When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror

When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror


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Stand-up comic and comedy writer Carol Leifer faced a critical dilemma and had only two options: either continue sharing her greatest childhood memory (seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1966) or lie about her age. But the choice soon became clear: “I see now that when you deny your age, you deny yourself, and when you lie about your age, you become your inauthentic twin. But most important, when you lie about your age, they win. (And of course by ‘they,’ I mean the terrorists).” Now, in this uproarious book, Leifer reveals all—her age, her outlook, her life philosophy—no holds barred.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345502971
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/26/2010
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 1,031,028
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Carol Leifer is an accomplished stand-up comedian and an Emmy-nominated writer and producer for her work on such television shows as Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, Saturday Night Live, and the Academy Awards. She has starred in several of her own comedy specials, which have aired on HBO, Showtime, and Comedy Central. Her “big break” came when David Letterman unexpectedly showed up one night at the Comic Strip in New York City and caught Carol’s show. His visit led to her making twenty-five guest appearances on Late Night with David Letterman. Carol has also been seen on The Tonight Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She starred in and created the WB sitcom Alright Already. She lives in Santa Monica with her partner, their son, and their seven rescue dogs.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

But This One’s Eating My Popcorn

My father was a really funny guy. He lived a good long life. And he was the reason I wanted to be funny and become a comedian and a comedy writer, so to say that he’s somewhat of a mythic figure in my life would be an understatement. Every year, I sent my father the same thing, his favorite gift for his birthday. A box of Godiva chocolate-covered nuts. Big emphasis on the nuts. Because, as he was not shy of saying as he unwrapped the cellophane to grab the first piece, “Creams? They’re a waste of time.”

But this year is the first year I have no place to send anything. See, that’s the thing that truly sucks about death—no forwarding address. So on this birthday, which would have been his eighty- seventh, in lieu of a gold box of chocolates, hopefully this story will come in a close second.

I have very clear, distinct memories of looking up to my father holding court and telling jokes when I was a little girl. And for the record? I see now that as a child a lot of “looking up to your parents” has to do with height. So my father would tell jokes mostly at family gatherings or with people around the neighborhood, and I was fascinated by the power of him telling these stories. Now, don’t forget that when you’re a kid, stories are major. A big chunk of your life revolves around them. Granted, they’re mostly about princesses and fairy godmothers, moonbeams and farm animals, but that’s pretty much your iPod at that age. And here was this guy, my relative yet, telling very short stories to people who were standing up—not in bed in their pajamas. Revolutionary! Then at the end of this very short story, he would say this one line, a little more forcefully and pointedly than the rest of the story, and everybody would roar. But that one line was usually when he lost me.

What I came to find out was that these were the punch lines to “dirty” jokes being told. And I learned to distinguish them from clean jokes, because as he approached the punch line—the mystery line to me—the circle around him became that much tighter and smaller.

Here’s a joke I remember my father telling a lot. “A guy goes to the ticket window of a movie theater with a chicken on his shoulder and asks for two tickets. The ticket lady asks who’s going in with him, and the guys says, ‘My pet chicken here.’ ‘Well, I’m sorry,’ the woman tells him, ‘but we don’t allow animals in the movie theater.’ So the guy goes around the corner and stuffs the chicken down his pants. He goes back to the window, buys his ticket, and goes into the theater. But once the movie begins, the chicken starts to get hot, so the guy unzips his pants so the chicken can stick his head out and get a little air. The woman sitting next to the guy in the movies sees this and is appalled. She nudges her friend and whispers, ‘This guy next to me just unzipped his pants!’ The friend whispers back, ‘Ah, don’t worry about it. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.’ And the woman says, ‘I know. But this one’s eating my popcorn!’ ”

Now, as a little girl, the bulk of this joke made sense. “Chicken”— sure, I was made to eat that quite a bit. “Chicken as a pet”—never seen it, but I’d buy it; I’d just bought “a cow jumping over the moon” the previous night. “Movies”—fun, mostly when they were cartoons. “Popcorn”—love it, but to get those two tightwads I lived with to spring for any outside of the house, good luck. But then that damn punch line! What gives? My older brother alluded to it being a penis joke, but all I heard mentioned was a chicken and a zipper. Forget “Why did the chicken cross the road?” How did the chicken become a schmeckle?! So there was always this mystery to comedy when I was a kid that made it so appealing to me.

But besides jokes, my father was just naturally funny. He had his version of the world and he always felt things should be done in a certain way. Kind of like the Farmer’s Almanac, but the Jewish edition. Like when we would go to Fortunoff, a popular home store on Long Island, he would park the car really far away in the lot. “You see, this way, nobody dings your car and I get a good walk in.” Or his philosophy on weight gain: “When my pants start to feel a little snug, I cut out the cake at night.”

