Johnny Lucas' early years are spent as a British service entertainer in World War II, acquiring long training in the provinces and playing ever better dates as he nears London. At last playing the Palladium, on the bottom of a hill led by his idol Jack Benny, he is heartbroken when Benny tells him he tries too hard. A tale told to a shrink, full of venom and group therapy. His hostility to analysis and the laughless bores of his sanitarium, his son's arrest on a pot charge, his separation and smart new girlfriend, all keep the six-foot-two comic dismembered, even suicidal. He's also an Alcoholics Anonymous dropout. Getting well is slow indeed, despite support from his agent, his dresser, a young jokesmith. We follow him through his radio days, television success, top-of-the-bill glory at the Palladium, his numberless drying-out homes. But ali turns hollow and insecurity-ridden. At last Johnny is tapped by a bright director to play The Fool in King Lear. Digging into this classic role, he finds the root of his despair exposed in the comic's unrecognized guilt in holding up to laughter ""everything sacred, everything established, every old taboo."" Glanville forces the reader to pass through his own disaffection and see the whole human being behind the masks as a kind of stand-up Christ. Genuine and discerning, and the King Lear payoff is quite moving.