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on June 21, 1998
Helitzer's Book on comedy writing is the best book out there on the subject. He has a firm grasp on essential techniques needed to refine your raw material into comedy gold. I recommend this book for anyone seiously interested in the old addage, "if it's funny there's money!" If you perform stand-up, or just write, this is the book to read. His various examples from today's comedians are not only hilarious but keep the reader interested and the book moving along. Helitzer has written the first and best book on the subject. I teach a comedy class and I know I couldn't do it without this book.
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on February 18, 2004
The fundamentals of comedy writing haven't changed since this book was originally published, and Mel Helitzer (who's taught comedy writing at university for decades) delivers a step-by-step course on comedic writing, thinking, and acting.
You'll learn the basics of comedy writing, the anatomy of humor, and the avenues by which you can turn your comedic talent into a well-paying pursuitÑand why the demand for humor writers far exceeds the supply. You'll also find more than a thousand one-liners, bits, and speech excerpts covering the entire range of comedy techniques.
If you want a comprehensive guide to writing, selling, and performing all types of comedy, then this is the book you must read cover to cover and keep on your shelf for a lifetime of reference.
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on May 31, 2005
Ever wondered why we laugh and why certain jokes are funny?

Well, the answers to those questions set the frame work that Comedy Writing Secrets follows to help you think more like a comedy writer.

Even if you are a naturally funny person (speaking from experience here!) the book is incredibly valuable. If you read a few chapters and then go about your day you might find something magic... all of a sudden you'll start making jokes you never would have thought of.

I didn't buy it with the intention of becoming a stand up or writing hit TV shows but it has helped me create jokes I would previously never thought of.

It's a great read and very funny. There are numerous examples to illustrate the concepts and the book's structure is easy to follow.

It's really a textbook on comedy without being a textbook.
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on November 8, 2000
I am an amateur comedian and I found "Comedy Writing Secrets" to be extraordinary. It actually helped me write comedy and structure it so it flows and makes sense.I am now performing in Cleveland and this excellent source has been a great help. Thank you.
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on February 29, 2004
I'm a photo journalist and I interview a lot of professional
touring comics when they hit Orange County (California). I'm amazed at the number of times these big time pros have "Comedy Writing Secrets" in their rooms. Last month Drew Carrey was photographed reading the book in a national ad he did for library services. Since I've read and loved the book, I use it as a conversation ice breaker while I'm lightting the set. The
comics then feel more relaxed knowing we enjoy something in common.
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on March 14, 2006
I have the first edition of this book (figures they'd release a second edition after I buy the first) and learned a lot from it. It reads like a college textbook and the joke examples aren't funny in the least, but the formulas you learn here are used by comedians and sitcom writers all the time. Just turn on your favorite sitcom one night and count the various joke formulas used over the course of a half hour show if you doubt Helitzer's knowledge. You'll find that he describes nearly every one in this book.

Some of the joke techniques you'll learn include the triple and the reverse. There're also many other comedy related tips that I'm sure have been updated in the second edition. This book does a great job of demystifying comedy.
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on December 20, 2005
I've taught more than 2,000 students from 50 states and 78 nations how to develop and perform stand-up comedy, all thanks to Mel Helitzer's amazing book and guidance. And every one of them hit a home run. I've also yanked laughs in more than 20 states during major convention talks and training sessions. Because I learned how to find, refine, and structure great stories and yuks--with reverses, triples, the rule of threes and so many great tips from Mel. Now the new edition is even better--and zanier, if that's possible. A fun, exciting read essential for every comic--and every professional speaker. Anyone who doesn't love this book must spend the day hitting themselves with a shoe.
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on June 21, 2005
The book is full of real-world techniques. Most of the jokes are weak, but to his credit he's not trying to make you laugh but to learn the techniques of comedy. The book teaches you how to sit down and after 30 minutes to produce some jokes. I was a 3rd of the way through the book and tried his techniques on the business section of the Times. They had a story about how Defense companies need generals on their boards to get more business. So I doodled, "If you've invented a good weapon you need one general on your board. If your weapon isn't so good you need two generals. But if you have three generals you don't need a weapon at all. You can sell the pentagon $700 wrenches." I'm not claiming this is a great joke, only that the book worked in helping me work through the process.
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on May 29, 2005
Usually when one writes a negative review, Amazon readers say the review was not helpful. Also, Amazon tends to make their "spotlight reviews" the good ones.

This book is a decidedly mixed bag. On the positive side: the author clearly identifies the schtick of famous comedians; he has made up exercises to "practice" the steps one needs to take to be "funny;" he makes good comments about how to be a writer or comedian in the public spotlight. So this is a technically competent book.

Yet little of the humor in the book is actually funny, or at least to my taste funny. I never thought Jack E. Leonard was funny, I detested Don Rickles' aggressive and demeaning "humor;" Rodney Dangerfield was significantly depressed so I always felt sick when I heard his jokes; Jackie Gleason was a self-involved fat turkey who did not like women, etc., etc. Yet we can see where Helitzer's favorite comics come from: his theory is that humor "is about superiority."

So much for irony, understatement, significant pauses, or just treating people to something funny.
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on August 9, 2004
I consider my completition of Herlitzer's COMEDY WRITING SECRETS to be one of my greatest accomplishments this year, as I can remember fewer more arduous uphill battles. The first problem with this book is how old it is. Published in 1987, he refers to rising stars of comedy like Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. Since comedy is like any other fast-paced media, these guys are practically the wise old men at this point.

With the way he breaks down humor in here, into such contrived formulas and over-simplification, it seems he could never have imagined the popularity of stand-ups like Dave Atell, Mike Barbiglio, Lewis Black, Jon Stewart or the atrocious Colin Quinn. Humor has simply changed too much since he wrote this book.

And while this book may contain little gems here and there, he consistently uses the most TERRIBLE jokes for his examples (like: "wife to husband, opening present, 'It's what I always wanted! Did you keep the receipt?'").

I hate to disagree with every other reviewer, but I think that this book's advice on comedy only applies to the select few of us blessed with time machines.
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