That Girl star and Emmy-winning TV veteran attempts to find out how humor works.
Thomas (The Right Words at the Right Time: Volume 2: Your Turn!, 2006, etc.), the daughter of funnyman Danny Thomas, builds on her thriving second career as a nonfiction writer. Each chapter contains an autobiographical section—with the author’s memories of encountering funny famous folks during her upbringing in Southern California—along with an interview section featuring big-name comedians in the league of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. Although interview banter with natural wits like Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert is an easy sell, it’s Thomas’s autobiographical musings that are the most compelling aspect of the book—e.g., the surprisingly affecting story of her determination to carve out an identity as an actress without the help of her famous father. Particularly refreshing is the description of her coming-of-age in Beverly Hills at a time when the neighborhood still had a middle-class feel and was full of unpretentious eateries and mom-and-pop shops. Even more surprising to learn is that her father, unlike so many celebrity fathers, seems to have been a kind, caring, loving patriarch. On the downside, Thomas’s interviewing style is fawning at best, and except for a chat with a feisty and recalcitrant Elaine May and the always-amusing Don Rickles, the author’s questions fall too often in the “So, you were the class clown?” category. Her responses are often limited to “That’s so funny,” “Ah-ha” and “Wow.” Although all her subjects have big personalities and star-quality wit, there’s rarely any original, penetrating insight into the formative human experiences that coagulate to create the perfect comedic brain. There are patterns, of course: Often a comedian will come from a funny family or use humor as a way of masking insecurities, but these are hardly major revelations.
Good for beach-readers interested in celebrity memoir and famous comedians.