On Writing M A S H, Tootsie, Oh, God!, and a Few Other Funny Things
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 A grab-bag of reminiscences, commentaries, bright jokes, and dark thoughts by a gifted comedy writer. Few comedy writers achieve such success that the general public knows their name. Gelbart is one such man. He has received critical and popular acclaim for his work onstage (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), film (Oh, God!), and television (M*A*S*H, Caesar's Hour). Therefore, it's all the more disappointing that his first book is so much less compelling than his work in other media. This is not an autobiography but a compilation of scattershot recollections of various creations, padded out with previously published articles, reviews, introductions, travel pieces, and script extracts. The best of this material (such as the memoirs and a section on the writing process) is witty, perceptive, and original. Other selections (brief profiles of beloved comedians, a selection of TV history highlights) seem superficial coming from a man who knows this world so intimately. The book also features frequent notes and introductions by editor Sam Vaughan, which add nothing but copious compliments to the author. Deserved as these compliments may be, it does seem odd to see such an irreverent artist delivered in such reverent wrapping. Finally, although we learn many of Gelbart's opinions, we learn little of the man beneath. Combine this with the realization that the script extracts provide the book's most vivid entertainment, and one is left with the feeling that one sentence by Gelbart is standing in for much that remains unsaid: ``There are those of us who have a problem being personal in our personal lives who are much more comfortable in work that is meant to be public.'' Although there is much to enjoy here, the overall impression is that of a book by a man who really didn't want to write one. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-42945-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997


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