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The Last Laugh: The World of Stand-Up Comics Paperback – November 14, 2000
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Hilarious yet harrowing… the breakthrough book on the subject. (Publishers Weekly)
Phil Berger is best known as a New York sportswriter... but his best work might be 'The Last Laugh.' (Robert Armstrong Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Utterly authentic, a fascinating account of what life is like in an important area of American humor. (Steve Allen)
About the Author
Phil Berger is a journalist whose award-winning writings on sports have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Playboy, and many other publications. He is also the screenwriter for the film Price of Glory. He lives in New York City.
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Phil Berger's book was the first to look at the origins and inside workings of standup comedy. It's written in a sort-of jazz hipster patois that may seem a little dated now, but which certainly rings true when you see it alongside the jazz-influenced routines of Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, and other influential fathers of modern comedy.
You'll get tastes of lots of comedians who were successful in the 50s and early 60s, but largely forgotten today. You'll learn about the part of Rodney Dangerfield's life you never heard before. You'll see who influenced Robert Klein and George Carlin—who would go on to influence virtually every comic of the past 40 years.
If you're building a library devoted to standup, this should be the first volume you buy. It is indispensable!
If you are lucky enough to get a later edition (it was apparently reprinted sometime in the '90's and then again around the turn of the century) I'd recommend that you just skip to the back two sections which summarize what happened to many of the comics originally profiled in '75 as the years rolled by and their careers peaked (if they were lucky enough to peak) and the then inevitable decline. (Also, "newer" comics like Leno do make an appearance in these postscripts.) Those sections eschew the jazzy style of the original pages and are quite interesting -- even Robert Klein's pages! In summary: Despite my interest in the subject matter this was a slog to read and if I could have the hours I spent doing so back again I would surely take them. This is a book of interest only to the hardcore stand up fan who is willing to learn very little about the subject while reading a lot of words that seem to have much to with it, but don't.