This is the most painful book I have to read. My friend Alex lent this book to me on November 2012. I never took the time to read it for many months (and he never asked me to return it athough he said he would lend me the DVD after I’m done with it) until he died on November 2013. I wanted to pull him back to my world so he could hear my comments about this book and then return it to him. But the chance has passed. And the only thing I could do was to sit down, read, and finish this book on comedy as I have promised him. Here’s my book review.
Growing up, I enjoyed watching American TV shows like “The Cosby Show,” “Growing Pains,” “Alf,” “Who’s the Boss,” “Murphy Brown,” “In Living Color,” “The Simpsons,” and “Friends,” just to name a few. During the ’80s and 90s there were a lot of foreign TV programs being shown in our local television. I’m glad to have been exposed to those American shows.
Now, dominating our local television are Filipino drama shows–known here as telenovelas–which is making me sick. Gone are the days (which was ancient’s ago) where in the evening I would delight myself watching sitcoms, not just American sitcoms but also Filipino sitcoms like “Okay ka Fairy ko!”
That is why “Made You Laugh: The Funniest Moments in Radio, Television, Stand-up, and Movie Comedy” was a delight to read. It was nice to recall those long-forgotten memories that give pleasant feeling even when I’m already old. And though I may be reading a book on comedy compiled and written by Joe Garner, there were a few precious moments where I feel like crying inside because of some inside info I knew now and a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the comedy world.
Joe Garner, the author, wrote:
Comedy’s history is rich, complex, and diverse. It comes in all shapes and sizes, from slapstick to sophisticated; from ethnic to surrealistic; from high brow to wholesome to, well, down and dirty. But seriously, folks, the great comedians have taken an ephemeral entertainment and transformed it into timeless art.
The most difficult task in putting together this collection was deciding which moments and comics to include and which to leave out. I knew that I couldn’t cover the absolute, definitive history of comedy; the subject is just too large, dating back centuries. (I’m sure there’s a painting in a cave somewhere of a caveman slipping on a dinosaur dung.) Instead, my goal was to compile some of comedy’s extraordinary highlights since the dawn of the electronic age, a collection of some of the funniest and most memorable moments and performances spanning nearly a century.
As a reader, I am delighted to learn about the humble beginnings of the famous comedy actors of today.
On Adam Sandler, the author wrote:
Adam Sandler entered college on an academic track, earning a degree in Fine Arts at New York University. In his spare time he honed his comedy chops playing local clubs. One hold over from those early days is Adam’s stage fright. But he found that, sometimes, fear leads to funny. “I still get scared when I step in front of a live audience,” Sandler says. “When I was younger and did a stand-up gig, it’d take me two weeks to recover. Sometimes I’d get so panicked that I’d stutter. My brother said, ‘You should sing more. Then you’d know exactly what words to use and you could relax more.’ That’s what got me started doing the funny songs.”
In 1996, Adam Sandler made the leap to movie stardom with not one but two big hits: “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore”. In both, Sandler played a lightly altered version of himself, a softhearted guy who’s not afraid to look dumb, but one with a definite undercurrent of rage. It’s a character Sandler really identifies with. “Everyone’s been through a lot of humiliation in front of a lot of people–when you don’t fight back and you feel stupid or you walk away. I went through that before in my life. I remember lying in my bed after getting some crap in school and feeling ‘Why can’t I fight that guy?’ Your heart hurts the whole night.”
As a reader, I am aware that comedy genre hardly gets an Oscar award. Or maybe full respect that it deserves. Sometimes I feel that actors in a comedy genre are being looked down like mere clowns. But to Chris Rock, “I’ve never done anything really good in my whole life. I suck at everything. I got on a comedy stage–at Catch a Rising Star–and it was more than just ‘Wow, I like doing comedy!’ It was, ‘Wow, I’m good at something!’ And I don’t ever want to lose the one thing I’m good at.”
On Chris Rock, the author wrote:
Like the best in the business, Rock is serious about his comedy. When he’s on the road he carried an iPod loaded with routines from comedy forebears like Buddy Hackett, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Moms Mabley, Steve Martin, and Red Foxx. When he’s getting ready for a concert tour, he trains like an Olympian. “You need eight weeks before you do a gig–work out in New York, hit three clubs in a night seven nights a week for eight straight weeks.”
Bob Hope. Charlie Chaplin. Buster Keaton. Harold Lloyd. Milton Berle. Cary Grant. Bill Cosby. Billy Crystal. The Three Stooges. Roseanne Barr. Ellen DeGeneres. Eddie Murphy. Robin Williams. Jim Carrey. Lenny Bruce. Sam Kinison. Andy Kaufman. Steve Martin. Jerry Lewis. Laurel and Hardy. I Love Lucy. Seinfeld. Everybody Loves Raymond. Saturday Night Live. Tootsie. Groundhog Day. Annie Hall. There are a lot of titles of comedy shows and movies, comedians from then and now, drama actors who did comedy, wonderful moments, memorable lines, intriguing facts to learn about from this book that I wish I could remember them all! (Now I hate myself why it took me ages to give time to this book when just by its title alone I knew I was going to be “entertained.” Really, this is not a boring book.)
There’s also a portion in the book where it paid tribute to comedy legends like Richard Pryor, Bill Murray, and the Marx Brothers. The guy who wrote the Foreword of this book is part of my childhood memories. I just didn’t know his name. Now I know–he’s Richard Pryor!
A quote from Richard Pryor (taken from the Foreword):
“If you want to be a good comic, you gotta have some pain, and you need to know your history. Whoever your people are, learn about them. If you’re a Guatemalan, you study the Guatemalans that came before you. Architects study past architects. Doctors, doctors. And comics, comics. The people who came before you–those are your ancestors–the giants. And to be great, you have to find a giant who’ll let you stand on his shoulders. And this book you’re holding has got all the comedy giants.
“The past is what you build your future on. Comedy deserves no less respect. Comedy is a craft, it’s an art, it’s a sickness. Ya gotta work hard to make it look easy. If you don’t want to do the kinda work that the people in this book did, then get the hell off the stage!
“Comedy is some serious shit.”