cover image Funny Business: The Legendary Life and Political Satire of Art Buchwald

Funny Business: The Legendary Life and Political Satire of Art Buchwald

Michael Hill. Random House, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-22951-4

A celebrated newspaper spoofer gets a posthumous round of applause in this genial if tedious biography. Historian Hill (War Poet) recaps Art Buchwald’s career, from his stint as a Parisian nightlife columnist in the 1950s to his decades in Washington writing a syndicated political satire column. Essentially a character sketch of the wisecracking, cigar-chomping Buchwald, the anecdotal narrative is largely uneventful, with Buchwald’s political jibes stirring occasional mild furors and hate-mail flurries—the most dramatic incident being his lawsuit against Paramount Studios for stealing a treatment that he coauthored for the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America. His depressive episodes—which precipitated crying jags and hospitalizations—are glanced at but not fleshed out. Instead, much space is given to Buchwald’s correspondences with the Kennedys—in one passage, the writer recalls JFK’s confession to Buchwald: “ ‘The only reason I read your (expletive deleted) paper is because of your (expletive deleted) column’”—and other celebrities that, while cordial and self-consciously humorous, fail to reveal much about Buchwald himself. Unfortunately, Hill’s portrait of “one of America’s greatest satirists” falls short of pulling back the curtain on the man behind the yuks. Buchwald is a colorful figure in Hill’s telling, but not an especially memorable one. Photos. (June)