Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Prod The Batrachian

It's April Fool's Day, so I thought I'd look at a book about humor.  However, there's not much to say about Poking A Dead Frog by Mike Sacks.  It's a collection of interviews and pieces of advice from comedy writers. (The title comes from E. B. White's famous line "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.")

But what a cast.  In fact, there are so many names--including Mel Brooks, Stephen Merchant, Terry Jones, Henry Beard, James Downey, Patton Oswalt, Bill Hader, Bruce Jay Friedman, James L. Brooks, Roz Chast and Paul Feig--that it's a bit bewildering.  You'll note this isn't one particular discipline they're discussing, but every kind of comic construction--movies, sitcoms, late night shows, standup, cartoons, magazine pieces, novels and so on.

On top of which, the advice is often contradictory.  Some say do what you think is funny and don't listen to others, while some say learn to work with others and take their advice.  Some say put in your politics, some say just be funny regardless.  Some say worry it to death until each word is right, some so go with your instincts.  The only thing they all agree on is it's a lot of hard work.

But the reason to read the book is to hear their stories, often inside stuff that you can't get elsewhere.  The interviews are well done and many of the subjects, as you'd expect, are raconteurs. You may not learn how to be funny, but at least you'll have a good time.

Speaking of funny, yesterday was Gabriel Kaplan's 70th birthday, no foolin'.


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