Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America

Richard Zoglin, Author . Bloomsbury $24.95 (247p) ISBN 978-1-58234-624-3

Theater and TV critic Zoglin steps into the spotlight to deliver mirthful material also worthy of applause. A senior Time writer-editor who covered the magazine’s showbiz beat for 20 years, Zoglin once did major pieces on Carson, Cosby, Letterman, Seinfeld and others. Now he offers a comedy chronicle of laugh makers from the mid-1960s to the early ’80s with entertaining excerpts and funny one-liners. In an opening chapter capturing the charisma and revolutionary impact of Lenny Bruce, he notes, “What the younger comedians who were influenced by him brought was the discipline and craftsmanship that Bruce lacked. They were better actors and more accomplished writers.” The curtain then goes up on a merry mob of iconoclastic innovators: Andy Kaufman, Richard Lewis (“I left my shrink too soon; I had to take an incomplete”), George Carlin and “the seven dirty words,” the raw “racial anger” of Richard Pryor, Robert Klein (“Now you can get every record ever recorded!”) and many more. The book’s centerpiece is a potent profile of Albert Brooks, detailing the lampoons, conflicts and compromises of his now-forgotten standup career. Although some subjects (Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, David Letterman) were initially reluctant to be interviewed, Zoglin’s conversations with numerous top talents enabled him to add fresh quotations to his extensive research through books, magazines and liner notes. Always highlighting how these comics “transformed the culture,” Zoglin on standup is standout. (Feb. 1)

Reviewed on: 11/26/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 247 pages - 978-1-58234-625-0
Open Ebook - 978-1-59691-944-0
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