Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mixed Nuts: America's Love Affair with Comedy Teams from Burns and Allen to Belushi and Aykroyd by Lawrence J. Epstein

Having really enjoyed The Haunted Smile, Epstein’s book on Jewish comedy in America, this was a natural next read. More for the comedy enthusiast than the casual reader, the book is still very engaging and informative as it traces the evolution of team comedy. Epstein begins with Burns and Allen in vaudeville and posits that they were really the first successful comedy team of the modern era. From there he profiles the likely suspects—Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Martin & Lewis, Hope & Crosby—as well as a few lesser-known but influential teams like Nichols & May and Stiller & Meara. He also talks at length about how teams differed and changed according to the moods of the times and their audiences. He wraps up with the demise of team comedy and examines how that influence can still be seen today.

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