Friday, April 28, 2006

Something Funny Happened On the Way To Reading This Book

I’ve been recently reading Laughing Matters by Larry Gelbart (writer of such entertainment staples as television’s M*A*S*H, film’s Tootsie and Oh God!, and theater’s Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum and City of Angels). The book has some great insights from a man that has worked all media from radio to cable television—and who has worked alongside great comedians like Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Sid Caesar, George Burns and John Denver. (Hey, if you don’t consider Mr. Denver a great humorist, clearly you’ve never danced to “Grandma’s Feather Bed.")

Come to the book with patience, it meanders more than the Mississippi and skews more toward patchwork than pure design. That said, some chestnuts are worth the journey. A few morsels from the book (ones hit me deepest as a writer):

“To write comedy is to report on life as viewed through a special lens, one that shows us and reminds us of all that we share in common, and all that we refuse to admit we do.
The ultimate reward of illuminating those truths, dreads, and denials in surprising and entertaining ways is laughter—the outward expression of a nerve well struck.”

A partial list of why he writes:

  1. I write for the theater because I enjoy collaborating with audiences.
  2. I write for television because it lets you serve your work while it’s hot.
  3. I write for the movies because there is no finer form of masochism.
  4. I write to find out what it is I really feel strongly about.

And, to get to the heart of what every writer should be doing, he quotes director Rouben Mamoulian:

“We must affirm and insist that the ultimate goal of a film, no matter what subject matter it deals with, is to add to the beauty and goodness of life, to the dignity of human beings and to our faith in a better future.”

Okay, add to the above his wit and humor, know that he has stories to tell, and approach it as a disjointed collection of essays, and you are ready for this enjoyable tome.

Just my thoughts,


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