True Story: A Novel

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Overview

True Story is Maher's debut novel about the wild and crazy life of the stand-up comedian — a bawdy, rowdy tell-all report from the front line.

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True Story: A Novel

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Overview

True Story is Maher's debut novel about the wild and crazy life of the stand-up comedian — a bawdy, rowdy tell-all report from the front line.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Anyone considering a career in stand-up comedy should read this book, then consider something else, because all this great stuff is over."
— Jerry Seinfeld

"One of the funniest novels since John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces."
Library Journal

"Crisp, funny, bitter and wise....Bill Maher really knows stand-up comedy."
— Steve Allen

"This is the novel I would have written about stand-up comedy if I was a sick egghead like Bill Maher."
— Roseanne

Bernstein
Mr. Maher has written a novel with many funny passages of a kind of sandpaper humor . . . So one enjoys True Storyfor its bawdy energy, its flamethrower wit...
The New York Times
Ray Sawhill
...delivers an impressively maudlin yet bitter wallop; it should be used as a shillelagh with which to prod oversensitive creative writing students. The creepy competitiveness, the behind-the-scenes lore and the raunchiness all start to work, supplying a texture that's rank and seductive.
The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743291354
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Edition description: ABR
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,230,759
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Maher
Best-known for the often controversial, always biting humor he employed as host of the now-defunct cable television forum Politically Incorrect, Bill Maher proves with his books that he doesn't need a celebrity gabfest to get his politics -- and points -- across.

Biography

Some comics parlay their routines into sitcoms and movies; Bill Maher chose unconventionally and became a political gadfly. After building his reputation for biting, unsparing humor in an '80s standup act, Maher entered the late-night television arena as host of Politically Incorrect, a raucous celebrity forum that originated on Comedy Central in 1993 and later ran on ABC until 2002.

On the show, which presented an unlikely foursome of celebrities and pundits debating national issues, Maher was the "moderator" -- though the self-defined Libertarian rarely refrained from excoriating guests he disagreed with before cutting to commercial. Maher's Libertarian status has been challenged (Salon did an entire piece informing Maher that he was "more or less a liberal"), but his ability to incite discussion has never been in question. The success of the show led to a 1996 book tie-in, Does Anybody Have a Problem with That?, which offered highlights from Maher's unfettered commentary targeting everything from AIDS ribbons to Howard Stern to "convenient feminism." Here's his response to secondhand smoking complaints: "It only seems fair that if I can put out my cigarette, you can tell your kid to shut up. Because if you don't tell your kid to shut up, the next time, when you're not looking, I'm gonna give him a cigarette." Maher's fans like his willingness to sacrifice tact and decorum for the sake of sheer honesty; like P. J. O'Rourke, he has an ability to make even his ideological opponents laugh.

The Politically Incorrect book wasn't Maher's first; he wrote a novelization of his standup experience, True Story, in 1994. The blunt, sex-spiked account of comedy club life is not for the squeamish, but it does deliver a realistic portrait. Of the five comedians who inhabit Maher's novel, the New York Times wrote, "They are not deep or refined characters, and the wit is not subtle or dry, but they all have charm, even if it comes from a rueful acknowledgment of their fecklessness and their failings."

Ironically, the same equal-opportunity-offender approach that made Maher such a hit may have been what finally did in his show. True to form, Maher managed to anger many even in America's all-for-one climate following the September 11 attacks. The week following the tragedy, Maher said during an argument on his show: "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly." The resulting tempest in a teapot was enough to make advertisers Sears and FedEx pull out of the show, and it was cancelled shortly thereafter.

With When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden, Maher did not abandon his comedic tenor -- his promotional tour included stand-up engagements -- or his contrarian views. But he tempered the sarcasm with sincerity. "I can't deny it, I do hope you check out this book," he wrote in a note to readers on his web site. "I feel like it's the first attempt to indicate to people stuff they can actually DO to help fight the big terrorism war, so we can, you know -- win." Maher also said he donated part of the proceeds from his book to the USO and Operation USA.

