cover image Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier

Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier

Alan Zweibel. Abrams, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3528-8

This zippy memoir by comedians’ comedian Zweibel (The Other Shulman) offers laughs on nearly every page. Though Zweibel’s name isn’t well known outside of comedy circles, he has worked with a who’s-who of stars, including Milton Berle and Larry David. A Jewish boy from Long Island, Zweibel started out in 1972 working in a deli in Queens and writing gags for Borscht Belt comics at $7 each. (For Rodney Dangerfield: “My mother wouldn’t breastfeed me. She said she liked me as a friend.”) Industriousness, luck, and a binder stuffed with 1,100 jokes got him on staff for Saturday Night Live’s inaugural season in 1975. He knocked out quips for “Weekend Update” and bonded with Gilda Radner, a work relationship that, to his annoyance, became lopsided (he would write sketches at his desk, while she would call in from such places as Studio 54 for notes). Zweibel’s itinerant collaborator existence encompassed helping create It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and turning material from Billy Crystal’s childhood into the hit show 700 Sundays. On the more serious side, Zweibel delivers a heartfelt depiction of Shandling’s vast talent and often overlooked sense of humanity. Comics and comedy fans alike will delight in this hilarious and self-deprecating memoir. (Apr.)