The book could have been trimmed by about 50 pages, but Hart is a genial, entertaining guide to a life in comedy.

The popular comedian debuts with “the stories behind the jokes, and a few lessons…about life, success, parenting, and relationships.”

In his first book, Hart spares little detail about his personal and profession life. He chronicles his childhood with an absent father and protective mother, his toxic first marriage, and his rise to fame, punctuating each section with a lesson. Growing up in Philadelphia, the author wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. He watched his brother get kicked out of the house for selling drugs and being violent with his mother, experiences that reverberated through his teen years. His mother worked hard to give her children a decent life, and she kept Hart busy with after-school activities to make sure he was never alone to get into trouble like his brother. He assumed his mother’s work ethic and diligence, and when he found stand-up comedy, it consumed him. Unfortunately, while he was pursuing his dream, shuttling between Philadelphia and New York, his relationship with Torrei, his first love and first wife, suffered. Comedy nerds will love the details about the author’s climb up the ladder, and the sections on his adopted family at the Comedy Cellar and his relationship with fellow comedian Keith Robinson give great insight into the life of a comic who is constantly working to get better. There are some nasty personal details about Hart’s relationship with Torrei and how, according to him, it became mutually abusive, ever more so with the pressure of an advancing career and children. Some of the author’s lessons border on platitudes—e.g., believe in yourself, shrug off the bad stuff and move forward—and the tales about how he learned these things sometimes render the breakdowns at the ends of the sections unnecessary. But Hart is an incredibly magnetic storyteller, on the page as he is onstage, and that’s what shines through here.

The book could have been trimmed by about 50 pages, but Hart is a genial, entertaining guide to a life in comedy. 

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5556-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: 37 Ink/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017


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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