Biographies of Humorists


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Biographies of Humorists

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ag. 10, 2006, 2:15 am

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ag. 10, 2006, 3:30 pm

(Sorry about the odd looking topic title. For some reason, the site deleted "humor" from "humorists."

Are people interested in the best studies of the humorists, and how they work their magic for us?

In particular, I invite comments as to which of the several biographies of P.G. Wodehouse out there are the most interesting, or acccurate, or insightful.

ag. 10, 2006, 3:38 pm

I haven't read a Wodehouse biography, so can't comment on that, but I've found biographies and autobiographies of humorists to be fascinating on the whole. I have a particular interest in tv/radio comedians (e.g. Benny Hill, Kenneth Horne, Kenneth Williams), although others like A. A. Milne and Barry Pain are a bit more literary.

There's a temptation to stereotype and say they all had great sorrows or hardships to overcome, making them funny men despite circumstances, but really, it's not universally true. Milne, for instance, had a pretty good life, all told!

ag. 10, 2006, 4:49 pm

I read Robert McCrum's biography of Wodehouse in January of this year and enjoyed it. He really did seem to be someone who'd have preferred to live back in the Edwardian era rather than the 20th century.

Editat: ag. 26, 2006, 11:53 am

One of my personal favorite bios is Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo by Joe Adamson. It's a nice little overview of the life of the Marx Brothers. I've been meaning to pick up a copy of Harpo Speaks! as well, which is Harpo's autobiography. I've also got a copy of W. C. Fields: A Biography sitting around somewhere that I've been meaning to get started on.

I would also recommend George Orwell's essay in defense of P.G. Wodehouse doing German radio broadcasts while being held prisoner by the Nazis during WWII, if you are interested in that particular author.

ag. 26, 2006, 1:50 pm

Another good Marx Bros book is Monkey Business by Simon Louvish.

The McCrum biography of Wodehouse is generally regarded as the best but the recent Joseph Connolly work is a good introduction.

ag. 26, 2006, 10:43 pm

Harpo Speaks! is entertaining, especially the early (pre-1935ish) bits...

ag. 26, 2006, 11:00 pm

Another one I just thought of is How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, the autobiography of Lenny Bruce.

ag. 27, 2006, 12:00 am

Thanks for the various suggestions. More welcome!

I'll have to read either the McCrum or Connolly bios of Wodehouse.

The U.K. Wodehouse society site has compete transcripts of Wodehouse's radio broadcasts made while he was an internee held by the Germans early in WWII. Innocuous enough in content, but a sad and foolish mistake to have ever made them at all -- as he later freely acknowledged, and regretted.

oct. 17, 2006, 9:45 am

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oct. 26, 2006, 12:43 pm

Spike Milligan's autobiography Adolf Hitler : my part in his downfall is really funny. I've never read any other humourist's biography though; biographies tend to bore me.

oct. 26, 2006, 1:34 pm

I haven't read it yet, but Ascending Peculiarity by Edward Gorey looks enticing. I love the simplicity of his art work. I wonder if him autobiography will say as much so elegantly.

Editat: ag. 24, 2007, 12:46 am

George S. Kaufman: An Intimate Portrait is a pretty decent bio on Kaufman, the writer of so many hilarious plays and films.

I'm not sure if you could count Oscar Levant as a humorist, but his various autobiographical books are a lot of fun.

ag. 27, 2007, 10:38 am

I'm very, very eager to get Steve Martin's autobio when it comes out later this year.

set. 1, 2007, 9:48 pm

Michael Palin has a book coming out September 4th called Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years. I am so excited! He is my favorite Monty Python member.

set. 5, 2007, 6:54 pm

LitClique @ 14:

My friend read an advanced copy of Martin's book and was disappointed. He said Martin comes across as an egotistical weenie.

oct. 14, 2007, 12:45 am

I just finished reading Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years. Good read, great door stop.

oct. 28, 2007, 1:29 pm

If any of you are interested, a piece of Steve Martin's autobio is in the new issue of the New Yorker (with the Cheney jackass-o-lantern on the cover).

oct. 31, 2007, 5:33 am

Thanks for the heads up, LitClique.

nov. 9, 2007, 9:18 am

If you're looking for good AUTObiographies of humorists, look no further than I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This! by Bob Newhart. It's his first book, and he writes about his life, his thoughts on comedy, and even includes many of his classic routines in-print for the first time. I believe the paperback recently came out.

gen. 7, 2010, 12:27 am

There is an autobiography with an oddly conceited yet self-deprecatory ring to it I forget which included painting American Flags on snail shells so the father of the great prankster-to-be would not squash them.