cover image True Story: A Comedy Novel

True Story: A Comedy Novel

Bill Maher. Random House (NY), $12 (298pp) ISBN 978-0-679-75337-7

Few things are less enticing than a comedy novel that's not funny. Maher's misogynist, juvenile fiction debut about five young New York comics in search of laughs and sex (not necessarily in that order) lands with the dull thud of a drum roll after a painfully bad joke. The author, host of the cable comedy show Politically Incorrect , gets his story off to an atrocious start by naming his protagonists Dick, Shit, Fat, Chink and Buck, according to their proclivity for jokes about body parts, body functions, appearance, racial identity and so on. Unfortunately, the maturity level goes downhill from there. While Maher does offer a few good one-liners along with some revealing insights into the vagaries of a life in comedy, most of the shallow prose deals with the boys' attempts to get gigs, get laid, get over on sleazy club owners and come to grips with the fact that they lead an incredibly vacuous life based largely on surface cleverness. It's hard to determine what's most offensive: the emptiness of Maher's characters, the hostility of their material or the way both author and characters treat women. If this book were a cable comedy special, it would be zapped within seconds by remote controls across the land. (Aug.)