FUNNYMEN

Ted Heller, Author . Scribner $25 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7432-1263-2

This mock oral history by Heller (Slab Rat) is a comedic roller-coaster ride based on the partnership of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. New England dock worker Vic Fountain uses his striking good looks, impeccable stage timing and solid voice to become a big-band pop vocalist, only to struggle after a series of setbacks before finding his niche with comedian Ziggy Bliss. Bliss's story is even more compelling, particularly when Heller describes the hirings, firings and jockeying for position that even involved Bliss's parents as he battled to find his place in the world of borscht belt comics. Once Fountain and Bliss come together, the novel becomes more pedestrian, although Heller keeps things spicy by adding juicy backstage details about their unique chemistry and the gargantuan appetites of the two entertainers. Heller introduces a veritable armada of secondary characters to tell their stories, including managers, wives, ex-wives, children, etc., producing a nonstop, machine-gun–style series of anecdotes and stories that works well in the early going as Heller describes the cutthroat competition among comics and entertainers. As he shifts to the well-known backbiting that took place when Martin ("Vic") left to pursue his movie and TV career, the stylistic trick proves more cumbersome and unwieldy. Longer and less focused than it should be, this is nevertheless a funny and illuminating story of two of the industry's post-WWII giants. Agent, Chuck Verrill.(Apr. 2)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-0-7432-4236-3
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-7432-3500-6
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