I remember once when I was trying to get my parents to come out to L.A. to visit me, I offered to buy them plane tickets. My father was adamant, “No, no!” “Dad, look, if you come out, I’ll buy you a first- class ticket.” My incredulous father said, “Carol. First class? We’re not drinkers!”

Or when AIDS was first happening in the early eighties and I was at my folks’ house watching a news piece on it, and my father said, “I don’t understand how it gets into the bloodstream.” And I said—quite uncomfortably, I might add—“Dad. From anal sex.” And my father goes, “Anal sex? Carol, they don’t go in there! They simply rest it gently in between the buttocks.” His conception of gay sex was basically a hot dog in a bun.

My father also had an offbeat, quirky way of phrasing things. Like when it was really cold outside, he would say, “It refuses to get warmer.” Not “It won’t get warmer.” It “refuses.” Or if he wanted all the info for an event, he would say, “Give me the particulars.” “Particulars.” Or when he said his favorite phrase to just about anything disappointing that happened in our lives, “I maintain that everything happens for the best.” “I maintain.” It’s just so much better than “I say” or “I believe.”

My father also had a great facility with the “callback” joke. When my marriage many years ago was falling apart, my mother was in complete denial about it. I would call my folks for our weekly Sunday chat, and my mother would invariably interject into the conversation, “And how are the Shydners?” which would make my father lose it. “Anne, they’re splitting up! Stop asking about the Shydners!” So for many years after that, whenever someone made any kind of inane comment, my father would always say, “Yeah, and how are the Shydners?”

My shrink says it’s important not to deify someone when they die, but he’s a killjoy who has to open his big fat trap about everything. But lest I get too sentimental, my father could also, at times, be a really insensitive know-it-all. I once played the Westbury Music Fair opening for Jay Leno, and it was quite a big deal. This was my “hometown” theater, and I can’t tell you how thrilling it is playing the place where, growing up, I’d seen the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and six different versions of the Beach Boys, among others. My father came along to the gig with me, and it was really cool. They had a sign backstage welcoming us and generally made a big fuss over him. I went on and had a great set, and I was ecstatic.

Now, at the time, I was doing this joke about how I had been married for four years, and how the gift for that anniversary is wood. The joke being “Honey, I know you had your eye on that antique necklace, but, heck, you’re so special, I got you twenty yards of one-by- eight.” So when my father saw me after I came offstage, the first thing he said to me was, “Carol, lumber is sold in feet, not in yards.” Not “Congratulations.” Not “You killed!” It was one of those things where he just couldn’t help himself, unfortunately. (Little footnote to this story—the next day, our local newspaper, Newsday, did a review of the show and favorably reviewed Jay and panned me. My father read the review and said, as any good Jew would, “The reviewer is clearly anti-Semitic!”)

My father was an optometrist for sixty years, and he enjoyed his professional life. He never lived his dream of becoming a comedian or a comedy writer. But he was really happy for me that I did, and I never felt one pang of resentment or jealousy from him (the lumber joke notwithstanding). The first time I did the Letterman show, he said he “cried like a baby” when he saw my name listed in the TV section of The New York Times. But whenever I feel bad that he never got to make it professionally, I think about what everyone says to me when they find out that he died. They always say, “He was so funny.” And I think if my father could know that being funny is the first thing people say about him, that would be enough and make him really happy. I know it makes me happy.

Obviously, at this age, I’ve lost people in my life. But with a parent, it’s just different. I was very attached to my father and had this naïve little-girl notion that he’d always be around. So I’m finding acceptance of my father’s death is the hardest thing to accept.

See, I’m one of those people who don’t take no for an answer well. A big kicker and screamer from way back. You want your money back for something? You want some kind of compensation for some bad treatment somewhere? I’m your girl! But that’s what stinks about this whole experience. There’s no manager to ask for. Well, I guess that technically would be God, but come on, he’s got more important stuff on his “to do” list than coming down to customer service for this.

I do wonder whether I’ll get to see my father again. I’m sure most people wonder about this when someone they really love dies. But my father was very matter-of-fact about death. I know he believed that when you go, you go. Heaven was for gentiles. But if he’s wrong, then I think he’ll be sorry that he didn’t make a plan with me. ’Cause a plan would have been right up his alley. “Carol. When you get here, there’s got to be an information booth of some type. So meet me to the left of it. Not right in front of it. That’s where everybody will go. Left. No, facing-the-booth left! And when I see you and kiss that punim of yours, I’ll give you the rest of the particulars.”

