publisher:
Bulfinch
Publication date:
10/01/2007
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
7.91(w) x 9.71(h) x 0.85(d)

Meet the Author

Michael Kantor is a writer, director, and producer whose work includes "Quincy Jones: In the Pocket" for American Masters, Cornerstone for HBO, and The West with Ken Burns. Prior to his work in television, Kantor was a freelance theater director and writer, published in Newsday, American Theater, and Interview. He is president of Ghost Light Films and Almo Inc., companies dedicated to bringing the arts to television.

Laurence Maslon is an associate arts professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. With Michael Kantor, he coauthored two episodes of the Broadway series and served as its senior adviser. He also wrote the American Masters biography of Richard Rodgers and edited the Library of America edition of George S. Kaufman's comedies. He lives in New York City and on the North Fork of Long Island.

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