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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Robert Klein has been my favorite comedian since I was twelve. Mind Over Matter was the first comedy album I ever heard and after that I was hooked. In eighth grade English class when we were assigned to memorize and recite a poem, I chose Mind Over Matter by Robert Klein (which I still know by heart.)

Since then I have become a comedian myself, and whenever asked who my favorite comedian is I answer "Robert Klein" without hesitation. I was thrilled to discover his memoir and am excited to be the first customer reviewer.

Klein once again displays the unique intelligence fans have valued for years by writing a detailed and touching memoir rather than a joke book. This book is rich with detailed memories. As an avid fan I was amazed and intrigued by how closely the routines I remember so fondly reflect Klein's real life. This confirms the theory that the best humor, and Klein is the very best, must come from the truth.

In a his classic routine about Alfred University ("people clap with one hand for Alfred") Klein recounted his shock upon discovering a dormitory neighbor with a swastika mobile and his frantic phone call home ("Mama, the boy next door..."). The book contains an in depth telling of the tale, which includes a brawl with the boy who insisted the shape wasn't actually a swastika.

In another old favorite routine Klein asked, "do you really have to wait an hour after you eat before you go swimming?" He went on to explain that his father claimed that you waited different times for different foods ("jello - five minutes, franks and beans - you can't go in till NEXT YEAR.") The book tells this true story in great detail.

In another routine Klein spoke about how his mother had a story about how anything and everything was dangerous, even playing checkers ("a boy on Hull Street put his eye out with a checker.") The memoir describes in great detail many examples of the overprotective behavior of both of his parents and how his youth was filled with fear of danger everywhere. These and more elaboration on the true stories behind the lines will appeal to any reader and will particularly fascinate fans.

The book is smart, touching and honest. Klein is a comedian's comedian and any true fan of comedy appreciates the importance and brilliance of his work. In this book Klein generously, with great skill shares a behind the scenes look at his evolution. It is a book well worth reading and I very highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2006
The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue is Robert Klein's memoirs of growing up in the Bronx in the 1950s. Born in 1942, Klein writes affectionately of the basic influences of his youth during the years 1951 to 1966. Each chapter begins with a picture of Klein during the period discussed.

His parents were children of immigrant Jews who were "careful, cautious, wary people" and passed on their concerns to Klein and his sister. His bedroom was a Castro convertable ottoman in the living room of their small 6th floor apartment.

The first four chapters cover his life in junior high and high school in the Bronx. Having grown up in the Bronx myself during this time, I found these very well written and full of delightful details.

The next five chapters are about his life at Alfred University in rural upstate New York. Here he confronts anti-Semitism and develops a love of acting and comedy. He also works summers in the Catskill Mountain resorts made famous in the movie "Dirty Dancing." He is no Patrick Swayze, and his amorous nature is mostly unfulfilled.

The last six chapters tell the story of his breaking into show business. His first success in Chicago's Second City and his friendship with Rodney Dangerfield are highlights of this section.

One of the recurring themes of the work is his sexual relations over time. Beginning with his losing his virginity to a 112th Street prostitute, Klein reminisces about the women in his life and the sexual and sometimes loving relations he had with them. Although he is not very graphic in his descriptions, this male oriented portrayal of sex in the 50s and early 60s may seem insensitive by modern standards. Yet it is his very honesty at representing the male attitudes of the time that makes this aspect of the book especially interesting. He says he writes "not to titillate but to communicate the excitement that sex held for me and its importance in my life." This was a time of great changes in sexual attitudes and his depictions of his and his friends' sexual interests over these 16 years shows how radical the change was.

All in all this is a wonderful memoir of New York life in the 1950s. It is also an insightful portrayal of college life at the time, especially in an era when Jews were still being discriminated against in fraternities and other aspects of academia. Lastly, Klein does a great job of describing his beginning career as an actor. How he learned his craft, the problems he faced, and the people he knew are all well represented.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2005
Having been a huge fan of Mr. Klein's for many years, I'm so pleased I couldn't get to sleep a couple of weeks ago and happened to catch him as a guest on David Letterman's show, where he mentioned having written his memoir. I read the book in 4 days, which is a record for me as I have a young son, so it's not always easy to find the time to read but Mr. Klein's wit, intelligence and humor, made it a "can't put down" book! The chapter he writes about bringing home his German girlfriend, Elizabeth, to meet his parent's for the first time and his father's behavior that evening with the Hitler questions is "classic"! My only concern is, how long do we have to wait for the sequel?!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2006
Although leavened by Klein's breezy humor, this account of his first 25 years is marred by too many overly detailed stories of too few essentially banal events that will interest only hard-core fans of the author. There is, for example, a 4000-or-so word anecdote about an instance in which Klein resists his 4th grade teacher's attempt to intimidate him and an episode running to about 6000 words in which Klein -- then 14 or 15 -- escapes a menacing confrontation with three slightly older schoolmates who accost him in a park in his Bronx neighborhood. Neither these two or many of the other extended accounts of the rather mundate rites of passage contain enough dramatic weight to justify even half their lenghth. For those who grew up in the Bronx or were Jewish contemporaries of Klein's at Catskill summer camps and small rural colleges, the familiar terrain that Klein traverses will trigger nostalgic memories, but others will be disappointed by too little focus on career-making moments.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2005
I'm hoping to offset some of the ridiculous, inexplicable negative reviews this book received from some "readers." I think Klein is one of the few entertainers actually literate enough to pull off a well-told memoir without the help of an "as told to.." writer to help him do it. It is a funny book and Klein weaves in some familiar comedy material that fans will recognize from his comedy albums, but, thankfully, he never relies on his old materal as an excuse for a book; that is to say, this is not a loosely-strung-together re-tread of "bits" but a thoughtful coming of age tale that reveals the source of a lot of the humor that made Klein famous. Klein remains my hero (he inspired me to become a novelist way back when he was still doing stand up) and he's written a darned interesting and entertaining book, period. And I hope it does well, because I would love to see a follow-up, picking up where this book left off.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2005
A coming of age story that emphasizes Klein's teenage and early adult sexual adventures and fantasies, without the depth or insight of Portnoy's Complaint. I was disappointed, as I enjoy Mr Klein's comedy, but this autobiography left me without any better understanding of Robert Klein the man.

