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PPT Book Review: And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft

November 5, 2010

I just finished reading “And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft” by Mike Sacks.

Verdict: Like Anna Nicole Smith’s boob job, a solid investment.

Here’s what I think:

I’m very glad I didn’t just borrow this book from the library, because it’s one of those tomes you crack open from time to time, both for wisdom and entertainment.

The structure is pretty standard for an interview book.  Veteran journalist Mike Sacks has a chance to shine as a writer through the biographies preceding each interview.  These one-page summaries offer a brief, but comprehensive account of each subject’s writing career.  Between interviews, there are occasionally one or two page blurbs with writing tips from various industry insiders on the finer (and more practical) points of pursuing a career in comedy writing.

I found the interview portion of the book to be excellent.  Most interesting to me were the interviews with George Meyer (The Simpsons), Robert Smeigel (TV Funhouse, Triumph the Insult Comic), and Bob Odenkirk (SNL, Mr. Show).  Sacks has obviously done his homework, and easily establishes a confident and authoritative interviewing voice.  Since he collected several hours of conversation with each of his subjects in order to cherry-pick the best material, there is a vibe of easy familiarity that can only come with time.  This comfort between interviewer and subject yielded some nice tangents, witticisms and wise-cracks.  Sack even gets burned a couple of times, and you KNOW I dig a good burn.

I found Sacks’ question to be a nice mix of coaxing tall tales from his subjects, gathering information on their early careers, and soliciting insights into the craft of writing and comedy in general.  I have read criticisms that the interviews lack a bit of thematic focus.  Those criticisms are sound, but to be honest, the drifting nature of the interviews didn’t bother me that much, and dare I say, increased my enjoyment of the book.  I never knew what question was around the corner.

I found the how-to blurbs between interviews to be a little brief, but they did offer some good, practical insight into the business of comedy writing, which nicely offset some of the more philosophical musings in the interviews.

Overall, this book struck a nice balance between factual information that is useful for an aspiring writer, and humorous anecdotes that generate enthusiasm for the art form.  I look forward to returning to this book as I gain more experience.

To see what other comics have to say on the subject, check out this thread on A Special Thing’s message board.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2010 2:24 pm

    Sounds good… I’ll pick it up this week. Also, if you haven’t read Provenza’s “Satiristas” yet, definitely do. Seriously in depth interviews.

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