Table of Contents

But This One's Eating My Popcorn 3

40 Things I Know at 50 (Because 50 Is the New 40) 10

Shea Stadium and Its Effect on the Aging Process 14

Surprise! 20

Sticking with Gravity 29

Extreme Makeover: The Chanukah Edition 35

Truman Defeats Dewey! 40

Take Five, Japan 46

Two by Two Starts with One by One 53

Shhh! I'm Driving 60

Fighting for Your Fake Tits 64

Holiday Gift Guide 71

76 Trombones 76

A Dozen Things Men Should Know (but Most Don't) 83

The Call of the Sweatpants 87

Dr. Fathead 93

Preventative Medicine 101

Minimum Wage 112

The/Un "Team" 121

So Long, Friend 129

The Body Grabs the Mike 134

Soul to Sole 139

Five Lessons of Animal Adoption 148

Class of '74 160

Buried or Not, Here I Come 165

Creating a Jew 172

Been There, Done That 183

Acknowledgments 187

What People are Saying About This

Chris Rock

"You'll love this. It's the best book ever."

Bill Maher

"This book reflects the wise, knowing person Carol has become, and the hysterically funny one she always was. I recommend it highly - its strong enough for a man...but made for a woman. I couldn't put it down."

Rosie O'Donnell

"Carol Leifer is one of the most sane funny folks around-her book is full of love light and laughter. Her take on the world will make u smile and warm your heart. So buy it already."

Garry Shandling

"Deeply honest, inspiring, and funny. This is a book about the unpredictability of life and finding yourself that is written by a very, very funny woman. Read this now before it's made into a movie, so you can join me in saying, "I liked the book better!"
Trust me: I'm generally as accurate as Seinfeld. It's really a winner."

Larry David

"These essays have stirred in me a foreign, disgusting and heretofore dormant urge to hug someone, in this case the author. If I become human as a result of reading this, so help me God I will sue her for every dollar she makes from this profound, insightful, and hilarious book."

Jerry Seinfeld

"I discovered Carol Leifer at an open mike night in the late 70's on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It didn't take me two seconds to realize how special her talent is. (Two seconds, that's how good I am, by the way). But she really has one of the most uniquely hilarious minds of anyone I've ever met. We have worked together on countless projects. If you have never heard how she thinks, this book is the perfect introduction."

Ellen DeGeneres

"Carol and I go way back. I'm not exactly sure what that means but we've known each other for a long time. Here's what I know about Carol. She's funny, she's smart, she's kind and she's a good writer. You will find out all of those things for yourself when you read this book. I laughed, I cried, (but that's because I leaned back laughing and hit my head on the wall). I think you'll enjoy this book as much as I did-except for the part when I hit my head."

Margaret Cho

"Carol Leifer's book is the perfect antidote to aging. If laughter is the best medicine, then her writing is an amazing beauty treatment. It's like a clay mask for the soul."

