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Never preachy, though not always engaging—an earnest story of laughs and love.

Saturday Night Live alum Breuer chronicles a life in comedy and a life with God.

“All of my life,” writes the author in his first book, “humor had been a natural default operating mode for me,” and that God had given him the gift to make people laugh so that he might help and heal. His early years read like a stock bio for a comedian: making the neighborhood kids laugh growing up on Long Island, desultory attempts at college mixed with odd jobs, all the while struggling as a stand-up comedian, performing whenever and wherever he could. He had minor success on television with the show Uptown Comedy Club (which also featured Tracy Morgan) and was hired for a sitcom with the enigmatic Dave Chappelle and promptly fired. Then came SNL. Here the book starts to come alive as the author recounts his efforts to compete with a gifted and hungry cast. Breuer provides mostly generous portraits of his fellow cast members, and notes that he didn’t become a star on the show until he came up with an imitation of Joe Pesci as a talk-show host and developed the decidedly odd character of “Goat Boy.” One night, Chris Farley, guesting on the show at the height of his fame, called Breuer, asking sadly and pitifully, “Am I funny?...Am I just the fat, dumb guy?” Farley would soon be dead, and Breuer regretted not trying harder to save him. Other successes followed SNL, including a well-known role as a stoner in the Chappelle vehicle Half Baked (1998), but Breuer felt he should do more than just be funny. Conversations with Steve Harvey and, later, Bill Cosby—encounters he took as signs from God—convinced him that his family, everyday life and faith could be the stuff of comedy. At this point he became what he calls a “family” comedian. Breuer ends with the story of taking his 87-year-old father on the road with him, and the author’s meditations on how to properly treat and care for the elderly are telling and wise.

Never preachy, though not always engaging—an earnest story of laughs and love.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-592-40575-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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

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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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