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Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny Hardcover – September 28, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Some know her as the star of the 1960s TV show That Girl, or creator of Free to Be... You and Me, or perhaps major fund-raiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Thomas, author of five bestselling books, here focuses on a role she's had her entire life: daughter. Laughter was the soundtrack for Thomas's formative years in 1950s Beverly Hills. Her father, comedian Danny Thomas, regularly had funny friends--including Bob Hope, Sid Caesar, and George Burns--over to the family home. The author, actress, feminist, and philanthropist shares fond memories of enjoying and learning from these comedy luminaries, and of being a Hollywood kid long before game-changers like the Internet and cable TV. She chronicles her path from childhood to adulthood; particularly interesting tidbits include her meeting and marrying Phil Donahue, becoming friends with Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug, and, with her siblings, "producing" her father's funeral. But this book is more than a well-written memoir. Thomas also includes interviews with comedy powerhouses galore, from Tina Fey to Alan Alda, Chris Rock to Ben and Jerry Stiller. On the whole, this book offers a delightful firsthand look at how comedy has become integral to American culture--and the way it's shaped one woman's colorful life.
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Thomas, star of the classic sitcom That Girl and daughter of comedy legend Danny Thomas, has taken an interesting approach to the usual Hollywood memoir. Chapters exploring her life as the daughter of comedy royalty, and her struggles to establish an independent identity for herself, alternate with profiles of contemporary comedians (Seinfeld, Leno, Stiller, Rock, Crystal, Rivers, Williams, Fey, Wright, and Colbert, among others). We see how her father inspired her, and we also see how he inspired the professionals who came after him. Thomas’ personal stories are heartwarming and entertaining. Her father, who came by his legendary status by dint of hard work and perfect delivery, comes across as a driven man who always made time for his family and who never made any secret of the fact that he loved his little girl. It was a privileged childhood, to be sure, and you can’t help being a little envious of someone who grew up around the likes of Milton Berle, George Burns, and Sid Caesar. The profiles of other comedians allow us to see Danny Thomas through others’ eyes, too, offering a different perspective on the man and his legacy. An engaging, highly informative memoir—definitely not the routine show-biz autobiography. --David Pitt
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If you want to read this (and it is enjoyable), wait for it to come out in paperback.
We also learn as we get into the later chapters how this upbringing of love and laughter enabled Thomas to negotiate her own career as an actor, become involved in social causes, and take over her father's passion, advocating for St. Jude's Hospital for Children.
If I haven't convinced you yet to read this book, here's a sample joke: "A woman asks a store clerk where to find the talcum powder. The store clerk says, 'Walk this way." The woman replies, 'If I could walk like that, I wouldn't need the talcum powder.'"
This book suffers badly from its mixed purpose. Either Thomas' own memories or her take on the elements of comedy could become a worthwhile book, but trying to kill two birds with one stone - er, book - just detracts from either goal. Many of her "interviews" didn't interest me because I don't consider the subjects funny, such as Chris Rock. I did enjoy her growing-up stories and I did finish the book. But I can't say it was worth buying. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was appropriate.
The stories are heartwarming and allow you to see that the "silver lining' wasn't always "silver"... The behind the scene lives of "stars" were also filled with bumps in the road and some curve balls!
Behind the laughs and tears were just regular folks working hard and trying to make it through the journey of life, just like the rest of us!
Recommended reading to anyone who has followed the careers of anyone in comedy from the "good ole days" when comedy was funny and not filled with obscene material that isn't necessary to try and get laughs!