They were arguably the funniest people of their generation, living in a late-night world of sex, drugs, dreams, and laughter. For one brief shining moment, standup comics were as revered as rock stars. It was Comedy Camelot but, of course, it couldn't last.
In the late 1970s, William Knoedelseder was a cub reporter assigned to cover the burgeoning local comedy scene for the Los Angeles Times. He wrote the first major newspaper profiles of Jay Leno, David Letterman, Andy Kaufman, and others. He got to know many of them well. And so he covered the scene too when the comedians--who were not paid for performing at the career-making-or-breaking venue called the Comedy Store---tried to change an exploitative system and incidentally tore apart their own close-knit community.
Now Knoedelseder has gone back to interview the major participants to tell the whole story of that golden age and of the strike that ended it. Full of revealing portraits of many of the best-known comedic talents of our age, I'm Dying Up Here is also a poignant tale of the price of success and the terrible cost of failure - professional and moral.
©2005 William Knoedelseder; (P)2009 Tantor
"Knoedelseder skillfully layers powerful dramatic details." (Publishers Weekly)
If you ever wanted to know why the Comedy Store is so relevant to the history of comedy this is a book for you. Most of the comics famous today have a Mitzi Shore story of some sort and this explains why. Being from the Midwest I had no idea who Steve Lubetkin was and am sad now that I didn't.
Having listened to many of Marc Marron's interviews with Comedy Store veterans, I liked hearing the venue's early history. The errors were 2 mentions of Billy Crystal with a role in "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" (it was "Soap"); and a mention of the '80s show "Saturday Night" being on NBC (it was on ABC
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