A NOTE FROM LAWRENCE J. EPSTEIN
This book is meant to be a celebration of the great humor that American Jewish comedians have provided. Researching the book was incredibly interesting. I had a chance to talk with Sid Caesar about his writers and Soupy Sales about the pies in his face. Shecky Greene had me name famous people, and then he immediately and flawlessly began to imitate them. Shelley Berman became a coach, constantly inspiring me. I almost couldn't ask the questions when I spoke to Norm Crosby because I was laughing too hard. Research also involved enjoying all the Marx Brothers films again, listening to Eddie Cantor ad lib on his radio show, following Lenny Bruce's painful encounters with the law, listening as Joan Rivers broke all the rules, and tracing the early fascinating careers of Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler. I spoke with about 70 comedians, agents, entertainment columnists, journalists, and academics.
The book begins with the new Jewish immigrants and the Yiddish culture they carried along with their luggage. Starting with Burns and Brice, Benny and Berle, I wanted to tell about their lives, the America they lived in, and the new entertainment forms that they helped create such as vaudeville, radio, movies, television, and stand-up comedy.
The book, of course, includes the jokes and routines that defined these comedians. However, the story I tell is about more than the laughter all the great Jewish comedians gave us. In telling their story, I wanted to include their struggles both as American Jews and as comedians. Finally, the story of these comedians exemplified the bittersweet and triumphant journey of Jews in American life and the slow but at last complete embrace of American Jewish humor by the wider culture.
For more than one hundred years, Jewish comedians have given us an endless and seemingly unstoppable flow of jokes and laughter. This book is their story.
Pub date: 11/27/02
Price: $16.50/20.00 Canada
5-1/2 X 8-1/4
16 pp. b/w photos
Carton Quantity: 28
Humor, Performing Arts
Selling Territory: WORLD EXCL. UK AND EUROPEAN UNION
Pub history: PublicAffairs hc