A pleasant, amusing tale of a life in jokes, suitable for budding comedians and students of the form.

A memoir from an award-winning comedy writer whose collaborators and projects have often garnered a higher profile than him.

Zweibel—who has won multiple Emmy and Writers Guild of America awards, along with a Thurber Prize for his novel, The Other Shulman—has plenty of material to dish about, but his memoir is refreshingly light on dirt and scandal. As his lifelong friend Billy Crystal writes in the foreword, “If life were a forties movie, Alan would be called ‘a big lug.’ He is a large man with a sensitive persona and a heart of gold.” This is an amiable, big-lug, heart-of-gold sort of book, whether Zweibel is recounting the formative years of Saturday Night Live, where he seemingly got along with everyone; or detailing his bitter split with Garry Shandling, with whom he’d partnered on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and with whom he later reconciled. The author’s writing partner at SNL was Gilda Radner, and his book about their relationship gave him his highest-profile publishing success. The deaths of Radner and Shandling bring the narrative into emotional depths that contrast with the rest of the breezy account. Zweibel chronicles how he got his start by selling jokes to the Catskills generation of comedians, at a price that “had soared to ten dollars a joke.” But the 1960s and ’70s experienced a generational sea change, and the author wanted to write and tell the jokes that these older comedians couldn’t. So he took to the stage himself, mainly to advance his writing career, where the man who would introduce him to Lorne Michaels and change his life told him he “was one of the worst comics he’d ever seen.” The career that followed ranges from early exposure to Larry David and Andy Kaufman to recent Broadway collaborations with Crystal and Martin Short.

A pleasant, amusing tale of a life in jokes, suitable for budding comedians and students of the form.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3528-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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