True Story: A Comedy Novel


"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 "This is the novel I would have written about stand-up comedy if I was a sick egghead like Bill Maher." - Roseanne "Crisp, funny bitter, and wise...Bill Maher really knows stand-up comedy" - Steve Allen

The star of Comedy Central's Politically Incorrect and a regular guest on The Tonight Show, Bill Mahr is one of America's hottest comics. True ...

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"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 "This is the novel I would have written about stand-up comedy if I was a sick egghead like Bill Maher." - Roseanne "Crisp, funny bitter, and wise...Bill Maher really knows stand-up comedy" - Steve Allen

The star of Comedy Central's Politically Incorrect and a regular guest on The Tonight Show, Bill Mahr is one of America's hottest comics. True Story is his report from the front, a stageside table at the birth of stand-up comedy in the '80s, a downright hilarious work about trying to be funny for fame, fortune and fornication. 2 cassettes.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Few things are less enticing than a comedy novel that's not funny. Maher's misogynist, juvenile fiction debut about five young New York comics in search of laughs and sex (not necessarily in that order) lands with the dull thud of a drum roll after a painfully bad joke. The author, host of the cable comedy show Politically Incorrect , gets his story off to an atrocious start by naming his protagonists Dick, Shit, Fat, Chink and Buck, according to their proclivity for jokes about body parts, body functions, appearance, racial identity and so on. Unfortunately, the maturity level goes downhill from there. While Maher does offer a few good one-liners along with some revealing insights into the vagaries of a life in comedy, most of the shallow prose deals with the boys' attempts to get gigs, get laid, get over on sleazy club owners and come to grips with the fact that they lead an incredibly vacuous life based largely on surface cleverness. It's hard to determine what's most offensive: the emptiness of Maher's characters, the hostility of their material or the way both author and characters treat women. If this book were a cable comedy special, it would be zapped within seconds by remote controls across the land. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Imagine five young, ambitious male comics trying to build careers in 1980, just as the U.S. comedy club circuit starts to develop. Imagine these standups as they chase gigs-and women-up and down the East Coast from their home club in New York City. Imagine their fictional exploits documented by a veteran of that circuit, and you have comic actor Maher's first novel. Much of this material is no doubt autobiographical, but Maher has blended his experience into a surreal narrative that moves at the speed of a brilliant standup routine. Despite the potential for caricature, Maher's cast members are sharply drawn and mostly sympathetic. Although much bawdier, this book has to be one of the funniest first novels since John Kennedy O'Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces (1980). Buy where earthy comedy is appreciated.-A.J. Wright, Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham
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: 9780679753377
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/30/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Maher

BILL MAHER is one of the most politically astute humorists in America today. His unflinching honesty has garnered him 18 Emmy nominations— and the respect and admiration of millions of fans. His previous books include "Does Anybody Have a Problem with That?" and "When You Ride ALONE You Ride with bin Laden," which was a "New York Times" bestseller.

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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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