Maher told US Weekly in 2000 that True Story was "the book I have in me. I'm very proud of it, but I could never write another one." This turned out to be not quite true, though it seems unlikely he'll try another novel. After his show ended, Maher told the Los Angeles Press Club (which gave him its 2002 President's Award) that though he wouldn't seek another show like Politically Incorrect, "I'm definitely still going to be talking about issues. I'm still going to be a comedian. I'm sure I'll still be controversial, but it won't be exactly me and four people every night." When You Ride Alone fulfills Maher's prophecy, and confirms his continuing ability to start conversations -- or arguments.

Good To Know

Maher writes a monthly column for Details magazine.

The title of Maher's 2002 book When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden comes from a World War II poster he saw that read, "When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler -- Join a car-sharing club today." The book contained 33 spoofs on the wartime propaganda posters that are being offered for sale, including one that reads, "Put a flag on your car...it's literally the least you can do."

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    1. Hometown:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 20, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Cornell University, 1978

Read an Excerpt

... t, never afraid to admit ignorance, Buck prized the knowledge about women, and everything else, that Shit passed on to him.

But especially about women. Like the time, a Friday afternoon it was, when Buck phoned Shit to see about pursuing the avocation in which they had become expert, the assassination of a day. Shit said he was going to the Guggenheim with a girl, and invited Buck; Buck declined, not wanting to be a third wheel, and not being hungry for German food. Shit explained that the Guggenheim was a museum and that the girl — although a former flame — was now just a friend. He urged Buck to go, dangling the prospect that the girl might be someone Buck would like and then claim for his own.

Buck did like the girl. At the museum, he essayed to be his charmingest, funniest, and especially — since this was a museum — most knowledgeable self. He strained to recall every stray fact he'd once crammed into his head for the Modern Art final, and what he couldn't remember, he made up. He waged a tireless campaign to impress Shit's old flame with his vast knowledge of the subject at hand. And he actually thought it was working. Yeah, she really seems interested, he thought — and quite appreciative that so astute a guide had come along.

Of course, as a guide was exactly how she saw Buck: a sexless, verbose, eggheaded, might-as-well-be-wearing-a-silly-uniform factotum. Buck thought he was getting to her, until in a single moment it became crushingly, blindingly plain what a fool he was.

Near the end of the day, the woman of Buck's soon-to-be-dashed dreams turned to Shit and teasingly asked: "Why don't you tell us somethingabout one of the paintings?"

Shit paused and looked deeply into her eyes. "I don't know anything about them," he said. "I just know none of them are as beautiful as you."

To say that she melted would be to set an impossible standard for applications of extreme heat the world over. But to say that she wanted Shit so bad at that moment that she would have been happy to use Buck as a cot would be just another ridiculous exaggeration.

As for Buck, he just wanted to crawl inside the windmill of an old Dutch painting.

Days later, after Shit and his rekindled flame had spent some quality time remembering where they used to like to touch each other, Shit summed it all up for Buck: "Women want you to be interested, not interesting."

Yeah, that was Shit, all right — a Renaissance man, something out of a different age, out of a time when wit and class and sophistication were the qualities civilized people admired and to which they aspired.

Boy, was he in the wrong business now!

Unfortunately for Shit, it was no time to be a throwback to that gentler age when humorist wasn't a dirty word in comedy; in 1979, humorist was a dirty word, the way liberal was becoming a dirty word in politics. Shit worked in the tradition of the Noël Cowards, the Bob Hopes, the Jack Bennys — comedy giants perhaps, but giants who would never have gotten past audition night had they started in 1979. The revolutions that each American generation stages in its choice of popular music are more noticeable but no less real than those in comedy, and Shit's style was essentially the comedic version of the cabaret singers The Club put up from time to time, to break up the comedy — the thirtyish blondes in billowy gowns who sang medleys of songs lionizing New York or inspirational I-can-climb-the-mountain-find-my-lucky-star-reach-the-impossible-dream show tunes of the sort that homosexuals seemed to enjoy so much.

