LAUGHING ON THE OUTSIDE: The Life of John Candy by Martin Knelman


Email this review


There's something, perhaps a suffusing vulnerability, about large, funny men that gives these actors a real everyman quality. Such was the case with John Candy, whose talent far oustripped his career, but Knelman fails to penetrate the late actor's surface. Although he appeared in bomb after bomb, his sensitivity and perfect comic timing gained him legions of loyal fans; even in his worst movies, he usually offered something memorable. As Knelman relates, Candy got his start with the legendary Second City Comedy Troupe, which soon moved from its live improve roots to television and the groundbreaking comedy show SCTV. Here he was a standout, fashioning some of his most memorable characters and sharpest satirical bits. But Hollywood inevitably came calling, and after a few successful supporting roles, most notably in Splash, Candy was ready for top billing at $3 million a picture. With a few exceptions, such as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, his judgment in scripts was appalling. His business sense wasn't much better; seduced by a charlatan entrepreneur into buying part of the Toronto Argonaut football franchise, Candy came close to bankruptcy. Though Knelman, a Canadian journalist, tries to make the case that Candy was desperately unhappy inside (as the comedian clichâ must go), he in fact seems to have been little affected by the Hollywood viper pit. He behaved decently to most friends and colleagues, stayed happily married, and was a good father. But he couldn't control his eating or his smoking. Few were surprised when he had a fatal heart attack at the age of 43, in the middle of filming another forgettable comedy. Like a drugstore gumball, this standard-issue biography of the late, semi-great comic actor John Candy is too sweet, too small, and offers almost nothing to chew on.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1997
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's