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And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft Paperback – July 8, 2009
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Veteran journalist Sacks conducted dozens of interviews with the top humor writers of the last century, and the result is a whiz-bang collection of Q&As that will school readers just as often as it provokes laughter. The assortment boasts elder statesmen including Dick Cavett, 93-year-old Irving Brecher (who wrote shtick for the Marx Brothers and Milton Berle) and Mad magazine's Al Jaffee, who reminisces about reading American comic strips during his 1930s boyhood in Lithuania. High notes include David Sedaris, with the bestselling humorist confessing to cringing when he reads earlier writing, including breakthrough Me Talk Pretty One Day: "I used to exaggerate a lot more than I needed to. So when I needed readers to believe me, they didn't." Other contemporary writers offer up equally revelatory tidbits, especially Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall) and Allison Silverman (The Daily Show), but would-be humorists will appreciate most the nuts-and-bolts knowhow regarding the industry. Though it's decidedly testosterone-heavy, Sack has compiled a lively compendium sure to captivate anyone who loves a good comedy.
(Starred Review) Veteran journalist Sacks conducted dozens of interviews with the top humor writers of the last century, and the result is a whiz-bang collection of Q&As that will school readers just as often as it provokes laughter. The assortment boasts elder statesmen including Dick Cavett, 93-year-old Irving Brecher (who wrote shtick for the Marx Brothers and Milton Berle) and Mad magazine's Al Jaffee, who reminisces about reading American comic strips during his 1930s boyhood in Lithuania. High notes include David Sedaris, with the bestselling humorist confessing to cringing when he reads earlier writing, including breakthrough Me Talk Pretty One Day: "I used to exaggerate a lot more than I needed to. So when I needed readers to believe me, they didn't." Other contemporary writers offer up equally revelatory tidbits, especially Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall) and Allison Silverman (The Daily Show), but would-be humorists will appreciate most the nuts-and-bolts knowhow regarding the industry. Though it's decidedly testosterone-heavy, Sack has compiled a lively compendium sure to captivate anyone who loves a good comedy. --Publisher's Weekly
Comedy writers--like George Meyer (The Simpsons) and Dan Mazer (Borat)--tend to be depressed, brilliant, erratic and sometimes even funny. Mike Sacks' collection of remarkably frank interviews with 21 of them readers like a secret history of popular culture. --Time Magazine
Laughter may be universal, but the world of comedy writing is shrouded in mystery. In AND HERE'S THE KICKER (Writer's Digest Books), Mike Sacks, a humor writer and Vanity Fair staffer, helps lift the veil with in-depth interviews of 21 top comedy writers from various fields. How in-depth exactly? To give you an idea, 94-year-old Irving Brecher, who wrote for the Marx Brothers, accused the diligent Sacks of "killing" him. (It would prove to be one of Brecher's very last interviews. He died in 2008.) Collecting rare musings--and practical advice--from the likes of Harold Ramis (Animal House, Groundhog Day), David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day), Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show), and Allison Silverman (The Colbert Report), Sacks puts together the book he wishes he had read as a budding humor writer. The comedy world is a treacherous landscape. All of his subjects agree: Funny can't be taught, but it can be self taught. And it helps to know where the banana peels are hidden. --Vanity Fair
Analyzing why something is funny is a little bit like trying to fathom why people fall in love. You might be able to do it, but by the time you do, you feel just a little foolish about falling for that person, or that joke. There's a new book, "And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers On Their Craft."
Mike Sacks, a veteran magazine writer, who's now on staff at Vanity Fair, poses questions to old comedy hands, including Larry Gelbart, who co-wrote "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," as well as wrote the television show "M.A.S.H.," to new hands like Steven Merchant, who invented "The Office" with Ricky Gervais, Tom Hanson of The Onion, and classical comedy writers, including Dave Barry, David Sedaris, Allison Silverman, and Harold Ramis.
Mike Sacks joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us. . . . --NPR Weekend Edition
And Here's the Kicker builds to a funny, sad, tremendously insightful group portrait of the comic mind. It's an almost sociological dissection of the strange creature that is the comedy writer. In his glorious extended ramble through the minds of comedy greats, Sacks finds a number of common denominators, like depression, self-doubt, raging insecurity, a predilection toward obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a borderline pathological need to entertain.
It's enormously comforting to realize that some of the most gifted writers in the world (other Kicker subjects include David Sedaris, Harold Ramis, Buck Henry, Mitch Hurwitz, Robert Smigel, Dave Barry, Bob Odenkirk, George Meyer, and The Onion's great Todd Hanson) wrestle with the same demons we do. They are a wondrous breed of misfit. They're not normal; they're better than normal. They're lucky to have a gifted chronicler like Sacks documenting their curious ways and odd customs for posterity. . . . --The Onion
Top customer reviews
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As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the people who write for the TV. As a child, I hid behind the couch while my parents watched Carson, so I could watch Late Night with David Letterman. I haven't missed a Saturday Night Live since October of 1986. In the 90's, I was obsessed with Get A Life, then Conan O'Brien's Late Night and Mr. Show with Bob and David. I even formed my personal Comedy Trinity™ of Conan O'Brien, Bob Odenkirk and Robert Smigel. Guess what, y'all? They are all in this book (well, a couple people who wrote for Conan, at least — LOOPHOLE!!!)!!!
Guys! Mike talked to so many amazing writers for this book. Sure, yeah, people I loved already BUT also people I had vaguely heard of OR didn’t even know existed & wrote things I’d never heard of.
This book hepped me to the realization that I wasn't the only one completely fascinated by comedy writers. This book made me fall in love with comedy all over again. In fact, reading this was the impetus for me trying my own hand at writing comedy — something that completely intimidated me — and I just quit my job after 10 years in marketing & advertising and moved to Los Angeles to pursue comedy professionally.
Mike Sacks interviewed all of these people and put this book together as a labor of love but, now, EVERYONE wants to be a comedy writer! If you love comedy as a fan or if you want to BE a comedy writer, you must read this book! Plus, if you ever meet me, I’ll never shut up about it until you do read it.
I purchased this mainly for the interviews with Sedaris, Barry, and Handey, as they were the humorists closest to my personal style but all the comedians and writers interviewed provided great insight and knowledge into the craft. As has been said in several reviews of this wonderful book, you may not recognize all of the names that emblazon the cover, however, you will definitely be familiar with their work.
The interviewer asked a lot of great questions and allowed his subjects to display their humor all while providing insight into their backgrounds and helping the reader to figure out what makes a comedy writer tick. I was able to benefit from not only a lot of insider knowledge, but found out about some great new authors and books in the process.
It's reassuring to know that most comedy writers suffered the same horrible high school years that I did, and that comedy writing is not something that can be taught in a college course or bought with tuition dollars. Either you have it or you don't. And if you have it... it's up to you to use it.
If you're curious about the world of humor writing, or looking to break in, this will be a helpful piece of reference.
For instance, there is a wonderful moment in the Dick Cavett interview where Cavett talks about rewriting one of his jokes. In his explanation about what happened and how he doesn't understand why he even tried, he essentially explains how to write humor without realizing he's doing it. It's priceless.
As to practical advice, it's in there. The author makes a serious effort to provide little nuggets along the way. I found several. Will it hand you an easy-to-follow business plan on how to advance in your comedy career? Hardly. But then again again, there probably isn't one other than being in the right place at the right time and being funnier than anybody else in the room. Seriously, if you want to write comedy, this book is worth way more than its price. Read it.