Customer Reviews

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When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
NC07 More than 1 year ago
I have always loved Carol's stand up and her witty writing on Seinfeld and The Ellen show so I was very excited to see that she had written this book. This book was my treat when I was on the elliptical at the gym. I was only allowed to read it while working out. There were times that I laughed so hard I almost fell off the elliptical! (ok, that may be a sign that I need to work on my core more, but still!) Carol's positive and funny outlook on life and how she got were she is today is contagious. Though one may not see it in the moment, lives hardships can translate into times you can look back on and smile, and lucky for all of us, in Carol's case, laugh out loud. This book reminded me of being at a girls night with about 20 of my girls. It's like a bottle of wine (well probably more) with a cover! I will be getting this books as gifts for all my girls! and my ex husband as well.... My only problem was that I read it too fast and now the elliptical doesn't seem as fun. I read it cover to cover, including the paragraph at the very last page about where the font originated. Ok, I may be a geek but this book made me happy and smile every time I think about it.
CLAX-III More than 1 year ago
Literary Agents Tell Aspiring Writers that your book must have one of the following to be successful....(1) A Recognizable Name; (2) A Great Cover; (3) A Catchy Title; (4) A Reputation For A Great Story or Success; or (5) Great Word of Mouth.....Ok, so Carol's book has a Catchy Title.....but don't let that deceive you. I checked it out at the supermarket for a long trip and found it hard to put down. Its funny, touching and provides great cocktail chatter...everything a guy looks for in a book, right? Seriously, it is intelligent and a wonderful read from a comedian who has been around long enough that she intuitively knows what makes a highly entertaining book.
MooneD More than 1 year ago
Loved the book but honestly when I lie about my age it's because I'm just too old to do the math. Fortunately for me my birth year ends in a zero so I can at least get it right plus or minus 10 years. Whoops, off subject again. Who knew you could make friends with a book? WYLAYATTW feels like a chat with a dear old friend. For three days I was devoted to finishing this wonderful conversation about life's ups and downs and the privilege of being able to enjoy a life full of imperfections.
SeeHeidiRun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Carol is a stand-up comedienne who wrote a collection of humorous essays about life, her father, coming out, and dogs. Some anecdotes were funnier than others.
writergal85 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When comedian/writer Carole Leifer [Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld] turned 50, she decided to write it down and share it in a book. I¿m a good 15 years younger than her, so I could relate to some things and other things I¿m not quite there yet. I don¿t have children. I¿m not gay but I have gay friends. I¿m not Jewish but spend a lot of time in Brookline, Mass. I¿m a vegetarian. I¿m a feminist and an animal rights activist. I¿m liberal. The point is a good comedian and writer will bring you into her world. Leifer succeeds at times and at other times, I just thought she was treading water or re-visiting old jokes, familiar territory i.e. ¿I think you can stop, I¿ve heard this one before.¿Leifer addresses: hiding your age; cars as ¿political statements¿/ any statements; how she found out she was gay at age 40; her love of animals; body changes as one ages; her breast cancer scare; feminism; things men should know; fake breasts; Judaism; her father; New York; being comfortable; doctors; therapists; class reunions; and many other topics. She delves deepest into her relationship with her father. Although he worked as an optometrist, she explains that her father had always wanted to be a comedian. Leifer had been taking adult b¿nai mitzvah classes when he died. She still carries around a list of jokes he carried in his wallet. At another point, she addresses when her doctor thought a lump in her breast might be cancerous. She had just started dating Lori and the panic merely strengthened the fledgling relationship. Finally there are the normal trials and tribulations of being part of a couple. Leifer became a vegan, yet Lori continues to eat meat. Leifer wants to be buried in New York, while Lori wants them to be buried together in her family plot in California. Leifer adds some comedic moments to these serious elements of her life and there are some hits and some misses as with any comedy routine.I knew Leifer did stand-up and wrote for Seinfeld and dated Jerry way back in the day. Other than that I didn¿t know much about her. I¿ve learned a few things from this book but still do not have a strong grasp of her persona. When You Lie about Your Age, The Terrorists Win is not particularly momentous. It is a fast-paced, light read.
jmchshannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I typically do not read this genre, and I was concerned that I wasn't in the correct age bracket to truly enjoy the book. It was presented to me that the book is about coming to terms with yourself, coming into your own, and becoming the person you are meant to be. Since turning thirty a few years ago, I am all about coming to terms with myself and coming into my own, so I took the plunge.I wasn't disappointed. While I might not have been able to relate to some of the stories Ms. Leifer mentioned, her main message is for all ages. No matter what age we are, life is going to continue to throw us curve balls, but that is what makes life interesting. We can either sit in a corner and hide or we can adapt and grow. More importantly, we are never too old to continue to grow and learn.Even more vital, Ms. Leifer's opinions about growing old gracefully are refreshing in this era of plastic surgery and fighting any hint of age on our face. While I still struggle with the idea of death, she did give me food for thought that every wrinkle is a testament to our journey through life, and we shouldn't be ashamed of that. And to erase those wrinkles (through Botox or face lifts) is not being true to ourselves. It's a message that I wish more in society would adopt.In general, Ms. Leifer's novel was enjoyable. Her list of forty things she knows at age fifty cracked me up to no end. I seriously laughed out loud with that one. At other times, she was quite poignant about the twists and turns her life has taken. In all, she does give food for thought. It's a quick read that I would recommend to anyone interested in a bit of self-discovery.
