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And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft Paperback – July 8, 2009


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And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft + Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers + The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest (July 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582975051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582975054
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Veteran journalist Sacks conducted dozens of interviews with the top humor writers of the last century, and the result is a whiz-bang collection of Q&As that will school readers just as often as it provokes laughter. The assortment boasts elder statesmen including Dick Cavett, 93-year-old Irving Brecher (who wrote shtick for the Marx Brothers and Milton Berle) and Mad magazine's Al Jaffee, who reminisces about reading American comic strips during his 1930s boyhood in Lithuania. High notes include David Sedaris, with the bestselling humorist confessing to cringing when he reads earlier writing, including breakthrough Me Talk Pretty One Day: "I used to exaggerate a lot more than I needed to. So when I needed readers to believe me, they didn't." Other contemporary writers offer up equally revelatory tidbits, especially Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall) and Allison Silverman (The Daily Show), but would-be humorists will appreciate most the nuts-and-bolts knowhow regarding the industry. Though it's decidedly testosterone-heavy, Sack has compiled a lively compendium sure to captivate anyone who loves a good comedy.

Review

(Starred Review) Veteran journalist Sacks conducted dozens of interviews with the top humor writers of the last century, and the result is a whiz-bang collection of Q&As that will school readers just as often as it provokes laughter. The assortment boasts elder statesmen including Dick Cavett, 93-year-old Irving Brecher (who wrote shtick for the Marx Brothers and Milton Berle) and Mad magazine's Al Jaffee, who reminisces about reading American comic strips during his 1930s boyhood in Lithuania. High notes include David Sedaris, with the bestselling humorist confessing to cringing when he reads earlier writing, including breakthrough Me Talk Pretty One Day: "I used to exaggerate a lot more than I needed to. So when I needed readers to believe me, they didn't." Other contemporary writers offer up equally revelatory tidbits, especially Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall) and Allison Silverman (The Daily Show), but would-be humorists will appreciate most the nuts-and-bolts knowhow regarding the industry. Though it's decidedly testosterone-heavy, Sack has compiled a lively compendium sure to captivate anyone who loves a good comedy. --Publisher's Weekly

Comedy writers--like George Meyer (The Simpsons) and Dan Mazer (Borat)--tend to be depressed, brilliant, erratic and sometimes even funny. Mike Sacks' collection of remarkably frank interviews with 21 of them readers like a secret history of popular culture. --Time Magazine

Laughter may be universal, but the world of comedy writing is shrouded in mystery. In AND HERE'S THE KICKER (Writer's Digest Books), Mike Sacks, a humor writer and Vanity Fair staffer, helps lift the veil with in-depth interviews of 21 top comedy writers from various fields. How in-depth exactly? To give you an idea, 94-year-old Irving Brecher, who wrote for the Marx Brothers, accused the diligent Sacks of "killing" him. (It would prove to be one of Brecher's very last interviews. He died in 2008.) Collecting rare musings--and practical advice--from the likes of Harold Ramis (Animal House, Groundhog Day), David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day), Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show), and Allison Silverman (The Colbert Report), Sacks puts together the book he wishes he had read as a budding humor writer. The comedy world is a treacherous landscape. All of his subjects agree: Funny can't be taught, but it can be self taught. And it helps to know where the banana peels are hidden. --Vanity Fair

Analyzing why something is funny is a little bit like trying to fathom why people fall in love. You might be able to do it, but by the time you do, you feel just a little foolish about falling for that person, or that joke. There's a new book, "And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers On Their Craft."

Mike Sacks, a veteran magazine writer, who's now on staff at Vanity Fair, poses questions to old comedy hands, including Larry Gelbart, who co-wrote "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," as well as wrote the television show "M.A.S.H.," to new hands like Steven Merchant, who invented "The Office" with Ricky Gervais, Tom Hanson of The Onion, and classical comedy writers, including Dave Barry, David Sedaris, Allison Silverman, and Harold Ramis.

Mike Sacks joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us. . . . --NPR Weekend Edition

And Here's the Kicker builds to a funny, sad, tremendously insightful group portrait of the comic mind. It's an almost sociological dissection of the strange creature that is the comedy writer. In his glorious extended ramble through the minds of comedy greats, Sacks finds a number of common denominators, like depression, self-doubt, raging insecurity, a predilection toward obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a borderline pathological need to entertain.

It's enormously comforting to realize that some of the most gifted writers in the world (other Kicker subjects include David Sedaris, Harold Ramis, Buck Henry, Mitch Hurwitz, Robert Smigel, Dave Barry, Bob Odenkirk, George Meyer, and The Onion's great Todd Hanson) wrestle with the same demons we do. They are a wondrous breed of misfit. They're not normal; they're better than normal. They're lucky to have a gifted chronicler like Sacks documenting their curious ways and odd customs for posterity. . . . --The Onion


More About the Author

Mike Sacks was born in Virginia and raised in Maryland. He attended Tulane University in New Orleans.

He has written for Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, The New Yorker, Time, McSweeney's, Radar, MAD, New York Observer, Premiere, Believer, Vice, Maxim, Women's Health, and Salon. He has worked at The Washington Post, and is currently on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair.

His first book, And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Humor Writers About Their Craft, was released in Summer 2009. Some of those interviewed include: George Meyer, Harold Ramis, Al Jaffee, Buck Henry, Bob Odenkirk, Stephen Merchant, David Sedaris, Jack Handey, Robert Smigel, and Daniel Clowes.