I believe he may have made a mistake in not writing about Chinese pottery.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2008
Like many of the other previous reviewers, I think the world of Robert Klein as a comedian, so I had high hopes when I purchased "Amorous Busboy." Unfortunately, unlike other recent memoirs I've read (Billy Crystal's and Alan Alda's), Klein's was sorely lacking in humor. Not to say that he wasn't funny when he tries, it's just that Klein rarely makes even the attempt at humor throughout this overly detailed book. The most interesting parts, not surprisingly, deal with the development of his talent and career, but that constitutes a relatively small portion of the book, the lion's share having to do with his sexual development. This book was a big disappointment!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2005
I want to say first of all that this is a memoir of Robert Klein's life from ages 9-25. He makes this very clear in the forward, afterward, and anywhere else he can fit it in. It is not an autobiography of his entire life so far. The book is 350 pages even with only covering 16 years; trying to fit his whole life would have been War and Peace. So yes there are lots of career highlights missing. The book ends when he was 25, he didn't have career highlights yet, other than the ones he describes! He didn't have a wife, child, movies, HBO specials, etc. Just a young actor/comedian trying to make it in show business. So if you read it with that in mind I think he does a great job of describing the trials and tribulations of coming of age in the 50's and 60's. I thought this was a real page-turner. as another reviewer said, I couldn't wait to find out what happened next! I didn't know he worked so closely at such a young age with so many famous people--his mentor was Rodney Dangerfield and I didn't even know they knew each other. He was also very close with famed sitcom director James Burrows, whom I also didn't know he knew. (so why didn't Mr. Burrows cast him in more of his sitcoms?) I too would like a sequel. So what did happen next? What was his big breakthrough? Etc. etc.

Ironically the last book I read before this was Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, Alan Alda's autobiography. Mr. Alda and Mr. Klein were in a play together on Broadway, The Apple Tree, so it was fascinating to read both accounts of the experience from different perspectives. Mr. Alda is about 6 years older than Mr. Klein, so he was more mature and practical about the whole thing. I recommend this book highly if you are already a fan if Robert Klein. If not this book is a great introduction to his style. And check out Never Have Your Dog Stuffed while you're at it, they make a great read as a set.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2007
I have liked Robert Klein since I saw him live around 1975. This memoir of his early years is a lively read that gives a lot of background on what made his comedy what it is. He is unsparing about his insecurity, need to belong, tendency to overdramatize, and attitudes towards women. The result feels both honest and entertaining.

Why are people giving this book negative reviews for not covering his marriage, children, HBO specials, the Dukakis campaign, or whatever else? Klein was writing only about his youth to the age of 25, with much clarity about the manners, prejudices, and sexual mores of the late 50s and 60s, and he succeeded admirably in making them vivid to someone who was born in 1959. Would I like to read more about his later years? Yes. Hope he writes another book. But it makes no sense to rake this one over the coals for things it didn't try to do.

I take particular exception to the reviewer who even threw in complaints about the omission of topics Klein *did* touch on, including campus anti-Semitism, his difficulties with the talented but scene-stealing David Steinberg, and descriptions of the early careers of performers he met, including Rodney Dangerfield and Bette Midler. Did Klein explicitly say why his comedy seems based on middle-aged angst? No, but growing up with preternaturally cautious and conservative parents accounts for it. If you don't rebel against your parents, you are liable to imitate them.

In sum: this book is well worth reading if you are prepared to accept it for what it is.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2005
Disappointing. Klein's writing is surprisingly pedestrian and not all that engaging. (The best part was his Bronx childhood but the book gets bogged down once he leaves for college.) Nor does he write enticingly about his sex life. There's a lot of "Holy cow, I'm having sex" to the scenes, and while he--fortunately--does not go into salacious details, there's no real charm to the episodes, either.

Plus, I noticed several typos and factual errors (Malverne, the Long Island home of one of his girlfriends, is spelled wrong--a sloppy mistake, given that his publisher is IN New York). By the time you get to page 360 or thereabouts, you realize that he isn't even out of his twenties, and--with all due respect to the talented Mr. Klein--he's just not interesting enough to devote 300-plus pages to the first two and a half decades of his life! One has to wonder why he was encouraged to write this memoir--and why he wasn't given better guidance from his editors. Still, it manages in parts to capture the New York of another era, which is why I'm giving it 3 stars.
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