Katz fits snugly into his self-described role as an “emotionally needy joke writer” for the Clinton administration, though readers get all 40 of his years in this memoir.
Clinton was in the market for what Katz had to sell: self-deprecating humor, the idea being that if you step in it, it's better to join in the merriment than to be laughed at. Of course, the president gave his gagman lots of good raw material. But Katz’s favorite topic is himself, so he starts at the beginning, with his years as the grade-school clown, and gets off some good lines when he moves on to college (“Once an East Coast epicenter of 1960s social activism . . . the Cornell I attended was a petri dish for Yuppie scum”) and post-grad studies (“Law school was the Vietnam of my generation, a quagmire where promising young lives were needlessly wasted or damaged forever”). Biding his time as Daniel Moynihan's gofer, Katz gets a crack of writing humor material for Michael Dukakis—can't say he doesn't like a challenge—and here he tenders some of his better stuff, from “Hi, I'm Mike Dukakis. And these are my eyebrows” on the low side to “Some people say I am arrogant, but I know better” on the high. Katz is looking for a job soon enough, but school chum George Stephanopoulos rescues him from ad copywriting. What follows mostly explains (in considerable detail) how he arrived at the jokes Clinton slung at the Gridiron Dinner or the Correspondents’ Dinner. For good measures, Katz throws in scenes of jousting with nemesis Al Franken and bares his self-doubts: “Writing these semantic jokes that were narrowly construed to fortify falsehoods, had I finally turned into a goddamn lawyer?” All of which begs the question: Who was paying this guy's salary?
“Humor writers are funny people who are constantly in the process of convincing the world that they are indispensably funny.” In a nutshell. (b&w illustrations, not seen)