sacrain on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book -- it SO helped me in my quest to turn 40 without having a mini-breakdown. Leifer's writing style is just like her standup - funny, pithy, and makes you question your current beliefs, attitudes and practices. It's a lovely memoir and an inspiration to women in particular. Leifer writes about everything from becoming a lesbian at 40, adopting a son when her baby maker was already closed for business, vegetarianism, her father, and women's rights. The main points I took away from this book were: it's never to late to change/learn new things, life really is about the journey, and love your family and friends.
ennie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I saw the author's stand-up act when I went to comedy clubs in the '70s. She's an ex of Jerry Seinfeld, who I also saw during that era. Since then, she's continued to do comedy and has written for TV. She also acquired a longtime female partner, adopted a son, and became an animal lover. I could not always relate, and the book wasn't riotously funny, but it had its moments.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an amusing book, but does not live up to its title. A little self-serving, but mildly funny
DenverJuggler More than 1 year ago
I recently found this author on Facebook after having been a fan of her stand-up comedy for many years. I didn't realize she had written this book so I got it in audio format for a recent road trip and loved it, so much so that I'm writing a review for it. The author read this audiobook which to me magnified the intimacy of her personal story. She talks about growing up on the East Coast, some of her first jobs, her first marriage, finding her true love, starting a family, discovering how much she loves pets and has a passion to save them (so much so that she jokes about being called the "Crazy Chihuahua Lady" and she became a vegan. She discusses her spirituality as well as rediscovering that as an adult. The author is Jewish as am I so maybe I related more to her story because of that commonality. I also loved her take on growing old and doing good in the world. Plus it's funny. Very funny. It's like listening to her do a routine that involves her telling you all about her life. I found myself laughing out loud many times. The thing that struck me the most though; and I think prompted this review is her discussion of her father. I felt this book was a touching tribute to her father, including a discussion of what to do with the house she grew up in and some of her father's personal effects after he passed. I lost my father-in-law a few years back to a terminal illness and my Rabbi recommended I read "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Harold S. Kushner. That book was helpful and comforting but I would add this book to the same list. I don't think it was written to comfort a grieving child, but Carol Leifer's tribute to her father was very touching and helped me remember the lighter moments about my father-in-law. I think some of my favorite stories she includes are about some quips he had that I thought were very insightful and of him filling in as a stand-up comic (his dream) at a medical convention when the entertainer canceled. I just realized when i was writing the review the author had written another book (a year before this one) so now I'm ordering that one too. I hope you enjoy this book. I certainly did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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7Roseboroughs More than 1 year ago
Very seldom do I find a book that once I pick up, I have a hard time putting down. I read this book as I was trapped on an ambulance in the middle of a snowstorm and found myself putting it down at the very last minute before climbing out at the next patient's house because I was so captivated. She carries a laugh out loud story line through out the book, provided MANY ways to find the brighter side of life and encompassed a geniune passion and zest for life. I felt as though I could have written the story myself (as did many people I spoke to who also read the book). I even STRONGLY suggested to my husband that he read it. On one page I would find myself tearing up at her outlook on an event, and the next page being laughing out loud at the turn of events. Although the book being a fast read, it's one I can easily go back to over and over when I need a little laughter boost.
FBPatrick More than 1 year ago
I picked up my copy of "When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win" the day I heard Carol talking about it on The Stephanie Miller Show. I knew that it would be funny... it being from Carol Leifer, that seemed to me to be a safe bet. What I didn't expect was how the book pulled me in and kept me wanting to continue on to the next chapter throughout. The book is intelligently written and, yes, very funny! I honestly cannot remember the last time a book has made me laugh OUT LOUD so much (or at all, for that matter). My apologies to the burly man on the bench press next to me and that startled woman in front of me at the bank. "When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win" is a marvelous mini memoir that had the laughs I was hoping for... but also had the tears I was not expecting. I unwillingly had to set the book down to gain my composure as a few of Carol's many heartfelt memories opened up a mini-floodgate of my own. When a book brings both side-splitting laughter and consoling tears, it is one that will be picked up again and again as a refresher in the knowledge that it is good to be alive. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy for yourself or as a gift!
DJKSARATOGA More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was so great that I was sad when it ended. Carol Leifer's observations on life are so perceptive and imaginative. Her reality is very universal yet relates so well when told in her creative writing style. Her descriptions will leave you with warmth and joy and more insight than before you read the book. Her writing is very funny and touching. Some stories were serious and some humorous but all were defined by Carol's quick wit and charm. I am buying this book for friends and recommending it to everyone- it is THAT good! Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have seen her on many talk shows and she has written on many shows, I think when she put pen to paper it lost something....I don't think you can pen in her type of comedy...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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mwakim More than 1 year ago
Carol Leifer succeeds in broaching many of life's difficult situations with humor and compassion. Whether gay or straight, Jew or Gentile, male or female, her insights into relationships, loss, and aging are truly uplifting.
twoflod More than 1 year ago
I saw the author on a tv show and she was talking about the book. I bought and fell in love with it.
MyraNY More than 1 year ago
This audio book made my trip a pleasure.
Mauisunshine More than 1 year ago
If you need a good laugh, buy this book! It won't disappoint. Carol is a great writer and comedian anyway, so you can't go wrong. And don't we all need a something light-hearted and funny right now?