Friday, May 02, 2014

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying: Lessons From a Life in Comedy by Carol Leifer

Regular Reed-ers know I enjoy the comedy and I'm a sucker for a comedian's memoir/autobiography with its attendant yuck-yucks, ha-has, and squirting flowers. In the '90's and early '00's, you couldn't shake a salami without hitting this type of book and they all seemed to have made it to the bestseller lists: Paul Reiser, Jerry Seinfeld, Dennis Miller, Cosby, Louie Anderson. Even hacks like Tim Allen and Brett Butler sold a ton of books.

However, it appears that formula is no longer a way to move the comedian book any more. Instead of funny stories about breaking into the biz and some personal anecdotes meant to show how they're just reg'lar though funny folks, now the book needs to serve another function. Carol Leifer's book is a thinly veiled business self-help book. In it, she tells her story and passes on wisdom that is designed to help you “get ahead”. Oy.

Now I realize Leifer isn't the household name that Jerry Seinfeld is but she rode that same bus, performing alongside most of the aforementioned comics and is a successful stand up and comedy writer (including writing for Seinfeld and Modern Family). She was among the small group of successful women who stood in front of fake brick walls with a mic and a stool and did her bit and I was the dorky kid who devoured all those specials and syndicated shows on TV and watched all those comics stand in front of fake brick walls and do their bits.

Certainly, the stories are there but they feel watered down. Reimagining the stories as a way up the ladder, “whatever your business”, left me flat. The chief cruelty is the use of parenthetical statements in which “joke goes here” as though with a wink.

Carol, I've always enjoyed your work but this book just doesn't do right by you. I wish it had. 

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