But this was the eighties, man. Who was looking for the next Lainie Kazan? For that matter, who was looking for Lainie Kazan? The current vogue in music was punk-rockers, very few of whom included in their evening's menu a charming, pre-scripted minute of chat under a tinkling piano, unless you count "Eat my shit, assholes" as patter.

At The Club, Shit had seniority going for him, and he had the city of New York to play to, where there was still some residual sophisticated bonhomie. But even New York was becoming a town more concerned with subway fare than savoir faire, and in such an age, Noël Coward was just an old English douche bag with no props and no dick jokes. When Shit told the audience that so-and-so was "such a conservative, his idea of a great musical is Across the World in Eighty Days..."

Well, there just weren't enough of the kind of people around anymore who knew how funny it was.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, as your delightful master of ceremonies just told you, it's true, I was on a soap opera — I used to play Dr. Matthew Michaels on Lives of Our World. And I'll tell you how I got the job. I was only supposed to work one day — one line. I was supposed to go into the hospital room of the star of the show and say, "That eye looks fine. You can go home tomorrow." But this was live TV. Live. I leaned over the bed and said, "My God, that eye looks awful — I'll be in to see you tomorrow." I kept that shit up for two years.

I recently got my big break when I was cast in the all-WHITE version of Porgy and Bess — ah, a couple of fans of the musical theater here tonight — with songs like "Bess, You ARE My Woman Now" and "It ISN'T Necessarily So."

I snagged the part of Porgy. Next week they cut my legs off at the knees — which is great, 'cause I always wished my dick would touch the ground.

Rex Harrison is doing a car commercial — have you seen that one? Professor Henry Higgins, the greatest linguistic mind in English history, waxing poetic about a Chrysler. But since Rex Harrison is the only celebrity I can imitate — because I can't sing, either — here is Mr. Harrison, as Professor Henry Higgins, performing the song that the commercial really wanted him to do:

Why can't a woman be more like a car?
One car in a million may stall a bit
Now and then one may test your mettle
Occasionally you'll see one that you'd call a piece of shit
But mostly they're a wonderful hunk of metal!

If I forgot to change your oil, would you bellow?
If I didn't tune you up, would you fuss?
Would you despise me if your anti-freeze turned yellow?
Why can't a woman — be more like a bus!


You folks have been...well, an audience. If you want to see me again, on the tenth of September, on the Johnny Carson show — write him.

Copyright © 1999 by BIll Maher

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword

The Act You're Not Good Enough to See

More Green, Asshole

It's a Living Hell, but It's a Living

Show Me the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, and Somewhere There's a Guy Who's Tired of Fucking Her

Good Evening, Ladies and Geniuses

Love Is When You Don't Feel Shitty After You Come

The Work Isn't Bad — but the Hour!

No Set, No Hamburger

Loyalty Is a One-way Street

The Nice-Ass Act of 1980

You Better Be a Winner in This Business, Because if You're Not, It's Shit

It's Easy to Do Great, It's Hard to Be Great

When Opportunity Knocks, All Some People Do Is Complain About the Noise

People: The Problem That Won't Go Away

I Dreamed I Went to See Mort Sahl, and He Was Doing Dog-and-Cat Material

When You Can't Light the Joint, You're Stoned Enough

The Power of Negative Thinking

The Sweet Stench of Success

Epilogue: The Future Isn't What It Used to Be

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2012

    Wheres the stiry

    I cant see any story

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    Boo

    0 stars but it made me put one. You should put why Bane wanted to destroy Shatterstar.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2012

    To post below

    The story accedentaly got deleted. BUT There will be a new series called The Chronicles of Bane coming soon at Bane result one. Please spread the word.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2003

    Life of a comedian

    True Story, takes you inside the life of a struggling stand up comedian. It's not all glamour and glory, just like everything else in life you have to work hard to get where you are. This is a great book for anyone with a dream; you quickly come to realize it's not what you expect, but you persevere and maybe some day you get a shot at the big time. Just as the heroes in this book though, sometimes opportunity does not come knocking at your door, and thats life.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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