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Great Comedians Talk About Comedy Hardcover – December 15, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"...has extracted the cream of comedy concepts from the top comedians and turned them into a classic collection of interviews." -- Chicago Tribune

"An ambitious undertaking...the first written attempt to gain some insight into the technical aspects of humor..." -- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"This fascinating, penetrating and information-packed book constitutes an anatomy of the art of creating laughter..." -- Miami Herald

From the Publisher

Not merely for comedy aficionados, this is a book for All those who:

Love to laugh and for those who want a good, enteraining read;

Are curious about what makes top comedy performers tick, and the secrets behind their timeless wisdom and appeal;

Would like insight into comedy techniques and sound philosophies that can inspire and benefit everyone in every walk of life;

Aspire to careers in comedy or as professional speakers, as well as taostmasters, managers business execuitves, clergy, civic leaders, laywers — all who must interact with the public.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 404 pages
  • Publisher: Executive Books (December 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0937539511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0937539514
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,186,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I first read "Great Comedians" in 1972 when I was starting out as a comedian. I found it to be just what I needed as a young aspiring comedian. The interviews of Woody Allen, Shelley Berman, Jack Benny, and Phillis Diller resonated with me and helped me immensely in my standup comedy development. It also inspired me to write my own book probing the methods of my generations great comedians ("Comic Insights") in order to help today's young comedians get a better idea of what it takes to do quality standup. I recently read "Great Comedians" again, and my original verdict still stands. This book is still of immense value to all aspiring comedians.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's no secret that comedians -- great and not-so-great -- are influenced by the WORK of other comedians. The advent of film in the 20th century made this a lot easier since when a comedian died the work was still available...and now with videos etc. it's easier than ever.
But what about HOW these comedians made laughs...how they were inspired...what specific techniques they used and did not use...and what advice they would give anyone interested in going into any area of comedy?
Those have been tough answers to get. To do it you'd have to buy a slew of good and sometimes rotten bios, many of them out of print. Until now. Stand-up comedian Larry Wilde's Great Comedians Talk About Comedy brings it all together.
Great Comedians is a superb, singular achievement that collects within one lively, 402-page, info-packed volume, detailed interviews done over several years with some of the 20th century's greatest comedians and comedy actors.
The selection is absolutely mind-boggling: Woody Allen, Milton Berle, Shelly Berman, Jack Benny, Joey Bishop, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Maurice Chevalier, Phyllis Diller, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Dick Gregory, George Jessle, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld, Danny Thomas and Ed Wynn.
Each interview is presented in straight Q&A format so you get to "hear" the question and "hear" the response, from what the comedian/comedy actor says to his/her own speech pattern. These folks worked in venues from vaudeville, to radio, to night clubs, to radio to early silent movies to talkies to TV. And their responses to questions contain revelations and constant inspiration.
A key theme: how "making it" in comedy requires timing, good material, dogged persistance, constant analysis of jokes/laughs and being LIKEABLE to an audience.
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Format: Hardcover
There is very little to dislike in the content of the book. He interviews some of the great comics,comedians,funnymen of the 20th century about craft. The candidness of each interviewee is what struck me upon first reading. It often seems that comics can be quite elusive when it comes to discussing their craft. The general consensus among the subjects is that one has some innate funniness present that he can hone and sharpen in order to become a truly great comic. Wilde asks some very poignant questions about each one's process: writing, performing, and breaking into the business. He also requests of each that they divulge their major influences and what specific things they might have picked up from each. Very interesting stuff (I found out about several comics I had never heard of). There is also the requisite interview fodder of personal history and amusing anecdotes. This book seems to be the only one of its kind and is invaluable for its diverse perspectives from some of the greats. Berle, Hope, and Burns in particular provide interesting contextual history of their vaudeville days starting out (and the transition to post-vaudeville). The subjects chosen each share an unparalleled longevity in the business. I especially enjoyed the Berle and Woody Allen interviews. Each sheds light on specific aspects of "technique." The comics chosen represent a wide range of comedic styles: the reader is bound to be a fan of at least one. The book is an interesting historical document and quite unique: +5 stars.

I do have some criticisms of the book (-1 star). During later interviews in the book (chronologically), Wilde becomes a bit too referential. For example, he might begin a question with "Milton Berle once said to me...
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Format: Hardcover
If you want to learn about humor - go to the best. Larry Wilde's book Great Comedians Talk About Comedy does exactly that - Wilde interviews many of the great comedians of our time to discern the essential skills of their trade. As a former stand-up comic, Wilde knows exactly what questions to ask and the result is a priceless collection of interviews with comedians like Bob Hope, George Burns, Jerry Seinfeld, Jack Benny, Milton Berle and Johnny Carson.
What makes people laugh? This is a hard question to answer. Even these masters of humor find it difficult to pin down. Perhaps this is so because humor is an emotional reaction which we are trying to explain in intellectual terms. In the book Wilde addresses this problem and at one point poses the question directly to George Jessel. "Why do you think people laugh at what you say?" Jessel answers "At what I say? Because there's an honest quality..." A surprising answer - don't you think? People laugh because they like you? Yet this same theme weaves in and out of several interviews in the book - starting with Woody Allen who elaborates "What they want is an intimacy with the person. They want to like the person and find the person funny as a human being. The biggest trap comedians fall into is trying to get by on the basis of their material. That's just hiding behind jokes..." In a crisp exchange with Jerry Lewis the same point comes up. Wilde: "Be yourself?" Lewis: "Exactly." Wilde: "What you really are?" Lewis: "Right." But the interview with Jimmy Durante summaries this point best. Wilde: "What is the greatest quality a comedian can have?" Durante: "Heart. He's gotta have heart. Otherwise he's nuthin'" Amen!
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