Sacks co-wrote Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk, with the Pleasure Syndicate, a comedy-writing group consisting of Scott Jacobson (Daily Show), Todd Levin (Tonight Show), Jason Roeder (Onion), and Ted Travelstead (Esquire). The book is scheduled for release August 28, 2010.

In addition, Sacks has sold a collection of his published humor pieces to Tin House Books, to be released in February 2011. The book, Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason, will contain pieces from The New Yorker, Esquire, Time, Vanity Fair, McSweeney's, and other publications.

Customer Reviews

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Mike Sacks interviews 21 top humor writers and the bantering that ensues is laugh out loud funny as well as quite informative.
W. W. Sperger
I would recommend this to aspiring comedy writers, but also just to anyone who is interested in the lives and processes of some these great writing talents.
Glenn Harding
Summing up: If you want to read a lot of contemporary funny writers talking about writing comedy, I can't imagine a better book than this one.
Merrill Markoe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Merrill Markoe on July 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
I guess its a little weird for me to be writing a review of this, because I'm in it. But its a great book. Its one of those books that is hard to put down. I just keep reading and re-reading my interview over and over and over. I am just that interesting. No, no. That's a joke. Its the other interviews that I really get caught up in. Summing up: If you want to read a lot of contemporary funny writers talking about writing comedy, I can't imagine a better book than this one.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By DMoney on August 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
Plain and simple, this is just a really, really enjoyable read. It's smart and it's well-executed and it's compulsively readable. The thing is, there's something so refreshing to a book that's about real comedians. Real writers. Real people. That's it. And you have this great author there with you the entire time, guiding you through these peoples' heads. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the biggest fan of everyone interviewed here (see: David Sedaris), but even then I was charmed by his thoughts and the interplay between he and Sacks.

As an aside, generally speaking I stick to straight-up fiction, and as an aspiring writer (by which I mean I've published absolutely nothing) the last thing I want to read on the weekends/at night after a terrible day at a soul-sucking job is something I feel like was written to instruct me on how to write. Please, don't instruct me. I may suck at it, but please, don't patronize me with your thoughts "On Writing." That means you, Stephen King.

In "And Here's the Kicker," though, Sacks completely steers clear of that pratfall and has composed what is at its heart a wonderfully understated paean to the humor and comedians we all love. By book's end you've encountered the leading comedic minds of recent memory (God Bless Harold Ramis) and will simply feel warm and fuzzy about humor writing as craftwork. None of the usual drivel about how underneath the jokes funny people are actually sad, sad, emotionally-stunted people. Oh the irony! We're all sad people, Judd Apatow.

No, here Sacks provides you with far more than just cliches and platitudes and musings on the difficulties faced by the likes of Chris Farley, John Belushi, and Richard Pryor. Here we learn who the real comedians are. How they operate. Who they are beyond just words on a page. I was pleasantly surprised by this.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Harding on June 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not sure how Mike Sacks corralled all these writers into talking
about their craft, but I'm so glad he did. To hear them tell their
tales from the trenches is invaluable for someone like me who is both
interested in writing, and also just a huge fan of comedy. The
anecdotes are both humorous and informative, and Sacks dry wit and
gentle prodding is the perfect accompaniment to each interview
subject. He doesn't overshadow them, or try to insert himself into
their perspective, but draws them out and does what any GOOD
interviewer should do: listen. The questions he asks are the
questions I would ask if I got the chance to talk to these writers,
which excited me a great deal. I almost felt a part of the
conversations sometimes, I got that into it (okay, maybe I'm a little
weird, but it was a great read). I would recommend this to aspiring
comedy writers, but also just to anyone who is interested in the
lives and processes of some these great writing talents. A thoroughly
enjoyable read!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By El Kil on August 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book, especially the interview with the older guy who wrote for the Marx Brothers, Irving Brecher. Thanks for finding him.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gary Rudoren on August 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
After devouring this book, I realized that it's not just for people who like comedy or writing or even show business, but it's great for anyone interested in being interested. What Mike Sacks has been able to do by inviting us as flies-on-the-wall to his conversations with these creative people, is give us some incredible insights into the creative process, but in a fun and lively way. You can tell that because he knows his subject so well, they seem to appreciate that they're not just being interviewed, but engaged, and Mike ends up getting them to talk about their lives in ways I bet they haven't before. Lots of people above me have written great and wonderful reviews about how great and wonderful the book is and I couldn't agree more (but I won't babble on repeating too much). If you're the type of person who reads these reviews in order to figure out what books to spend your hard-earned tip money on, then I'm guessing you're also the kind of person who is interested in being interested. This book is for you. I couldn't put it down. I physically couldn't put it down.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dan Dippery on September 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Probably my expectations were too high, but Mike Sack's book is long on "conversations, and short on the nitty-gritty of comedy writing.
You almost have a sense that Sacks agrees to that shortcoming, because he occasionally drops a "Last Words of Advice" at the end of an interview. But even these are sparse. I wanted him to pose one question to all of his interviewees: "Talk about your process in writing comedy."
I have to be honest though: his selection of writers/producers (except for Marshall Brickman and Larry Gelbart), characterize a culture of comedy that doesn't appeal to me.
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