From Publishers Weekly
Organizing this work chronologically, Epstein (The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America
) provides a lively history of entertainment from early vaudeville through radio, film and television. He's especially good at viewing humor through a sociological prism, showing, for example, how the cynicism of the early Marx Brothers needed to be reworked to accommodate a Depression-era mentality. With FDR's New Deal, Epstein explains, Groucho's character was made more likable. In fact, comedy teams were most popular during America's tough times, such as WWII, when Abbott and Costello delivered much-needed relief. In contrast, the '50s antics of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin unleashed inner hysteria (repressed during the war). Epstein deftly notes comedy's evolution, explaining how Jack Benny's radio show, which created multiple comedy teams, gave rise to sitcoms from I Love Lucy
. For readers who until now haven't understood the prolonged allure of the Three Stooges, Epstein's chapter on the trio is particularly enlightening: "The teams that created worlds capable of relieving the existential anxieties embedded in the human condition lasted beyond the moment." At its best, this history demonstrates how comedy reveals a nation's true mindset: if you want to know how society ticks, check out its comedians. B&w photos.
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"...a wonderful companion for trivia lovers, history buffs, and anyone who just wants a good laugh again and again." -- Cleveland Jewish News, October 26, 2004
"A meticulously research compendium of comedy-team history." -- MSNBC.com, December 6, 2004
"Enjoy [this] book for the pleasant memories it evokes and the recitation of treasured comedy routines." -- Roanoke Times, September 26, 2004
"Epstein's book is a fun read simply because it revisits so many laughs from the past..." -- Jewish News Weekly of Northern California (J), September 10, 2004
"Joyful, celebratory, and highly entertaining..." -- Tri-County News (CA) December 2004
"Mixed Nuts... profiles the great comedy teams with panache and historical perspective." -- Columbus Dispatch, December 3, 2004
"Thoughtful approach... more than just a book about comedians." -- Free Press (Monterey, CA) December 10, 2004
"[Epstein's] analyses are as insightful as his facts are diverting." -- Roger K. Miller, Knight Ridder News Service
"[Epstein] often delivers a sharp insight that cuts through the surrounding academic underbrush..." -- Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2004
"[Epstein] sketches a reflective chronology of American comedy teams..." -- Boston Herald, October 10, 2004