by Dennis Perrin ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 1, 1998
A discerning, sharply drawn portrait of the life and work of one of the founding fathers of contemporary comedy. Given the neutering scalpel of commerce (advertisers tend to shy from anything approaching scabrous satire or pointed iconoclasm) and given his belief that ""comedy is a baby seal hunt,"" it's amazing that Donoghue enjoyed as much success as he did. For a brief moment in the early 1970s, with his pivotal work on the newly founded National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live, O'Donoghue was American humor. More sophisticated and polished than the prototypical ""angry"" comedian, he took on any and all sacred cows, with a fervor and rage drawn from the edge of the abyss. But laughter was only a means to an end. As he once noted: ""Humor is not the cake. Humor is the icing on the cake. . . . Thought, communication, this is the cake."" Childhood is the crucible of comedians, and O'Donoghue's, as recounted here, was lonely and narrowed by frequent sickness. He was determined to become a playwright, and while he had little success, drama's concision and interplay of ideas served him well when he turned to comedy. For a satirist, he was remarkably thin-skinned. His vicious temper and tendency to feud ensured he was never widely liked, though his work was always admired, especially by his comedic peers. When television came calling, he was happy to leave the National Lampoon; however, despite some signal, early success with Saturday Night Live, its inevitable shift to blandness and safe humor (with increasing numbers of his pieces censored or axed) eventually led to a rancorous parting of the ways. And that was really the end of his creative life. In the last ten years, before his sudden, early death, O'Donoghue toiled in Hollywood development hell, managing to get just one of his scripts, Scrooged, produced. Freelance writer Perrin has done a signal job of reclaiming the edgy spirit and importance of O'Donoghue's work.
Pub Date: July 1, 1998
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998
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